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Food Security

The Food Security Project aimed to identify and foster an understanding of the factors that promote or hinder an individual, family or community’s ability to establish and maintain food security in both rural and urban settings around Knysna and Cape Town, South Africa.

The project expands upon the Slow Food organization’s values – that food should be “good, clean, and fair”. It combined secondary research with three months on-the-ground with Conservation Global in South Africa.

The ultimate goal of Phase I of the project was to gain insight into the complexity around establishing and maintaining food security in these two societies.

The Food Security Project by Elisabeth Leaning

Conservation Global’s Food Security Project aims to provide insight into the complexity around establishing and maintaining food security in South Africa’s Western Cape province. The project began in Fall 2014 and will enter its second phase in 2016.

South Africa is plagued with rampant unemployment, extreme socio-economic inequalities, pervasive communicable and non-communicable diseases, a poor public education system, and changing weather patterns due to climate change. On the other hand, South Africa is also home to immense biodiversity, diverse cultures and cuisines, and a promising economy when correctly managed. South Africa’s challenges render it prone to rampant food insecurity, while it’s positive attributes suggest that it has the power to overcome these challenges.

The World Food Programme (2014) defines food secure people as those “who have all-time access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious foods to maintain a healthy and active life.” The three main elements of food security are:

  • Food Availability: “Food must be available in sufficient quantities and on a consistent basis. It considers stock and production in a given area and the capacity to bring in food from elsewhere, through trade or aid.”
  • Food Access: “People must be able to regularly acquire adequate quantities of food, through purchase, home production, barter, gifts, borrowing or food aid.”
  • Food Utilization: “Consumed food must have a positive nutritional impact on people. It entails cooking, storage and hygiene practices, individuals health, water and sanitation, feeding and sharing practices within the household (World Food Programme 2014).”

In 2012, South Africa’s Department of Agriculture identified five key areas where food security challenges were the most prominent (Food Security Initiative, 2014):

Inadequate safety nets. Few households have income earners, making them unable to afford to purchase food. Weak support networks and disaster management systems. Droughts and floods threaten South Africa’s agricultural industry and local food systems.

Inadequate and unstable household food production. There is little-to-no production at the household level and many households exist on government grants.

Lack of purchasing power. High unemployment results in a lack of cash flow to purchase food.

Poor nutritional status. One in child in four under the age of six – 1.5 million children – is stunted due to chronic malnutrition.

Phase I, conducted in Fall 2014 aimed to establish a baseline understanding of the status of food security in Cape Town and the Knysna region. The report sought to identify key factors that promote or hinder an individual, family, or community’s access to food security. Through both primary and secondary research, Phase I of the Food Security Project provided Conservation Global with a key understanding existing projects, processes, actors, and gaps or challenges with food security in South Africa’s Western Cape.

The report found that although not for lack of effort, food security is pervasively racialized within South Africa’s Western Cape province, in both rural and urban areas. In the Knysna region, there are few food security projects currently being run, and even fewer successful projects. However, there are ample organic local food markets and restaurants. The local Knysna community seems to want to bridge this gap (that is primarily along racial lines), but the challenges of geographic separation, socio-economic inequality, and power dynamics consistently render the initiatives unsuccessful. This is not for lack of potential: the money is there, the interest is there, and the need is there.

In 2016, CG will develop and launch phase 2 of the Food Security Project – Stay tuned and please contact us if you are interested in collaborating.

“Imagine if, in addition to being able to feed ourselves with healthy, locally grown food, we were able to feed our souls and heal some of the pains of our divided past? Imagine if, through urban farming initiatives and community gardens across our city, we could find common ground, literally? And imagine if, as urban farmers, our young people could reclaim their powers to grow – not just as providers, but also as future leaders? Let’s make it happen.” – Makalima, Ngewana B, 2014.


The South Africa travel was the most incredible experience of life!! With Conservation Global’s help, I experienced memories that will last a lifetime. From learning about sustainability in townships and wildlife conservatory at game reserves, to the social and economic issues that South Africa struggles with today, Conservation Global allowed me to be enthusiastic and engaged throughout our trip, as well as encouraged me to think about how my relationship with nature and the environment will affect future generations for years to come.

Julia Tomich May 24th, 2016

My week spent on Gondwana Game Reserve with Conservation Global was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I was fortunate enough to travel to South Africa with Franklin University Switzerland on academic travel in the spring of 2015. Bonding with the staff and learning about the animals in their natural environment made for one incredible week. Each day was filled with activities and lectures that were as entertaining as they were educational. As a group we had a lecture in the morning either from a member of the knowledge staff or from a local expert. We learned about native bee populations and were treated to honey samples from the region and were given a demonstration on the practice of tagging and tracking animals on the reserve. Perhaps the most memorable was when we were taught how to properly handle a tranquilizer gun and had a competition to see who could get a bullseye! After the morning lecture, the group would split up for the safari in which the staff took great care to make sure we saw as many animals as possible. Later in the afternoon we would regroup for a drink and to admire the scenery. I have the utmost respect for Conservation Global and the work they are doing—hoping to return to South Africa soon!

Solange Pittet March 1st, 2015

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