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6 May 2016
UK-SA Bilateral Research Chair a timely boost for Food Security in South Africa

In the midst of rising food prices - coupled with one of the worst droughts South Africa has ever experienced - food security research at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) has received a much-needed boost, thanks to the Newton Fund and the National Research Foundation’s (NRF) UK-SA Bilateral Research Chair Initiative (SARChI).

SA Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, and the British High Commissioner to South Africa, Dame Judith Macgregor, launched three new bilateral research chairs on Wednesday, 4 May 2016, intended to strengthen research and innovation capacity between the two countries.

Dr Stephen Devereux, Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, is the new SARChI Chair in Social Protection for Food Security, and will be based at UWC’s Institute for Social Development, and affiliated to the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security.

“Food insecurity is not caused by lack of food at national level, but by a lack of access to food at the individual level, mainly due to poverty,” notes Dr Devereux, who specialises in applied policy-relevant research, with a geographical focus on sub-Saharan Africa. “One response to food insecurity is social protection, which improves access to food for poor, either by giving food or by raising their income.”

The Chair will be funded to the amount of R1.5 million per annum for a period of five years, and will address questions on why food insecurity in South Africa remains so high, despite the comprehensive social protection system, and how the impact of social protection on hunger can be improved.

It fits well with the CoE’s vision to become a global leader in research, capacity building, knowledge brokerage and service provision in food security and nutrition in Africa, achieved through collaborations with outstanding institutions and scholars on the continent and elsewhere.

“This initiative symbolises the importance of international collaborations as a key ingredient in responding to global socio-economic challenges,” notes Prof. Julian May, Director of the CoE.

SARChI: Big Picture Thinking For Better Research

The three new bilateral research chairs are part of the already-awarded 198 research chairs endowed as part of the South African Research Chairs Initiative, which began in 2006 and is now a R404 million a year programme.

UWC already hosts 13 SARChI Chairs - but there’s always room for another.

As Prof. Frans Swanepoel, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at UWC, notes: “This Chair will strengthen and enhance the already world-class research conducted under the Centre of Excellence in Food Security, improving the quality and production of graduates by supporting research excellence in response to a key socio-economic and development imperative - i.e. food security.”

SARChI is aimed at supporting South Africa’s transformation to a knowledge economy, improving the country’s international competitiveness, and strengthening its ability to produce excellence in postgraduate research.

“I would like to congratulate Dr Stephen Devereux, Research Chair in Food Security, at UWC; Prof Michael John Roberts, Research Chair Food Security, at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University; and Prof Lawrence Hamilton, Research Chair in Political Theory, at University of the Witwatersrand (Wits),” read a statement released by Minister Pandor. “I anticipate that they will contribute to South Africa's growing importance as a centre of science and innovation excellence.”