Table of Contents

1. Overview

The availability of food is the starting point of all life.

The main issue around food is whether people can afford it, a nutritious adequate diet that makes for healthy human beings.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines food security as “A situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.

Food insecurity is strongly related to unemployment and poverty. The two are justifiably linked as the first two goals of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): “No poverty” and “No hunger”.

Photo used courtesy of Helen Gordon, WWF SA


Food sovereignty” serves as an alternative paradigm to the current global “food security” narrative. “Food security” says nothing about where food comes from, or how and under what conditions it is produced and consumed. Food security offers little in the way of alleviating hunger, and even less for the contradictions of hunger and malnourishment in the global agri-food system.

Source: Busiso Moyo, South Africa’s new food and nutrition policy fails to address constitutional right to food (adapted).


With a child dying every six seconds because of undernourishment-related problems, hunger remains the world’s largest tragedy and scandal.

Source: former FAO Director-General, Jacques Diouf.


This is a new face of hunger. There is food on shelves but people are priced out of the market.

Josette Sheeran, said whilst head of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP)


Food security doesn’t begin and end on the shop shelf; it starts out in the farmlands and depends on farmers who can produce at a big enough profit to justify their risk and hard work. Once farming confidence goes and younger farmers lose interest and move elsewhere, no amount of social or political engineering will turn the boat around.

Source: Roelof Bezuidenhout, Eastern Cape farmer 


We are told of the great advances that have been made in ‘modern’ agriculture in the last 60 years. Yet there are more hungry and malnourished people on our planet today than in the whole history of humanity. While agricultural policies are directed towards cash crops, the income that this generates for rural people rarely covers their food needs.

The world produces more than enough calories to feed everyone, and other important issues are at stake. Social inequity, inequality, inefficiency, waste, environmental degradation and biased global economic policies are but a few. Moreover, feeding the world is not just about ensuring that there are enough calories; the quality and variety of food are equally important. It is time to start looking at food and nutrition from a different perspective: the focus should shift from food security to food sovereignty and nutrition security.

Source: Farming Matters, (adapted)