(Published - 28 August 2018)
Food production and consumption are issues too big for just one country to handle - to address these kinds of global challenges requires a trans-national think-tank composed of a team of big thinkers with both deep- and broad-ranging expertise across several disciplines, and with extensive policy experience and a history of commitment to social justice and transformation.
So it’s no surprise that when the Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (SYLFF) decided to put together just such a think-tank exploring Food Production in 2030, they wanted Prof Beverley Thaver from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) on their team.
“This is not only an academic exercise,” says Prof Thaver. “This is taking academic knowledge and applying that in the real world - making a difference on a global level. I’m excited to contribute to an initiative that seeks to envision a policy for producing food to feed our children in 2030, on a global level.”
Prof Beverley Thaver was awarded the first SYLFF Japanese Young Leadership scholarship at UWC when the programme launched two decades ago. Her scholarly work is in Higher Education, based in the University’s Institute for Post-School Studies (IPSS). She brings extensive national social policy expertise, with background experience in higher education statutory bodies under democracy.
“I’ve gained a sense of how policy translates in practice - and the many challenges that may involve,” Prof Thaver explains. “That’s especially true when it comes to issues of inequality and social justice, which is where my scholarly experience comes into play.”
According to the framing concept for the trans-border networking forum: “Many political, economic, and social issues today have become global in nature, and single states cannot effectively deal with them alone. An increasingly large role is being played by nonstate actors—both in causing and managing these problems”.
Food production is one of those problems - as has long been recognised by such bodies as the United Nations, who addressed the matter initially as a component of the Millennium Development Goals, and also included it in their Sustainable Development Goals, aimed at fixing (at least partially) some of humanity’s thorniest problems by 2030.
“Nation-states simply do not have the capacity to take care of hunger on their own - certainly not beyond their borders, and often not within them either,” Prof Thaver explains, following the concept document that will frame the forum’s workshop. “And since networking across nation states is increasing - around human rights, for example - there is also a need to engage globally across borders to address basic issues such as food production and access.”
Feeding the Future: An Interdisciplinary Approach
As a Council on Higher Education ministerial appointee (serving the end of a second term) Prof Thaver has developed extensive policy experience, with accompanying visits to the South African Parliament - but she is participating in the think tank in her personal capacity.
It’s not just Prof Thaver’s policy experience that matters either - her long expertise in education is important.
“Any case of advocacy is an educational project,” she notes. “Educators have to know how to take complicated matters, think through them, envision expected outcomes, experiment with different approaches, work with bureaucracies, and ultimately communicate with their intended audience.”
Prof Thaver will be leaving for an introductory think tank workshop in Tokyo in September 2018, where she will meet with researchers, policy advocates and the like from Japan and Germany, and scholars representing the different continents. They will be exposed to techniques around future food production, and learn how to apply their experience and skills to the challenges of food production. There will be another wrap-up workshop in 2019 - and in between, ICT-based communication and engagement.
“Think tanks aren’t just about thinking - they’re about engaging, about discussion and debate and research, and seriously grappling with the issues. They’re about sharing views and learning from each other.”
Food Consumption: 2030 will address food production within a broader environmental eco-system framework. Food and nutritional security are imperative for human survival with dignity, and are necessary for economic vitality, social justice, human health and environmental health.
Prof Thaver is excited about the opportunity this think tank provides to make a positive change on a global scale.
“I’ve spent years writing and researching and discussing and working towards social justice and addressing matters of inequality, and fighting for a better life for all,” she says. “And now I get to work on one of the biggest social justice issues around, getting to the ‘heart of the stomach’, globally.”