Food Security Research


In a world that faces both scarcities of natural resources and extreme poverTomatoesty, food waste prevention, mitigation and management research is essential. Approximately R21.7 billion per annum is lost as a result of household food waste - a challenge that not only relates to food security but also to environmental issues, such as greenhouse gas emissions along the food supply chain and waste disposal. Avoidable food waste – food that could have been consumed by humans – do not only represent a person that could have benefited from a meal, but also the ‘wasted’ resources involved in producing the food.

Limited research exists on the drivers of household food waste in relation to consumers’ perceptions, attitudes and behaviour in South Africa. Due to our country’s cultural richness and diversity, location and culture-specific solutions and interventions are necessary. To this end, the Department of Consumer Science undertook five studies attempting to fully comprehend and contextualise consumers’ household food waste behaviour in Mangaung, Kimberley and Parys, as well as rural and urban Lesotho.  

This research is directly related to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3, which aims to “halve the per capita global food waste at retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses”. It is also very important that the information be disseminated to consumers in a manner, which is appealing and understandable to them. The intervention initiatives consequently involve consumer communication. Together we can reduce food waste!


Farmer with tractor and hay balesEnsuring sustainability and increasing access and availability to food sources remains an essential aspect in aiding food security. Agriculture is central to fostering economic growth, reducing poverty, and improving food security in the Southern African region. Yet, many countries have not yet succeeded in increasing agricultural productivity in spite of initiatives at stimulating agriculture and urban agriculture.  Food security in developing countries is continually hindered by insufficient access due to poverty. This is exacerbated by drought, policies not conducive to assisting vulnerable households, inadequate infrastructure and changing food habits. Relief and recovery operations focus on strengthening livelihoods and meeting needs of the food insecure in the short term, but do not address the root causes of the problem. The scarcity of food and restricted infrastructure, especially in rural areas, result in coping strategies adversely affecting the nutritional status of households.

The Department of Consumer Science and the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Development and Extension have identified interventions, which can support local and regional governments in future policy drafting and training of extension officers, as well as developing platforms for consumer information dissemination, thereby impacting food security positively on household and regional level. 

In a project related to an Oyster mushroom cultivation initiative with the Lesotho Government, the researchers aims to determine the influence of the initiative on access and availability of the involved households. Information obtained will be used to develop consumer acceptability profiles, followed by product development in order to create markets for the cultivators.  

An additional research project , involving local government extension workers, aims to increase food security amongst rural households in the Lubombo region of Eswatini through developing and intervention programme. New insights were gained into coping strategies of households as well as the inputs and assistance required from government. The people who formed part of the research study actually disregarded traditional diets and vegetables, for more “Western diets”. They do not grow the indigenous vegetables suited for their region and did not adopt coping strategies traditionally depicted for their rural areas -  such as taking children out of school to work, or other less socially acceptable coping mechanisms. They did, however, eat less meals per day, and kept limited livestock for own consumption. The project also shed light on the role of relief food aid in the livelihoods of these households.


Urbanisation is occurring at a rapid pace and most of the increase are experienced by cities located in developing countries. Although migration to urban areas happens in anticipation of access to better employment opportunities and healthcare, it is not always the case. It leads to high levels of urban food insecurity and poor nutrition, especially among children. As a result, malnourishment (i.e. stunting, wasting and underweight) is prominent in children. Moreover, nutrient inadequacy may compromise the structural development of the child’s brain and ability to excel at school. Although studies have been conducted on food in/security in rural areas, few studies investigate the relationship between food in/security and malnutrition of children, in urban informal settlements. It is for this reason that this research project was initiated. The first phase is to investigate the relationship between food in/secure households and the prevalence of malnutrition of children living in low-income households in the Gompo Village, Eastern Cape. The knowledge and understanding gained from this, will contribute to the development of an intervention model to assist these households.

For more information on these projects or food security related research, please contact Dr Natasha Cronjé.


Elfrieda van den Berg (Marketing Manager)
T: +27 51 401 2531


Dilahlwane Mohono (Faculty Officer)
T: +27 58 718 5284

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