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Shedding new light on food insecurity in Africa – causes and consequences

The debate on the causes and consequences of a lack of food security is often overshadowed by pointing to the consequences of climate change and intra and inter regional conflict. A lot is published on how conflict disrupts normal agricultural production through, among others, limitations on access to resources and/or the productive utilisation of resources. The negative impact of climate changes such as droughts, fires and floods are well-documented.

Southern Africa was the victim of crippling droughts in the seasons leading up to record grain harvests in 2017, while the Western Cape and other areas of the subcontinent are still struggling with lack of rain and water scarcity. The impact of these occurrences on the agricultural economy is not only significant but will require a number of seasons of above-average rainfall and favourable climate in order to normalise.

In a recent article by Ore Koren in the American Agricultural Economy Journal ( convincing evidence is provided for other causes of food insecurity that are statistically more significant. According to Koren the availability of food and the potential for food security is, as a result of the quality and extent of resources, actually a cause.

The well-known theory of Malthus, namely that food scarcity contributes to conflict, is turned around with evidence of increased conflict because people have to eat and that they satisfy this need by taking from others. Food is a renewable resource and it is important for maintaining military presence.

There are also evidence of instances where rebels monopolise food production and the income derived from this in order to use it for military restructuring and permanent control. Koren’s research draws parallels from history where rulers conquered food-rich regions/countries.

In Africa this was often the start of colonialisation, namely to establish halfway stations in order to provide food to ships. These debates currently form the basis for arguments in favour of land redistribution without compensation. Koren distinguishes between four categories of conflict that can cause and contribute to food insecurity.

The first is where organs of the state must protect areas but without support regarding food. The military then becomes dependent on the sources of the area where it is operating, thus becoming part of the total demand without the state contributing financially.

The second category refers to rebels taking control of areas, thus causing food insecurity by utilising food for other purposes such as income.

The third category refers to food-secure regions that close off access to outsiders. These people are satisfied with what they are producing in a politically stable environment and are not open to influences from outside. Some of these regions have developed a military ability to protect but as a result these regions are cut off from new developments and progress.

The fourth group is nomadic farmers looking for grazing and simply claiming certain areas. They measure their wealth at the hand of number of cattle. Often these numbers are so high that available grazing is insufficient and military ability becomes the only way to access grazing. This has a negative impact on the food security of the region that is taken over.

The Namibian history presents a number of cases of comparative conduct and Koren’s research contributes towards understanding the relationship between food security, violent conflict, inequality and the changing environment.

Prepared by CORE Business Development

For more information, contact 051-448 8188

Filling the gap – potholes, sinkholes and your insurancey

The chances of you hitting a pothole or a sinkhole could soon dramatically increase. Recently, the Gauteng Provincial Government had warned that the current rainfall in the region could bring with it an increase in the number of potholes and sinkholes. For many South Africans, the sudden appearance of potholes and sinkholes after rainfalls represents potential danger to their vehicles and their properties. While many insurance companies have products that do cover damage caused by potholes and sinkholes, prevention is definitely better than cure.

What causes potholes and sinkholes? 

According to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the majority of potholes form in rainy periods and are generally caused by: 

  • the cracking of the tar surface as a result of fatigue or ageing that allows water into the support; and
  • the penetration of water to a less permeable interface within the asphalt layer, resulting in the stripping of the tar surface. 

Interestingly, the CSIR clarifies that potholes are also common during the dry season, mainly due to temporary wet conditions resulting from localised irrigation, ponding and/or seepage of water.

Potholes aren’t the only problem facing South Africans. Sinkholes could have disastrous effects on your property. Sinkholes occur when dolomite or limestone rock is dissolved by water, causing the ground above it to collapse - often leaving large holes in the ground. “The likelihood of an increase in both potholes and sinkholes could have serious repercussions for many South Africans. Not only could they harm your vehicle, but something like a sinkhole could also seriously damage your property,” explains Hannes Smith, Head of Collaboration at Old Mutual Insure.

To help South Africans who may unfortunately fall victim to potholes and sinkholes, Old Mutual Insure provides the following tips and hints.

