In April 2020, as nations all over the world were grappling with crippling economic shutdowns due to COVID-19, the World Food Programme was foreseeing an even more dire trajectory related to hunger and food security.
According to Peyvand Khorsandi, the WFP Chief forecasted that on top of the 821 million already food insecure people worldwide, 130 million people were at risk for starvation and impending food crisis and that number could rise to 265 million by the end of the year. The rising COVID-19 food crisis could result in 300,000 deaths per day. The World Food Program issued a clear call to prepare and act. The question is, “How much have we prepared and acted?”
Food crises are not new: North Indian Famine (1783), Irish Potato Famine (1845-50), Russian Famine (1921), Vietnamese Famine (1945), Chinese Famine (1959-62), Cambodia (1979), Ethiopian Famine (1983-85), Niger Crisis (2005-6), Sahel Famine (2011), South Sudan Crisis (2017). For those on the outside, these crises may seem unexpected and sudden. Upon deeper examination, the emergence of a food crisis stems primarily from long-term vulnerabilities and the continuous eroding of resilience factors that are foundational for survival.
In a policy brief by the UN on the “Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security and Nutrition,” it is highlighted that COVID-19 has raised the alarm in many areas related to food and nutrition. Long-term vulnerabilities become exposed, namely informal employment, opportunistic incomes, living day to day, low wages, minimal savings, poor living accommodations, high debt, lack of education and more. As soon as incomes dry up, food immediately becomes the catastrophe if people are dependent on money to access food.
Food is the foundation of all societies. Without proper access to food and stable food sovereignty, communities around the world are unable to develop and flourish in a sustainable way. From the beginning of humanity, it was never intended that people need money to access food. God planted a food garden in Eden and placed humans there to live and flourish! Food comes from the soil – not from the grocery store.
As global bodies like the UN grapple with the alarm that COVID-19 is sounding, we should all be listening. The UN recommends that we invest in a sustainable future together. How do we create that sustainable future? According to UN policy, “Accelerated investment should be a pillar of the COVID-19 response, aiming for immediate impact to sustain and improve livelihoods, while also preparing for a more inclusive, environmentally sustainable and resilient food system… The goal should be a food system that is in balance with the needs of the global population and the limits of our planet. Investments in COVID-19 response and recovery needs to be leveraged to deliver on that longer-term goal of a more inclusive and sustainable world.”
At the Inundo Model Farm, we have watched, learned, researched and listened. Our impetus to move to a physical piece of land a year ago, came after 10 years of trying to sound the alarm ourselves regarding foundational food issues. At Inundo, our desire is to demonstrate what resilience from the land can look like and to address directly through training the degrading of land resources and current lack of sustainable agricultural methods. We believe that is our moral obligation to engage in these development issues with more than temporary food handouts and assistance. We have travelled and made friendships across this continent of Africa and never been more aware that change must be called for and implemented.
The UN specifies the type of change necessary:
- Food and nutrition needs to be at the heart of social protection programmes
- Dedication and intentionality must be applied to transform food systems
- Inclusive dialogues must address the careful management of land, soil and water through integrated approaches
- Resilience to climate change must be addressed
- Resources should be used to invest in resilience rather than subsidies
- Efforts to protect the most vulnerable must be implemented
- Focus needs to be placed on laying the foundation for inclusive, green and resilient recovery from COVID-19
“The current pandemic has highlighted our fragility, but also the interconnected nature of our world,” states UN policy. We have our work laid out for us. We have not prepared enough for something like COVID-19. Worldwide, people have not developed the resilience necessary to weather such a storm.
Small-scale farming is a key strategy in resilience development, but are we prepared with tools that really do enhance resilience and prevent dependency? The University of Kwa-Zulu Natal clarifies, “Farming needs to be a viable, productive and economic activity, and have the capacity to absorb and spring back from shocks like COVID-19…contrary to global reports that say smallholder farmers produce 70%-80% of the world’s food and produce more food crops than large-scale farms, smallholder farmers in SA contribute less than 5% of agricultural produce.”
Clearly in South Africa, we are falling short in empowering small scale farming. Farming is not seen as a viable enterprise. Furthermore, we worry that attempts at encouraging small-scale farming are done with outdated methodology and unsustainable incentivizing.
Hamlet Hlomendlini, senior agricultural economist at ABSA says, “We must acknowledge the crucial role our small-scale producers play for the national agricultural economy and rural communities in particular. Small-scale farmers are a crucial part of the food value chain in South Africa, as well as a critical element of the rural communities’ food system.” He also says small-scale farmers are highly vulnerable.
We consider it an incredible privilege to work with small-scale farmers all over the province of KZN. We also work with commercial farmers, churches, NGO’s and other organizations who are training farmers. Our goal is to address vulnerability and resilience. When we see that the Farming God’s Way KZN Facebook group has increased from 800 people to over 2600 in the COVID-19 season, we realize that a “hunger” for resilience is exploding all over. People want to grow in the sustainable provision of food for their families and communities.
This explosion of interest is a huge opportunity. We are poised with good news for food, enterprise, and restoration. Smallholder farmers in South Africa can succeed, and land degradation can be arrested. With the World Food Program being awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, recognition is being given for the key part that food plays in the peace and prosperity of all. We can’t respond to the increasing interest in growing food on our own, and so we extend a call to community leaders and advocates to join us in an accelerated investment in livelihoods, food systems and environmental resources.