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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


July-August 2016

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Governance Arrangements for the Future Food System: Addressing Complexity in South Africa

Feeding the world's population a healthy, affordable and environmentally sustainable diet is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century and has been highlighted in Sustainable Development Goals 2 and 3 to end hunger and improve health, respectively. Currently, there are 795 million undernourished people, 2 billion with micronutrient deficiencies, and 600 million obese people.1 Overcoming this challenge has proven to be a “wicked problem,” largely because the food system is highly complex with many interdependencies, nonlinear feedbacks, and uncertainties.2 In South Africa, a number of recent reviews document the failure of existing responses to the complex challenges currently facing the country's food system.3 The reasons for the persistence of hunger and malnutrition in South Africa are complex and interrelated, spanning environmental, health, economic, sociopolitical, and agro-food issues. These challenges make it difficult to achieve the constitutional right of all South Africans to adequate food, despite national and international commitments to meeting these rights. Furthermore, stakeholders in the food system have widely different perspectives and interests, and challenging structural issues such as power differentials among them remain largely unexamined.4 This makes rational discourse among different disciplines, sectors, and levels difficult, and prevents effective collaboration to address food security challenges.

Laura Pereira is a post-doctoral researcher with the Bioeconomy Chair at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Scott Drimie is Director of the Southern Africa Food Lab and Associate Professor Extraordinary, Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.       

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