Avoiding sinkholes on your property: 

  • Make sure to fix any leaking pipes on your property as soon as possible.
  • Ensure that you keep all drainage holes clear of debris to allow water to properly drain from your property. 

If a sinkhole forms on your property: 

  • Restrict access to the hole.
  • NEVER go down into a sinkhole or try to fill the hole yourself.
  • Contact local police or emergency responders immediately.
  • Take photographs for documentation, but do not get too close to the edges of the sinkhole. 

If your car is damaged by a pothole: 

  • If you hit the pothole late at night, don’t stop.
  • Take note of where the pothole is situated.
  • Return the following day to take photos of the pothole.
  • Contact your insurance broker immediately.
  • If possible, take photos of the damage to your car and send them through as part of your claim. 

“At the end of the day, most insurers make provision for damages incurred as a result of both sinkholes and potholes. Make sure to read through your policy carefully and be sure to provide your broker or insurance provider with as much information as possible,” concludes Smith.


Prepared by CORE Short-Term

For more information, contact 051-448 8188


How to balance the policy basket

The well-known Millennium Development Goals aimed at making the world a different place by 2030 in terms of poverty and famine require continuous rethinking. Per capita enough food is produced for everyone on earth but wasting of a third of this food, the simultaneous increase in chronic hunger, malnourishment, obesity and the proven impact on growth in younger children are causing concern. The best technology is turning inputs into food but resource application is under pressure in terms of water scarcity, deforestation, deterioration of soil quality and the release of harmful greenhouse gasses. This makes it challenging for leaders in several fields to find a proper balance in terms of a basket of policy to remain aligned with the development goals.

Agroecology is the latest approach to this dilemma with a fresh focus on people-focused, knowledge-intensive efforts with sustainable application of inputs to lead necessary changes in order to comply. Technically this implies a re-evaluation of the involvement of more expertise over a wider spectrum, including local producers irrespective of the level of competence and the scope of production. For example, small-scale or subsistence farmers often have indigenous knowledge of the local climate, production circumstances, etc. that are overlooked. Agroecology is focused on the holistic reform of food value-chains in a holistic and integrated manner in order to balance the three main moments of food security. These three cornerstones include the social, economic and environmental aspects of food security.

Although modern farming in this part of the world serves as proof that agroecology is applicable in a number of circumstances, there is probably a lack of understanding among governments that are supposed to lead the transformation. An over-emphasis on emerging farmers as development goal but without real support in the form of financing and information means the bar remains set too high.

Chronic dependence on the state as provider creates a beggar approach while the focus should actually be on making farming at all levels sustainable. The state has a duty to provide specific support to emerging producers as part of the basket of public goods but in such a manner that these recipients eventually become self-sufficient. Unfortunately there is too much evidence of governments failing in terms of this responsibility. The answer to these challenges is not simplistic but rather how the various role-players can be used together in order to streamline development. Sustainability is not necessarily a function of size, it is relative. Sustainable primary production means a farm is placed on the road to growth but “farm” should not be seen as requiring thousands of hectares. There is evidence of a part-time farmer adding to his income from another source through farming. Policy baskets should also take this into account.

The latest report on what has been achieved in terms of transformation in organised agriculture is significant. It is probably one of the best examples of what is meant by agroecology. Recycling of overtaxed resources, reform of attitude and practically measurable leadership of a team of experts which include the indigenous knowledge of especially small-scale farmers in communal areas serve as evidence. This report also serves as evidence of the application of the ten elements of agroecology identified by the FAO. These include acknowledgement of diversity, sharing of knowledge, striving towards strategic synergy, efficiency, recycling, resilience, acknowledgement of social values and systems, acknowledgement of traditions, accountable corporate supervision and solidarity among producers who want to support local markers.

When case studies – successes and failures – in the agricultural value chain are analysed it is evident that success is largely dependent on the extent of adhering to the principles of agroecology. Farming communities have and can make commercialisation with the focus on sustainability work better. However, often there are too many induced stumbling blocks in their way.

Prepared by CORE Business Development. For more information, contact 051-448 8188

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