By Dr Stephen Greenberg

In March 2023, civil society organisations and farmers met with the
Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development
to share views on agroecology and to promote a call from 58 organisations
for a national agroecology strategy.

In support of the process, the ACB conducted a detailed review of 22 key policies across agriculture, environment and other sectors to identify strengths and weaknesses of the existing suite of policies in South Africa, in the context of ongoing biodiversity loss, the climate crisis and an increasingly unsustainable agri-food system.

We are pleased to share the detailed report and the policy brief that highlights the key findings of the report.

The report indicates that South African policy on agriculture and food systems suffers from a split personality. This is a product of the historical compromises made in the negotiated end to formal apartheid. One set of laws and policies accommodates and regulates the inherited large-scale commercial farming and agribusiness model, where most funds are allocated. Another set of policy documents include smallholder support, local markets, ecological production, climate change adaptation, and biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, and are far more amenable to agroecological principles. However, these are underfunded and are either selectively implemented, or not meaningfully implemented at all.

The policy assessment, based on the 13 principles of agroecology developed in 2019 by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) High Level Panel of Experts on Food and Nutrition (HLPE), indicates that there are many areas of overlap in the existing suite of policy documents that can support an agroecological approach. However there is a need to consolidate these elements into an overarching strategy, which can provide an effective integrating framework for policy and action for a just transition in agri-food systems, biodiversity and climate change response.

The assessment finds that the principles of participation, land and natural resource governance, economic diversification, input reduction and biodiversity are strongly reflected across the reviewed suite of national policies and plans. Also fairly well represented are the principles of recycling, co-creation of knowledge, and social values (but not including social diets). Less well represented principles are soil health, synergy, fairness and connectivity. Weak points are social diets (nutrition) and animal health.

The report concludes with a call for use of an agroecological framing and an agroecology strategy to integrate the fragmented policy landscape across sectors, development of multi-actor place based initiatives for implementation, and a review of existing commercial policies and laws to remove obstacles for the development of agroecology in South Africa.
 You can read the full report here, the policy briefing here and the web introduction here.

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