Protecting the nature we all rely on for food, fresh water and livelihoods
Agriculture in South Africa.

Food security and land reform

© CI/Mike Matarasso


By 2020:

  • Government and agricultural industry bodies will adopt sustainable farming practices that contribute to food security and support successful land reform
  • Farmers will implement good practice on 50 percent of the land within the SA hotspots.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines food security as a “situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

Conservation South Africa’s Food Security and Land Reform Programme looks to address the very real food security challenge facing our world today. We believe that healthy ecosystems lead to healthy food which in turn leads to healthy people. In essence we are dependent on our land for our survival.

The challenge

The world food crisis has hit developing countries hardest, with Africa being particularly hard hit. This is undermining any hope that the continent will meet the UN target of halving the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015.

Food security and poverty are irrefutably linked and while overall global food production is sufficient to meet the needs of the world’s 7 billion people, food-insecurity continues to affect a large portion of our world population. This is because presently, global food security is mainly limited by access to food — a problem almost always linked to poverty, making this a livelihoods challenge. Therefore, ensuring that people have a sustainable financial means to obtain the food they need addresses one of the key factors of food security.

In line with this, after decades of neglect, agriculture, as a means to address both food security and livelihoods, is once again being seen as a potential driver of rural development, especially in Africa.

Moving forward

The ever expanding demand for food is threatened by increasing areas of agricultural land being used for non-food crops such as biofuels, the degradation of agricultural land, the effects of climate change on agriculture and the production decline in global fisheries and wild-harvested land species.

Present poverty and future food demand calls for massive investments in sustainably managed agriculture and fisheries, but the environmental impacts of these investments are often poorly understood, and without a direct link to nature’s services, these investments stand to have highly destructive environmental impacts.

Integrating ecosystem services into the development agenda is an essential part of viably addressing the challenge of food security.

Our work

Conservation South Africa is working at both a field and policy level to demonstrate that ecosystem health is essential to long-term food security and to promote sustainable livelihoods where agricultural production and resource conservation positively reinforce each other.

Through working with farmers, government agencies and retailers, we are promoting practices that improve the sustainability of agricultural activities across South Africa.

Rangeland restoration

Livestock farming for meat production is the largest agricultural sector in South Africa, generating over R6.7 billion per annum.

Cattle farming in the Eastern Cape, South Africa
© Tessa Mildenhall

Despite the size of this huge industry, red meat consumption in South Africa outstrips production by 15%, making South Africa a net importer of red meat. Commercial farmers supply 95% of the red meat market in South Africa. Farmers on communal lands own 47% of the country’s livestock, but supply on 5% of the market. For communal farmers , access to markets, transportation, poor animal condition resulting in part from poor veld condition prevents smaller farming operations from participating actively and profitably in the red meat market.

Red meat production primarily comes from the grassland and semi-arid shrubland regions of the country which historically would have supported extensive herds of wildlife and significantly overlap with two Biodiversity Hotspots, the Succulent Karoo and the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot. Livestock farming is a compatible land-use for biodiversity conservation, and when livestock lands are well-managed, the rangelands perform crucial water catchment and soil retention services that are essential for the broader South African population and economy.

Conservation South Africa supports commercial and communal farmers to adopt and expand rangeland and processing practices that support restoration and maintenance of healthy ecosystems has an impact that is far-reaching. Our various sustainable agriculture projects combine to enable farmers to farm in a way that leads to a win-win situation for everyone.