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Theme Four : Food gardens are frequently only able to provide seasonal fresh produce, which means their role in diet can be erratic Studies 3, 4, 77, [ 95 , 96 , , ]. Theme Five : In conflict with more positive findings, however, some studies found that food gardens failed to play any significant role in food security Studies 43, 46, , [ 71 , 76 , 84 , ].

This finding reflects a divergence previously observed in the literature for and against food gardens as a solution to food insecurity Study [ ].


While the role of food gardens in assuring sufficient food may be constrained, the evidence from the review suggests that food gardens can nevertheless play an important part in improving diet quality to include fresh fruit and vegetables—even if only seasonally. They can also contribute to building knowledge about healthy dietary choices, and to building social capital and community development through enhanced networks and cooperation. In the light of the importance of social dynamics noted in the section above on social capital, this is not an insignificant benefit.

What remains pivotal is the level of the many resources needed to sustain them. Several studies in the review reveal the impediments to food gardens. In a study examining the impact of the Integrated Food and Nutrition Programme, the limits to food garden contributions to food security were seen to relate to fragmented and inconsistent service provision—such as distribution of agricultural tools without associated training Study 46 [ 71 ].

The difficulty experienced by some gardeners in accessing inputs such as water and suitable land was also noted. The study emphasized the importance of understanding the context and engaging with potential beneficiaries to gather relevant information prior to developing interventions.

It was clear that long term sustained support and mentoring increases the likelihood of food garden success in relation to food security; a factor particularly highlighted in a study investigating the impact of school gardens in Johannesburg Study 47 [ 98 ]. The cost related limitations of gardening were frequently noted in the studies, affecting the ability to purchase seed, protect gardens from livestock, and to provide sufficient water.

Thirty-two of the studies specifically focussed on urban food security, including but not limited to urban food gardens. An overriding message from these studies was that the current urban food system fails to provide food security to the poor in urban areas. This was no surprise in the light of what is known about the high levels of urban food insecurity levels in South Africa [ ]. The role of urban agriculture, including homestead and community food gardens received mixed treatment—as noted above.

A number of prevailing challenges associated with urban agriculture as a solution to food insecurity were reported. As a survivalist strategy amongst the poor, it suffers from the previously highlighted need for both economic and social power to be sustainable—power that the poor seldom have. Review work related to the low-income township of Khayalitsha in Cape Town argues that urban agriculture nevertheless holds potential livelihood benefits, but the need for long-term inputs, particularly under marginal environmental conditions, remains unavoidable [ ].

The fragile role of urban agriculture was brought home in a study in Msunduzi in KwaZulu-Natal that drew on data gathered in the — African Food Security Urban Network baseline survey Study 88 [ 48 ]. A number of study recommendations look to government to afford this environment, by delivering agricultural assets and land space as well as skills development, educational support, and the removal of institutional barriers Studies 11, 13, 18, 21, [ 97 , , , , ].

At the same time, the ability of government to fill this gap apparently remains weak, and without this environment, current urban agriculture is far from being a panacea for the plight of the hungry. The study of Ruysenaar on the role of urban agriculture in food security provides a nuanced critique of the levels of food system understanding and integration, and institutional dynamics required to give urban agriculture a chance of having an effect Study [ ].

He examines the impact of the urban agriculture-orientated programme implemented by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Environment. While finding modest benefits, he argues that the safety net functionality of the urban agriculture programme is blurred with income opportunities and that this together with severe operational and institutional shortcomings within the Department confounds any possibility of sustained food security benefits.

Bryceson defined deagrarianization as a process of reorientation of economic activities or livelihoods, changes in occupational activity, and realignment of human settlement away from agrarian patterns. One of the arguments put forward for the abandonment of farming following the political transition in the early is the decrease in government support to former homelands [ ].

The cases in the review presented a number of other reasons for the decrease in agricultural production in these areas. One study makes a case for the local availability of high-energy processed foods acting as a disincentive to agricultural production Study 43 [ 84 ].

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Other studies find social grants are a disincentive to home farming Studies 55, [ 72 , 79 ]. In a study investigating the association between a water irrigation scheme and food security in KwaZulu-Natal, a key point made that the farmer population in the area was aging, with the younger generation looking to move to off-farm ventures which they expect will be more lucrative Study 45 [ ].

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Agricultural activities may even be viewed as stigmatised. A number of studies confirm that wild food sources play a role in the food security of rural households. Other studies make a convincing case for wild protein sources being important to nutrition. Wild food such as insects, birds, and reptiles, was seen as an important protein source for these children, a finding which is in agreement with findings in other studies in the review Studies 43, [ 84 , ]. These were used in various roles including firewood, food, and medicine Study [ ]. Wild fruits and leafy vegetables are widely reported on as a long-standing rural food source.

A study among rural households in KwaDlangezwa Village in northeast KwaZulu-Natal, an area highly affected by HIV and AIDS, found that the collection of wild spinach was most the commonly used coping strategy in times of hardship and food insecurity Study 60 [ 73 ]. A number of studies in the review confirm that households draw on wild food resources in times of shock, including agricultural related shocks and economic shocks Studies 3,10, 18, 78, 85 [ , — ].

Their availability, however, is markedly seasonal Studies 73, [ 63 , ]. In addition to being gathered in the wild, indigenous vegetable crops are also widely consumed by especially rural communities in South Africa. These commonly include crops such as sorghum, cowpea, African sweet potatoes, Amaranth leaves, wild pear and buffalo thorn Study 44 [ ].

