Urban food insecurity: A case for conditional cash grants?
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Food security, as a concept, can be traced back to the mid-1970s when the UN World Food Conference set up the Committee on World Food Security in 1975. In the early-1980s, the Committee on World Food Security expanded the debate around food security and adopted a multi-dimensional concept of food security, which included not only the availability of food but also access to food and stability around food security. In addition to the Rome Declaration, mayors and city leaders from all over the world signed the Barcelona Declaration in 1999, which stated the importance of ensuring access to food by low-income constituencies in developing countries as a main objective of local development policies and programmes. Despite this, 794.6 million people around the world, with 232.5 million in Africa and 220.0 million in sub-Saharan Africa remained undernourished in 2014. Several studies in the 1990s predicted that the focus on poverty, including food security, would shift to urban areas, as poor households in urban areas may experience the ever increasing economic and demographic challenges associated with urbanisation. In South Africa, it is predicted that the urban population will increase from 30.8 million in 2010 to 38.1 million in 2030, which has led to food insecurity becoming recognised as an increasingly urban phenomenon. In order to combat the negative consequences of poverty and food insecurity, the importance of social-protection policies in the development policy agendas of many countries has grown, given that such policies tackle the issues of poverty and food vulnerability directly at the household level. In this regard, social-security programmes in South Africa have expanded since 1994 to the extent that the number of people receiving social grants increased from 2.4 million in 1989 to 16.7 million in 2015. However, there is still no consensus amongst scholars as to whether these social transfers should be conditional or unconditional. The on-going evidence of unacceptable levels of food insecurity in South African urban areas gives rise to the following questions, namely are social grants adequate to reduce food insecurity, and are unconditional social grants the most suitable solution for addressing the problem in the context of increasing levels of urbanisation?