UP academic, ‘a fighter against hunger'


Hunger is on the rise again worldwide, despite the rapid progress needed to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2, which is to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Currently, one person in three is malnourished and, if current trends continue, one person in two could be malnourished by 2030. There is ample evidence available on the imperatives to reduce malnutrition and the cost benefits of acting versus not acting. However, far less is known on the practicalities of how to achieve action at scale and leveraging the financial and human resources to leave no one behind (as the SDGs promise).

This view was presented by the University of Pretoria’s Dr Moraka Makhura, as project team leader of the Committee for World Food Security’s (CFS) High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE), in Rome recently. The Senior Lecturer in Agricultural Economics and Co-Director for the Collaborative Centre on Economics of Agricultural Research & Development, presented the findings of the first scientific report (13th Report on Multi-stakeholder partnerships to finance and improve food security and nutrition in the framework of the 2030 Agenda) on this goal.

The report ushers in a new focus of development research and practice, setting the groundwork for building a new research domain in development theory and practice.

According to the Report: ‘Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships (MSPs) is an emerging mechanism to facilitate such large-scale action across sectors and inclusive of all stakeholders in development practice. The complexity and multi-dimensional nature of food security and nutrition (FSN) requires cross-sectoral and holistic approaches and the pooling of resources, knowledge and expertise of different stakeholders. MSPs present a new approach to the governance of FSN.’

MSPs emerge when stakeholders from different spheres (public sector, private sector and civil society) initiate collective action, by developing appropriate institutions (shared norms and rules), pooling their complementary resources (human, material, financial) together, sharing risks and responsibilities, to pursue a common objective. MSPs help handle conflict, elaborate a shared vision, realise a common objective, manage common resources and/or ensure the protection, production or delivery of an outcome of collective and/or public interest, Dr Makhura said.

Previous HLPE reports called for radical transformation and suggested possible pathways to progress towards more sustainable food systems, at different scales, to address the multiple burdens of malnutrition. The reports, being commissioned by the CFS, synthesise a large body of scientific research and seek to provide policy guidance on these topics to the member states of the CFS. Since the inception of this science-policy interface mechanism in 2010, the HLPE reports have informed CFS discussions, changed public policy and influenced legal frameworks (notably on realising the right to food) in countries.

The previous reports covered 12 topics of global and national importance in the fight against hunger – and UP academics have been closely involved. Prof Sheryl Hendriks, Professor of Food Security, Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development, served on the maiden HLPE Steering Committee; and Prof Rashid Hassan, Emeritus Professor in Environmental Economics was a project team member for the 3rd HLPE Report on Food Security and Climate Change.

The current report is novel in that there was very little published research, opinion and knowledge on the topic. The writing team relied on the extensive input of the project team and HLPE experts, two open public consultations, peer review and a survey of MSPs to establish the working definitions of the terms, and to shape the conceptual framework and direct the recommendations.  

The Chair of the CFS, Ambassador Mario Arvelo and representatives of governments affirmed the importance of the report, particularly the recommendation to establish a policy framework to ensure that MSPs effectively contribute to the progressive realisation of the right to adequate food. This will ensure that MSPs do not operate in a policy vacuum.  Ambassador Arvelo challenged members of the CFS to ‘step up and be a facilitator for the policy process that will follow the release of the report and its presentation at the CFS annual meeting in October’.

He said that ‘the presenter (Dr Makhura) can be counted as a fighter against the war we are fighting against the challenges that go beyond single answers – ending hunger requires collective efforts and strong partnerships to learn, reflect and have better targeted and coordinated actions’.

The report identified criteria to assess and improve MSPs performance. It also proposed six steps to follow for establishing MSPs, as well as an alternative financing mechanism.

Dr Makhura will present the report at the CFS annual meeting in October in Rome. 

Prof Sheryl Hendriks

July 13, 2018

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  • Professor Sheryl Hendriks

    Professor Sheryl Hendriks completed her undergraduate studies, honours, master’s and PhD at the former University of Natal, where she also taught until joining the University of Pretoria (UP) in 2010.

    Moving to UP expanded and enhanced her research, not only because of the geographic proximity to government but because it allowed her to network with colleagues at UP, in Africa and internationally. Prof Hendriks says that the University’s reputation as well as UP management’s support of transdisciplinary research have been invaluable in advancing her research profile, impact and reach.

    Research in food security policymaking is essential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and advance development. Understanding the causes, outcomes and impact of policy decisions related to a range of sectors (agriculture, health, trade, welfare etc.) helps to identify potential policy choices, combinations and directions. Ultimately, these decisions determine the levels of poverty, inequality and food insecurity experienced by households.

    Prof Hendriks leads a large research group that explores the emerging field of improving food systems to ensure fairer, healthier diets and sustainability. The group includes postgraduates and colleagues from UP’s Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (NAS), and connects with colleagues in networks across Africa and beyond. Under the RETHINK@NAS initiative ¬– which allows for University-driven community projects that support transformation in all its forms – this group will expand across faculties.

    This work was carried out in Prof Hendriks’s role as a member of the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) Scientific Group and contributed a significant analysis to guide the group’s 2021 deliberations and plan of work. It will also expand to supporting the country implementation of actions to support the true value of food. The work was inspired by Prof Lawrence Haddad (leader of the UNFSS Action Track on ending hunger) and Prof Joachim von Braun (chair of the UNFSS Scientific Group).

    Prof Hendriks says that since 2006, her academic mentor has been Dr Ousmane Badiane, who introduced her to the dynamics of African development and has provided her with countless opportunities to work directly in applying research in practical support to African governments as they seek to achieve food security. “Through my engagement in various think-tanks and policy engagements, I find meaning in life – contributing to decisions that can improve the lives of ordinary people,” she says. “This is a dream come true for me.”

    Young people interested in following her field of research need to be passionate about helping others and acutely aware of the bigger picture in development, Prof Hendriks advises. Food security analysis can be attempted only at postgraduate level, she adds, when students have a solid grounding in a relevant field and have developed skills to cope with complex thinking.

    When not pursuing research endeavours, Prof Hendriks maintains a rose and herb garden, sews, scrapbooks and walks her dogs.

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