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Forum for Food Security in Southern Africa

Forum for Food Security in Southern Africa

Invitation to participate in electronic discussions

Policy Options for Food Security in Southern Africa

2nd June - 5th July, 2003

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The Forum for Food Security in Southern Africa seeks to support strategic thinking on policy options for food security in the region. As part of its activities, the Forum will be hosting an electronic discussion drawing in contributions from various stakeholders, including governments, donors, international agencies, international and local NGOs, regional organisation, researchers and academics. Participants are invited from all parts of the region, along with international participants with expertise in Southern Africa. It is hoped that the discussion will facilitate the sharing of experiences from different countries across the region. Participants are welcome to comment on content of Theme Papers and/or provide additional information based on their own experience or published sources.

We would like to invite you to participate in the e-conference. The conference begins on 2nd June and runs until 5th July. During this time six thematic areas relating to food security policy options in the region will be discussed, each for a period of ten days. The discussions will be moderated by experts who will summarise daily the key issues that are raised. The six thematic areas are introduced at the bottom of this invitation.

Registration for the electronic discussions will take place from Thursday 21st May. For information on how to register for all of the themes or for a smaller number of themes, visit the Discussions page on the new Forum for Food Security in Southern Africa website:

We look forward to receiving your registration for the e-conference and your contributions under the conference themes. If you have any colleagues who you feel would also like to contribute to the discussion, please send their details to

Yours sincerely,
Rachel Slater, Elizabeth Cromwell and Steve Wiggins.

The six thematic areas are as follows. For further details on each theme visit the relevant pages on the website by following the links provided:
  1. Policies, Politics, Governance and Accountability

    Monday 2nd June to Wednesday 11th June

    There is widespread agreement that production failure in Southern Africa is not the sole cause of the current food security crisis. The climatic variability which preceded the current crisis was less severe than the 1991-92 drought in the region. Nevertheless, it appears to have caused more widespread hardship. Why is this? While the current severe crisis would probably not have occurred without repeated full or partial rain failures and other climatic shocks, it also would not have happened without policy and governance failures. The current food security crisis has peeled the lid off the problem and forced analysts to take a good look at the many and varied contributory causes. This session in the e-conference will explore how political, governance and institutional contexts contribute, in good and bad ways, to the food crisis and attempts to overcome it.

  2. Options for market based economic development

    Thursday 5th June to Saturday 14th June

    The ongoing food crisis in Southern Africa has drawn stark attention to the failures of development policies over the last 40 years to create wealth and develop a robust economy or the markets on which such an economy must depend. What, however, can be learnt from experience in Southern Africa and in other parts of the world from successes and failures in achieving economic growth, poverty reduction and food security? What particular difficulties and opportunities do the different Southern African countries face in the aftermath of the 2002 food crisis, in an increasing global economy, and with the HIV/AIDS pandemic? What policies can different actors (governments, the private sector, NGOs, civil society) pursue to achieve growth, poverty reduction and improved food security.

  3. Human Vulnerability and Food Insecurity: Policy Implications

    Thursday 12th June to Saturday 21st June

    The vulnerability theme is concerned with the factors that help to explain why the populations of southern African countries turned out to be so prone to an acute fall in access to food, even though the immediate trigger events of the crisis were not as severe or prolonged as is usually the case in famines. Factors causing rising vulnerability in southern African countries will be explored, under four main headings:
    1. growth failures, rising poverty and declining migration options
    2. market failures in the context of market liberalisation
    3. the high incidence and continuing spread of HIV/AIDS
    4. politics and governance factors, at regional, national and local levels

  4. Social Protection

    Monday 16th June to Wednesday 25th June

    According to recent definitions, social Protection constitutes 'the public actions taken in response to levels of vulnerability, risk and deprivation which are deemed socially unacceptable in a given polity or society' and 'Policies and practices intended to protect and promote the livelihoods and welfare of people who have lost out, or stand to lose out in processes of social and economic change and development'. Some people are left behind in the drive for economic growth, others are made vulnerable by processes of liberalisation or globalisation, some are victims of conflicts, others of shifts in the availability of natural resources. In all of these cases, one of the negative outcomes can be declining food security. The vulnerability theme highlights the how, why and where people have 'lost out' to different forces of change. In this theme on social protection we ask what options there are, in the absence of adequate formal social protection in Southern Africa, for governments, donors, NGOs and communities to provide support to vulnerable people and support food security in the region.

  5. Regional food security: issues and policies

    Monday 23rd June to Wednesday 2nd July

    Some of the most important questions about food security in Southern Africa are about to regional level economic and institutional issues. This session of the e-conference will consider the regional dimensions of food insecurity and options for the development of food security policy. Rather than make direct comparisons between different countries, it will focus on the broader regional processes, policies and programmes that all countries are tied into and how these impact upon each of the countries. The key issues for discussion will include regional trade in food, including potential for regional grain reserves and commodity exchanges, and the influence of international trade relations, including external debt, on food security options in the region.

  6. Uptake pathways into food security policy

    Thursday 26th June to Saturday 5th July

    There is a wealth of published research on food security in Africa in general and on the current crisis in Southern Africa in particular. Similarly, over the last twelve months there have been numerous meetings, workshops, discussions and debates on how to respond to the Southern Africa crisis and how to ensure long term food security in the region. The stakeholders involved in these activities are drawn from a wide range of institutions, including governments, academic institutions, non-government organisations (NGOs) and international institutions. However, it is not always clear whether policy is evidence based and how research and discussion workshops can feed most effectively into the policy-making process. But bridging research and policy does matter. Reducing poverty, ensuring food security and meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - especially the target for the reduction of undernourishment - will require improved policies in Southern Africa. How can we ensure that these policies draw on lessons learned from current crises. It will be important to explore, alongside the thematic discussions in this e-conference (especially the policy processes theme), three sets of issues: how can policy-makers move towards evidence-based policy-making; how can researchers best use their findings in order to influence policy-making; how can the role of intermediaries be improved? Addressing these issues would help facilitate long term food security in the region.
Forum for Food Security in Southern Africa

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