Gauteng Smallholder December/ January 2018 - Page 13

#SAFoodCrisis A majority of vulnerable South Africans can!t afford a diet that guarantees sufficient nutrition From page 9 Smallholder farmers who with to make a profit from their efforts, therefore, should avoid selling through the market system at all costs. Rather, they should seek out niche markets close to their land, by supplying schools, restaurants, shops or hotels in their area directly, or by growing specialist commodities for carefully defined groups, such as growing for the organic market or for those with special dietary needs, foreigners seeking a taste of home or for export. As far as consumers are concerned, high food prices make it impossible for families at the lower end of the income scale to feed them- selves a nutritious diet, and doubly impossible for families that are unemployed to do so. And with upwards of 28% of the working population currently unemployed this amounts to a large number of South Africa's most vulnerable who do not enjoy a nutritious diet. Even if the government were to introduce its much vaunted national minimum wage it will be impossible for families at this level of wage to enjoy a nutritious diet at current food price levels. Similarly, families that have to rely on the social grant system, either as adults or as recipients of a child grant, are unable to enjoy a sufficiently nutritious diet at current food price levels. In reality this means that somewhere approaching half of the South African popula- tion does not enjoy a diet sufficiently rich in protein, minerals and vitamins to ensure them optimal health. The result of a sustained poor diet manifests itself in ways that have a number of impacts on areas such as education and public health. A poor diet among children, for example, leads to stunting, ie poor bone mas s develop- ment, among other health outcomes, as well as impaired education outcomes simply because a child who is constantly hungry is unable to concentrate for long periods in the classroom. Stunting in childhood, and continued poor nutrition in adulthood leads to a number of key lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart conditions, which in turn have implication for the public health sector and the workforce. The living arrangements and lifestyle of urban South Africans mean that very few families grow their own fruit and vegetables, and calls for individuals to turn available land into productive food gardens are futile and condescending. The working day for most township dwellers, with its long commuting times starts way too early and ends far too late to allow such individuals time to garden. Also space limitations, lack of water and theft militate against such activities. Attempts by government departments, NGOs and municipalities to develop and encourage township food gardens often fail after a season or two through a lack of on-going support and dwindling interest among the participants. The lack of enthusiasm for such projects is often exacerbated by the top- down approach adopted by the organisers which is seen as Continued on page 12 11