The level and success of the domestication and consumption of indigenous sometimes referred to as traditional plants are often associated with indigenous knowledge Study [ ]. Yet, a number of studies noted that the availability of both wild and cultivated African vegetables have been declining in recent years due not only to declining indigenous knowledge, but to wider cultural changes, and habitat losses Studies 14, 51, 59, , , [ 78 , , — ].

Social resources were frequently linked with leveraging individual power and agency. The position of South African women in the formal and informal institutions in the country has historically left them more vulnerable to food insecurity than men [ ]. Food insecurity is embedded in the unequal power women in South Africa have over resources, despite their frequently playing the most active role in providing for household food security. The role of women in agriculture and food security, and their particular powerlessness and vulnerability has been widely researched and reported e.

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The review studies endorse the central role of women in South Africa in the pursuit of household food and security and nutrition Study 86, , [ , , ]. Moreover, household food availability from agricultural production is often driven by women Studies 55, 75, 86 [ 72 , — ]. However, the studies find them severely hampered by poor decision-making power, exclusionary socio-economic institutions, and a lack of access to—and control over—both farm and non-farm assets Studies 19, , , , , , , , [ 82 , , , — ].

The review studies do not reveal novel perspectives on the gendered aspects of food insecurity, rather they reinforce and give voice to what is already known. Fig 8 shows the key codes related to gender in colour , and associated quotations paraphrased where necessary for brevity from the studies. The review studies call for greater government support for women in agriculture and recognition of the fundamental role they play in both household and national food security Studies 75, , , , [ , , , , ], as well as attention to the structural hindrances to gender equity Study [ 82 ] such as the important role of social protection, and how this can better work in concert with other government policies Study [ 81 ].

Hart proposes that interventions should also consider existing roles, responsibilities and perspectives to allow for a gendered understanding of food security dynamics prior to being developed Study [ ]. The above sections have explored the body of evidence in the review studies relating to the experience of food insecurity—the most common threads in the tapestry of food insecurity in South Africa. In the following sections, attention is given to two areas that are treated here as key ramifications of these food insecurity threads.

The state of being food insecure is both a cause and consequence of cycles of vulnerability [ ].

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  4. It is also linked to broader aspects of risk and vulnerability in human-environment interactions e. Being food insecure is always a result of a resource shortage of one kind or another, which means by definition there are no means for an individual or household to draw on to buffer a food security shock or stressor. Trade-offs result in which people have to either offset short versus long term needs or trade one comfort for another. The most common response to food shortages found in the review studies was for individuals or households to reduce the frequency, quality or size of their meals.

    Studies 1, 2, 3, 10, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19, 41, 43, 59, 66, 76, 82, 96, , , , [ 49 — 51 , 55 , 75 — 77 , 80 , 84 , 97 , , , , , , , — ]. This makes intuitive sense in the face of food shortages. However, there are obvious nutritional impacts over time, depending on the extent of deprivation.

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    Reduced physical function in the face of food shortages Study 79 [ ], increased risk of post-natal depression Study [ ], and fatigue and concentration deficits Study 35 [ ] are also reported across the studies. There are also other coping strategies frequently employed that have significant implications for deepening vulnerability and reducing resilience in the face of further livelihood stressors. Strategies to procure food such as selling assets Study 2, 18, 78 [ , , ], for example, or engaging in transaction sex Study 18, 20, 87 [ , , ], expose individuals to health and livelihood risks and contribute to a downward spiral of vulnerability.

    An emerging feature of food insecurity in South Africa are micronutrient deficiencies and overweight malnutrition occurring alongside stunting. Seen in this light, the transition to a globalised diet is not only one of the faces of the experience of food insecurity, but also a consequence of limited resources to support healthy eating. The review studies confirm that South African diets are highly dependent on cereals, particularly maize, and frequently lack dietary variety Studies 2, 3, 8, 43, 62, 68, 84, 99, , , [ 47 , 62 , 84 , , , , , — ]. Learners with a lower standard of living scores were those that were more likely to purchase unhealthy food items from a food vendor for lunch rather than carry a lunchbox to school.

    These learners were also more likely to be overweight or obese Study [ 58 ]. In addition to the issue of overweight, the issue of micronutrient malnutrition is also raised in the review studies. One study that included a sample of institutionalised and community-dwelling black South African men and women over the age of 60 found no association between BMI and added sugar intake, but reported that: "Our data have demonstrated that in elderly South African women, but not men, who have little financial means, the nutrient-diluting effect of a high sugar consumption places them at high risk for inadequate micronutrient, protein and fibre intakes" Study 79 [ ] pg Echoing this, in a cross-sectional study of adults, in rural KwaZulu-Natal, the authors concluded that there was excess caloric intake together with inadequate micronutrient inadequacies in rural South African communities Study 93 [ ].

    This study made use of a hour recall tool, together with food quantities, and also collected 16 composite dishes from the community for nutritional analysis. Food availability in local markets does not necessarily translate into food security for those accessing it. A thesis study included in the review lends support to this notion.

    This is a bold statement, but one that may need to be taken quite seriously in the consideration of food security in South Africa. A cross-sectional, comparative, population-based study was undertaken in North West Province among participants from 37 different locations [ ]. The survey looked at a range of socio-economic indicators as well as nutrition.

    The risk of non-communicable disease was assessed through measurement of 50 discrete biological variables indicative of—for example—diseases such as diabetes mellitus. Rather, the authors find that urbanization improved micronutrient intake, but also increased the risk of overweight and obesity, and—perhaps even more importantly—the risk of non-communicable disease [ ].