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Activists and academics call for food system transformation to end hunger and malnutrition

Author: Centre of Excellence in Food Security

Food system change is key to achieving the right to food.

(Published - 12 October 2020)

On World Food Day (16 October), academics and activists will debate and share insights on the impact of the food system on ensuring the right to food and ending hunger.

The Right to Food is enshrined in international agreements including the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Union’s Resolution on the Right to Food and Food Insecurity in Africa. The South African constitution also guarantees the right to food. Despite these agreements, one of the biggest challenges facing millions of people across the world today is hunger. And the food system plays a role in exacerbating these challenges.

“While many development institutions continue to prioritise improvements in productivity to address issues of hunger and malnutrition, this approach is increasingly challenged by an alternative focus: food systems,”  said Professor Ruth Hall, SARChI Chair in Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), University of the Western Cape (UWC).  

With World Food Day taking place at a time of unprecedented challenges on global health and the economy, leading academics and activists will convene a digital dialogue titled: ‘The right to food and equitable food systems’, from 12h00-14h00 (CAT) on 16 October 2020. 

Jointly hosted by PLAAS, the Centre of Excellence in Food Security (CoE-FS) and the C19 People’s Coalition Food Working Group, the online dialogue will see panellists debate and share recent and ongoing research on the devastating impacts of Covid-19; such as increased levels of hunger around the world, massive disruptions to the food system and loss of incomes to buy food.

Food is fundamental not only to well-being but to our social and economic lives. Yet, too many people do not have enough to eat. The FAO estimates that in 2019,  2 billion people in the world did not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. In South Africa, although the country produces enough food to feed its population, access to healthy and nutritious food remains a challenge.

“With the coronavirus pandemic exposing the vulnerability of millions of people in South Africa, ensuring access to safe and nutritious food through a transformed and just food system is critical to national responses to the current global crisis,” says Professor Julian May, Director of the CoE-FS.

With the rising levels of hunger, poverty and inequality witnessed across the country; the protection of human rights has never been more critical. “This event is aimed at building momentum for advocating for the right to food, and mobilising to demand an end to hunger and for just food systems,” explains Nandi Msezane of C19 People’s Coalition’s Food Working Group.

Details & Draft Programme

Registration Link:

12h00 Welcome & overview
12h05 Global perspectives This session will provide a global perspective on the right to food, the effects of Covid-19 as well as sharing international success stories.
12h30 African perspectives This session will hear inputs by small-scale farmers, fishers and traders; on the impacts of COVID-19 responses on the political economy of African food systems.
13h00 South African perspectives This session focuses on the situation in South Africa, featuring the voices of activists on how they have responded to the COVID-19 crisis and what kind of changes are needed to ensure the right to food for all.
13h45 Key messages, demands and next steps
14h00 Closing

*This programme is subject to change. Please visit our website, for updates.


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