Living Below the Breadline
Food Security in South Africa

Many people in South Africa, both in rural and urban areas, live on the side of poverty that has them unable to access a reliable stream of sufficient and nutritious food. 

©Eric Miller
Khayelitsha, an informal settlement in Cape Town.

Whether they are dependent on social welfare or simply waiting for the next paycheck, many families know what it feels like to have to cut back on food or go without. looks at how the impoverished access food and are affected by different states of poverty.

A Household's Ability to Access Food

What determines a household's ability to access food? The factors comprise a vast and overlapping network of forces: whether they have money to buy food, be it from a job, a social grant or, quite literally, from begging, borrowing or stealing....more

A Main Income From Social Grants

In South Africa, it has already been shown how significant social grants are for easing some of the worst degrees of poverty, which in turn will have implications for whether or not a family has money to buy food....more

Alternative Ways of Sourcing Food

Being dependent on short-term casual work is risky. By its very nature, it ebbs and flows unpredictably. So some of the other strategies families in poorer communities will use to survive include starting up small businesses at home....more

Economy of a Squatter Camp

The economy of Sonskynhoekie (an informal camp for the impoverished) is a no-frills affair, rudimentary but functional. Some live off pension or disability grants. Then there are those who work the traffic lights....more

Food Gardens for the Urban Poor

It is January 2011 and part of the sandy rectangle at the back of Linah’s house in Witsand has been pulled under a loosely stretched green shade cloth. It is typical Cape Flats soil: powdery, quick running, barely a sign of organic life in it....more

Food Insufficiency and Mental Health

Food insufficiency is a state when a person does not have enough food to eat either ‘sometimes, or often’, according to Dr Katherine Sorsdahl and others in an article on the relationship between mental illness and food shortages in households....more

Food Security and Disease in Slums

Our cities’ economies and infrastructures cannot absorb the number of people flowing in from the countryside year after year. Many newly urbanised people end up living the precarious life of a slum dweller....more

Real Life Story: A Food Insecure Family

Temvelo tackles her breakfast the way any seven-year-old might, with the ambivalence of someone in a no-man's-land between the tugging demands of a growling vacuum in her stomach and a sensory boredom with what she needs to swallow to fill that space....more

Real Life Story: A Squatter Camp Resident

Cornelia’s story typifies the kind of wily survival needed for those who fall out of the formal sector and have to find other ways to make ends meet. Hers is not a scavenged existence. Neither is it calculated or planned....more

Real Life Story: A White Squatter Camp

Keeping this generation of city dwellers fed and properly nourished is about making sure we can all tap into the abundant but sometimes inaccessible supply of food that makes its way to our urban markets....more

Real Life Story: Helping the Community

Mapheello keeps her own family going on what her husband Thabiso sends home from his work on the mines. 'When I have vegetables in my garden I give them because their mother doesn’t work in the garden.’...more

Real Life Story: Life in a Township

Dinner in the Ncani home is nothing fancy tonight: a cup of mealie meal, stirred up in an aluminium pot, its lid pockmarked with wear; a cup of rice; a quarter of a cabbage, chopped into rough chunks...more

Real Life Story: Losing a Daughter

They came to Linah Ncani’s house on the edge of Witsand, near the Cape’s factory enclave of Atlantis, on that Tuesday. Your daughter is sick, they said. There is an ambulance on its way, they told her. Come!...more

The Hungry Season

There is a term that comes from the farming world: the hungry season. It refers to those hollow months between when last season’s stores have been eaten up and this season’s crops are ready for harvest....more

Urban Poverty

It is a myth that urban populations are healthier, more literate or more prosperous than people living in the countryside,’ writes the Voice of America’s Lisa Schlein and Sven Kruger from the international think tank City Mayors Foundation....more

Urbanisation in South Africa

Urbanisation in Africa will be higher than the global average, predicts UN-Habitat in its State of the World’s Cities Report for 2006/2007. By 2030, the developing world’s cities will hold 4 billion people....more