Attack on hunger
Worldwide, a child dies from hunger or related causes every six seconds, and in developing countries alone, 907 million people do not have enough to eat, more than 60% of whom are women.
These shocking statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) drive home the point that more should be done to eradicate endemic poverty and hunger. The Stellenbosch University Food Security Initiative (FSI)
is a comprehensive attempt to do exactly that. The project combines the expertise of leading researchers from different departments in five of the University's faculties – Health Sciences, AgriSciences, Engineering, Science and Social Sciences – into a multi-pronged attack on hunger.
According to the FAO, food security exists "when all people, at all times, have physical, economic and social access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life". Despite this goal being on the international agenda for the past 20 years, it has clearly not been universally met.
SU researchers are collaborating across traditional academic boundaries on three key domains of food security: food access, availability and utilisation. Their focus is on Southern Africa, with their findings being relevant not only to the rest of the continent, but also further afield.
Project goals include reducing food losses in the farm-to-fork chain; improving crop production and water use efficiency; empowering small-scale farmers with appropriate new technologies; promoting the utilisation of safe and nutritious food; understanding the social, economic and political dimensions of food insecurity; and evaluating the impact of climate change on agriculture.
Close collaboration with communities is a key feature of the Initiative. The goal is to get a grip on the issues that affect people in different spheres of society and how this relates to food security. The findings will be passed on to, amongst others, the government, educational institutions, civic organisations and commercial bodies.