Hidden Hunger in South Africa

The Faces of Hunger and Malnutrition in a Food-Secure Nation

Publication date: 12 October 2014
Author: Yared Teka Tsegay and Masiiwa Rusare from Africa Monitor, Rashmi Mistry from Oxfam

South Africa is considered a ‘food-secure’ nation, producing enough calories to adequately feed every one of its 53 million people. However, the reality is that one in four people currently suffers hunger on a regular basis and more than half of the population live in such precarious circumstances that they are at risk of going hungry.

With unemployment levels at 25 percent nationally and over 15 million people receiving social grants, people do not have enough money to buy food. 

Women face hunger more often than men, due to disparities in income, limited access to employment or means of production and cultural practices that put them last or allow them smaller portions when food is in short supply. 

Fewer than 2 percent of households grow the majority of their own food, and the majority of small scale producers in rural areas are unable to feed their families.  Inadequate access to water, equipment and extension services means that even if rural communities have access to land, they cannot be productive enough. 

Changes in the climate are also threatening to increase hunger. Communities reported increasing occurrences of extreme weather such as heavy rains and flash floods, frosts and blistering morning temperatures, as well as creeping changes in rainfall patterns, a blurring of the seasons and changes in planting/harvesting seasons. 

Oxfam believes that it is time to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in South Africa once and for all. 

To date the range of government policies created to address food security, hunger and malnutrition have been poorly implemented, uncoordinated and unaccountable to people who are facing hunger. 

For a full set of recommendations, please read our attached report.