Demographic and Health Surveys conducted in 10 countries, including Asia, Latin America and Africa, bear evidence of an increase in urban malnutrition and poverty as a result of urbanization. This clearly signals an urgent need for adequate programmes to address food security.
Despite more funds having been allocated for nutrition programmes worldwide, however, there are continuous reports of poor functioning of these programmes. South Africa therefore needs to focus its community-based efforts on strengthening the capacity of health facilities to effectively address malnutrition in impoverished urban and rural communities.
The SERA Food Security Task Team, under the leadership of the University of Pretoria's Prof Andre Oelofse and Themba Belle of the CSIR, have been involved in a number of activities to create inroads into the complex area of food security.
Among these are several short courses offered by members of the task team, conducted with the specific aim of training both scientists and "trainers" to better comprehend and contribute to the challenges that food insecurity poses.
A number of projects focusing on rural household food security, the effectiveness of national food fortification programmes, the role of nutrition in immunity to sustain food security as well as nutritional value, and water use of indigenous crops for improved livelihoods are being conducted within SERA.
One project of particular interest is the water use and nutritional status of indigenous crops and its relation to livelihoods. The aim is to identify, through rigorous research, potential indigenous crops which will be ideal for water-poor environments and still yield sufficient nutrients to significantly contribute to addressing food insecurity.
This project is a multiple partner collaboration that is expected to run over five years with the potential to significantly enhance capacity within the partner organisations.
Oelofse is enthusiastic about the progress being made by the team. "We trust that these approaches will contribute to alleviating food insecurity through sound scientific endeavour", he said.
For more information on the Food Security task team, contact Prof Andre Oelofse on
+27 12 420 6030.