The ability of a country to feed itself goes beyond just producing enough food. Food insecurity results from a combination of a lack of available food and the funds with which to buy it. A thriving agricultural sector therefore plays an immensely important role in food security as it provides a more stable supply of food than imports can, along with crucial job opportunities across a rural and often remote landscape. With greater value chains for agricultural inputs in place, household farmers are also in a better position to access the inputs they need to grow their own food. Underlining this value is the Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) data showing that inadequate food intake is more prominent among urban households than rural households. Up to 2019, Stats SA’s General Household Surveys showed significant improvement in food access over time. Unfortunately, the trend has reversed since the COVID-19 pandemic, with both the “hunger” and “limited food access” indicators worsening. If we couple this trend with statistics on water availability – a required ingredient for food production – the outlook for food security becomes even bleaker.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) states that freshwater resources per person have declined 20 per cent in the past two decades. Water availability and quality are deteriorating fast due to poor management, over-extraction of groundwater, pollution and climate change. If we continue on the current path, we risk stretching this precious resource to the point of no return, obliterating our ability to produce food. As we observe World Food Day this year, we focus on the FAO’s theme of “Water is life, water is food”.
We look at issues affecting water in South Africa, and how water can be better managed. We also feature new solutions to overcoming food insecurity. Ultimately, we all have a part to play in preserving water, lest we be left with empty glasses and plates.