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Open letter to Parliament on food insecurity

- Civil society

Civil society organisations write to Parliament to highlight food insecurity as a top priority for the seventh administration

Considering the recent appointment of the 7th administration of the South African Parliament, we as civil society organisations, grassroots movements and academics call upon you as representatives of the diverse voices and aspirations of our nation, to prioritise the pressing issue of food and nutrition security in South Africa. We have noted that despite the right to food being enshrined in our Constitution, South Africa ranked 58th out of 125 countries in the 2023 Global Hunger Index. The food crisis, especially in light of climate change and declining economic growth, ought to be prioritised by your administration. Although the Global Hunger Index places South Africa’s ranking as ‘moderate’, the crisis adds incrementally to the already identified three tier challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality – a cause for concern for access to socio-economic rights.

We highlight the various themes of concern for the food crisis below:

1. Access to safe and clean drinking water

Water access is inextricably related to the fundamental right to food, as it is an essential resource for agricultural production, food preparation, and survival. However, too many South Africans continue to live in areas without consistent access to clean water, which exacerbates food and nutrition insecurity.

2. Access to urban land

A large segment of the population in our cities faces the terrible reality of having no access to land for subsistence farming, which makes them even more vulnerable to food and nutrition insecurity. Policies that ensure fair access to land for food production and livelihoods are essential to meet the requirements of urban dwellers.

3. Greater support for subsistence farmers

With respect to essential support systems like agricultural funding and resources, and potential access to markets, rural subsistence farmers require greater support. Such support should include land reform and security of tenure. Disproportionate access to farm land is, of course, related to South Africa’s racial and colonial past which should continue to be addressed by the new administration.

4. Access to nutritious foods

Despite the overall availability of food at national level, many individuals and communities struggle to access nutritious food options because of various barriers such as affordability, availability, and cultural preferences. This lack of access to nutritious food contributes to malnutrition, immuno-deficiencies, and diet-related health issues, further exacerbating the food crisis. Moreover, disparities in access to nutritious food disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, including children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those living in poor or marginalised communities. This speaks to section 27(1)(b) of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to sufficient food, and section 28(1)(c), which guarantees the right to basic nutrition for children. Policies and programmes directed at improving nutritional outcomes and access to nutritious food are of utmost importance.

5. Greater regulation of the industries involved in the agri-food system

As a country, South Africa is not food insecure, yet at a household and individual level many struggle with sustained access to food (due to factors such as affordability or pricing), while profits in the food-value chain are arguably inequitably distributed. Greater regulation of the industries involved in the agri-food system is required. Regulation could also be directed at addressing food waste.

6. Expansion of social grants

Research has shown that the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant introduced by government at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant positive impact on food poverty and on local economies. Apart from the SRD grant, there is no permanent social assistance for able-bodied people aged from 18 to 59 who have no income. Expansion of the social grant system, either by increasing the grant amounts for existing grants or providing additional grants will contribute to relief for those who are food insecure.

Call to action

  • We demand that you, our political leaders, outline the plans you have to act decisively to address these pressing issues.
  • We demand that these plans put everyone's needs—both those in rural and urban areas—first by putting in place comprehensive initiatives that guarantee access to resources for food production, land, and water.
  • We demand that these plans address how you will be part of promoting sustainable food systems and strengthening agricultural resilience for especially small-scale farmers.
  • We demand the allocation of existing public budgets towards addressing food security to shorten the gap between the rich and the poor.
  • We demand the implementation of policies and regulations that promote food security and support local food producers, including measures to protect agricultural land.
  • We demand that you set out plans for increased regulation of the industries involved in the agri-food system to address issues of affordability and waste.
  • We demand recognition of the important role that the social grants system plays in relation to food security and therefore commitment to the expansion of the grants system.


As we navigate these uncertain times, government should demonstrate its commitment to the well-being and dignity of all citizens by placing food and nutrition security at the forefront of our policy agendas. The rising cost of living in South Africa is a reality; while food insecurity goes against the principles of dignity and equality – the Constitution’s fundamental and foundational aspirations. As such, we hope that the 7th administration will heed to the call for action and communicate the measures they intend to put in place as part of undoing the ongoing ramifications of the widening inequality gap arising out of this crisis.


  • Centre for Applied Legal Studies 
  • Right2Protest Projecy 
  • Centre for Child Law 
  • Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity 
  • University of KwaZulu Natal 
  • Socio-Economic Rights Institute 
  • Seriti Institute