Overcoming poverty and hunger in South Africa

Many South Africans still experience poverty and food insecurity. One in four children display stunted growth, an indicator of chronic malnutrition. This, despite a comprehensive social protection system, and a monthly child support grant which reaches two-thirds of all children.

Through the South African Research Chairs Initiative, Professor Stephen Devereux assessed how children, informal workers and farmworkers in South Africa are reached, and adequately protected against poverty and hunger.

Working with academia, government, civil society and neighbouring countries, Professor Devereux has made considerable progress towards improving social protection strategies and influencing public policy. The research has led to revision of the social protection chapter of the National Food and Nutrition Security Plan for South Africa.

Farm workers were identified as a highly vulnerable but neglected group. A collaboration with the non-governmental organisation Women on Farms Project uncovered widespread violations in minimum wages, living conditions, health and safety as well as seasonal hunger.

Having launched South Africa’s first national conference on the future of farm workers, Professor Devereux presented a proposal for seasonal unemployment insurance to the Minister of Labour. The results of his farm worker labour rights violations research were also influential during a parliamentary select committee hearing in South Africa on the National Minimum Wage Bill.

The wider consequences of COVID-19 in South Africa are not yet fully understood. The next phase of this research will generate new evidence and draw on lessons learnt to improve social protection interventions and outcomes in future crises in South Africa and elsewhere.

The next aim of this research is to ensure South Africa's social protection system is better equipped to respond to crises such as COVID-19 and better able to adapt and mitigate future threats to lives and livelihoods.

Professor Stephen Devereux 

Professor Devereux continues to make valuable contributions to this area of work, and in a recent study he was identified as one of the world’s most impactful researchers – placing in the top 1% of cited researchers globally. Find out more here: bit.ly/3gvO3iu 

Social Protection for Food Security in South Africa

Project leads: Professor Stephen Devereux, Institute of Development Studies, UK & University of Western Cape, South Africa

Delivery partners: British Council, UK and the National Research Foundation, South Africa

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