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The City of Johannesburg has deliberately chosen Poortjie, an impoverished area south of the city, as the venue to mark the 69th anniversary of World Food Day on Thursday October 16.

This year’s theme – Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth – resonates with the City’s Food Resilience Flagship Programme, spearheaded by Executive Mayor Mpho Parks Tau, to ensure that everyone in Johannesburg is food secure.

“There can be no justification for anyone in Johannesburg to go to bed hungry when there is space that people can use to produce vegetables for their own consumption,” the Mayor said when he launched the programme.

A study by the Independent Development Trust conducted in 2012 found that about 42% of poor people in Johannesburg do not have a meal at regular intervals.

The City’s food security programme entails mobilising Johannesburg residents, especially those in poor areas such as Poortjie in Orange Farm to transform open spaces in their neighbourhoods into food gardens to feed their families.

World Food Day has been celebrated on October 16 each year since 1945. This is the date on which the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) was founded.

This year’s theme has been chosen to highlight the significant role of small-scale farming in the eradication of hunger and poverty while promoting food security and nutrition in peri-urban and rural areas. Focus will also be on the protection of the environment. Poortjie was chosen to host the City’s World Food Day event because it is one of the most deprived areas in Johannesburg.

Member of the Mayoral Committee for Health and Social Development Councillor Nonceba Molwele says food is a human right.

“The right to food means that every home must have access to adequate food at all times. If a home or a person does not enjoy this level of access, it means they are food insecure. The City also promotes Healthy eating and lifestyle habits through our Food Security programmes in order to reduce and prevent non – communicable diseases in our communities.” she says.

Several programmes have been launched in the City to ensure that residents have food at all times.

These programmes include the Letsema Campaign, which is aimed at identifying indigent families and getting them the help they need. Recently, households in 17 wards were visited and assessed.

The identified households were found to be in “heart-breaking and desperate” situations that needed the City’s urgent intervention.

The City’s Department of Health and Social Development is working with several stakeholders from different sectors, including faith-based organisations, business, non-governmental organisations and schools, to help families in need.
The department has also initiated a programme on healthy lifestyle targeting early childhood development practitioners. The programme promotes vegetable gardens and the importance of healthy eating.

The Poortjie event, which will be held at the Poortjie Multipurpose Centre from 10am, is part of a global effort to:

• Encourage agricultural food production to end food insecurity;
• Encourage the participation of rural people, particularly women, in food production;
• Heighten public awareness of the problem of hunger in the world; and 
• Strengthen international and national solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

With the slogan Mazibuyele Emasisweni,(Let’s Go Back to Basics), the City hopes to see communities reviving the family farming concept. The City’s Food Resilience Flagship Programme has had a profound impact on communal farming, with more than 200 small-scale farmers having been organised into cooperatives.

For its part, the City has provided the people behind these backyard ventures with the necessary training and support, with the result that many have since progressed beyond the immediate family-interest operations. The 200 cooperatives operating in the City’s seven regions each consists of between five and 15 members, bringing the total number of beneficiaries close to 2 000 people.

The City has also contracted an independent company to assist aspirant gardening enthusiasts start their projects. The programme also engages the services of retired agricultural officers to conduct community training.