Male looking after his vegetable garden

13 May 2022

Tackling hunger – people and organisations making a difference

Jacquie Howard

Jacquie Howard

Head of legal and joint head of philanthropy, Investec Wealth & Investment SA

Some inspirational people and organisations are setting the example of how to tackle hunger in South Africa.

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By 2030, end hunger and ensure access for all people – vulnerable persons to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.

By 2030, slow down stunting and wasting in children under five – address the needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, and older persons.

By 2030, agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, women, and indigenous people.

By 2030, sustainable food production systems. And implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production - maintain ecosystems, improve land and soil quality.

The above extracts from the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) capture the essence of some of the key targets of SDG 2 – Zero Hunger. Hunger is a challenge shared by millions of people across the globe and is a serious area of concern within South Africa. The consequences are far-reaching and further entrap families in the cycle of poverty.

It is estimated that even before Covid-19, 14 million South Africans went to bed hungry every day. After Covid-19 that number has risen to 30 million, with 85% of these being children. Furthermore, one in four South African children is classified as stunted as a result of malnourishment.  This results in a number of these children being prone to ill health, diabetes, hypertension and an increased risk of obesity later in life as a result of metabolic damage to their system. There is one child every hour, 365 days a year, starving to death in our country, and yet a third of all food produced in South Africa ends up in landfills.

It is estimated that even before Covid-19, 14 million South Africans went to bed hungry every day. After Covid-19 that number has risen to 30 million, with 85% of these being children.

Within Investec Philanthropy we administer private client charitable foundations and work with the trustees to set the strategic direction of each foundation aligned to their altruistic intent.  We have partnerships with various Public Benefit Organisations (PBOs) across various sectors across South Africa. One of the sectors we have supported, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, has been food security. We are fortunate to have partnered with various PBOs that work across the country to ensure that excess food is distributed to these vulnerable individuals that don’t have access to food. This service is essential to ensure immediate relief, however, we require a strategic plan to enable individuals to be more self-sustaining, either by growing the food themselves, and/or creating opportunities for their employment.

We recently met an organisation, Buhle Farmers Academy (Buhle), whose objective is to develop sustainable food security through skills development and supporting youth smallholder farmers. Buhle works with new and emerging farmers to establish viable farming enterprises, in the form of an academy.  The academy has been created to train and develop these farmers with technical skills, business skills and the development of an understanding of how to access the market, to establish viable farming enterprises. Once trained, they are then able to produce good quality food at low prices, which then boosts the local economy by supplying to informal markets and supplying food to support school nutrition programmes, which ultimately impacts household food security on many levels.

Buhle says: “We believe that unless emerging farmers, especially young farmers, receive coordinated training and support, a culture of subsistence agriculture will persist. The objective is to transform subsistence farming into a productive enterprise”.

SA Harvest is one of our partner beneficiary organisations and believes in systemic intervention, which includes projects like small-scale farm projects and last-mile distribution centres that empower community-based organisations to be entrepreneurial and self-sufficient.

Sustainability and empowerment of communities are crucial to ensure dignity is restored and to find a long-term solution to the lack of food in various communities. Soul Seed is an initiative of Soul Food (The Soul Provider Trust) that plays an important role in this process.

Soul Seed plans to:

  • Transform dumpsites into flourishing gardens;
  • Transform mindsets with regards to health and nutrition;
  • Transform unemployment into entrepreneurial opportunities and employment; and
  • Transform entrenched attitudes into sustainable practices.

Soul Seed’s social development approach is aimed at improving food availability by capacitating small-scale farmers and gardeners.  They have created a “Soul Seed Box” which contains 480 meals, allowing for some wastage to birds and insects, or wind, water and sun damage. Once grown, the vegetables can be eaten, bartered or sold. Their aim is to distribute 10,000 boxes a year. That works out to 4.8 million meals (or 400,000 meals a month).

The Do More Foundation is also rolling out a similar concept in the form of “Reel Gardening Kits” in Worcester and Zwelethemba, which contain seeds that can be planted. The aim is to support and cultivate healthy, nutritious food habits for young children and families. Using this method, early childhood development centres and households can grow their own vegetable gardens as a means of sustainable food production for young children.

These organisations, as well as Food Forward SA and the Gift of the Givers, are some of the organisations our private client foundations have supported that work alongside many other NGOs that are trying to alleviate the challenges of hunger within South Africa. A number of these NGOs work is based on food rescue, delivering what would be wasted as nutritious food to feed hungry people every day.

To combat hunger, we require innovative organisations, as well as committed individuals. I recently read an article on “Goodthingsysguy.com” about Nonhlanhla Joye, whose cancer diagnosis and a group of hungry chickens inspired her to devise an ingenious vegetable-growing solution that now feeds over 10,000 people and re-uses plastic bags to do so.

After being diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and being required to support her family, Nonhlanhla decided to plant vegetables in her backyard but these ended up being eaten by chickens. She therefore created ‘growing bags’ taking plastic bags destined for the landfill and suspending them on wooden frames. This provided protection from the chickens, saved water and helped to feed her family. She currently employs 28 people and teaches as many people as possible to grow vegetables using this method.

These are the stories, solutions and sources of inspiration that we need to become the norm. We need to change the narrative, behaviours and system that have led to the food insecurity crises facing South Africa and the globe, and find solutions for the majority of people who are effectively malnourished.

Food is a primary need that we often take for granted. We need to question our habits to ensure we waste less food, enable others to have nutritious sustenance and support those who are working to do just this, including NGOs and individuals like Nonhlanhla. We need scientists, research and enhanced technology to improve the quality of seeds and the yield of crops, and enable sustainable farming practices that are regenerative in nature.

It starts with each of us being aware of the impact of our choices and then finding ways to be part of the solutions that are needed. With time constraints and a premium placed on convenience, making conscious choices and changes to where we source our food from, how we compost our food waste and the role we play in supporting others to access food, maybe a tough ask but the alternative of not doing so carries far too great a cost.


Wind farm
Responsible Investing and Sustainability at Investec Wealth & Investment

As Sustainability is core to our fundamental investment approach, we have integrated ESG considerations into our investment decision making and broader investment process.