Four scenarios food crisis in South Africa

Four scenarios were developed focusing on plausible threats to natural resources, food production, the impacts of the political economy and nutrition issues respectively.

Looking only at the first scenario – the one that deals with the natural resources on which we rely in order to produce food – we’re presented with some dire realities if increased warming and droughts develop as predicted.

Picture this scenario for a moment: increasing temperatures and droughts result in a crisis in water quality and quantity. This, of course, coincides with a crisis in energy supply, setting in motion a ripple-effect through interconnected ecological and social systems. Soils have been depleted, there is limited viable arable land, irrigation demand is growing and municipal infrastructure is ageing.

Poverty, inequality, high unemployment rates and household food insecurity form the social backdrop to this scenario. As a result of many of these factors, South Africa’s river systems take strain, which in turn impacts on agriculture.

Some potential results: the quality of export crops would be compromised by poor water quality; significant job losses would occur in the agricultural sector; honeybee species would become endangered, threatening crop pollination; state expenditure on food may be diverted to nuclear infrastructure to address the energy crisis; crop yields would decrease; drought conditions would push up the price of staple foods.

Higher food prices

None of the above is far fetched. In fact, some of this is already playing out with 2015 predicted to be an eight-year low in maize production due to drought. The knock-on effects of this include higher food prices in the short-term as the grain is a basic input for the production of red meat, poultry, eggs and milk.

The purpose of developing the food future scenarios was to prompt a more coherent conversation about an effective food system for South Africa. The scenarios help to identify the choices organisations and individuals can make now to adapt to anticipated challenges or to shape, together, the future of food in South Africa.


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