Investigating the role of indigenous vegetables on food security and agrobiodiversity in Northern Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa
Qwabe, Qinisani Nhlakanipho
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Over the past years there have been concerns over the increasing number of food insecure households resulting from the socio-economic imbalances that exist in society. Literature informs us that it is mostly the small-scale farming communities in rural counties that often face the burden of deprivation – with hunger being the primary challenge. This is not only unique to South Africa but is also observed in other parts of the developing world. The current projections on the world population which are estimated to grow by over 2 billion people by 2050, indicate that the bulk of this growth will take place in Africa (1.9 billion people). These predictions highlight the already existing threat to food security which may not be easy for the developing world to overcome if immediate action is not taken. Thus, the study is underpinned on two theories, the Malthusian and Boserup’s theories of population growth. Both theorists held their views on the impact of uncontrolled populations on food security. Sir Thomas Robert Malthus believed that food production cannot keep up with the growth of the human population and would ultimately result in famine and calamity. This means that since the human population grows at a faster rate than the means of subsistence, and as the growth of agricultural products remains low, it is surpassed by the rising population; thereby creating poverty. Contrastingly, Ester Boserup argued that population growth is a cause for change in agriculture and reference is made to new innovations that would help increase food supply, such as modern technologies. The researcher makes an attempt to show the coexistence of both the Malthusian and Boserup theories. The underpinning of these two theories in the study played a critical role as food insecurity formed part of the problem statement. In the researcher’s view, such research is critical in a country like South Africa that has battled household food insecurity for decades. The second aspect of the problem statement points to the overlooked role of indigenous vegetables on agrobiodiversity which coexists with food security. In modern times, priority in the agroecosystems has been given to conventional farming methods which in their nature are closely associated with the use of transgenic crop varieties, which in this study are referred to as exotic crops since they are not of African origin. It is important to note that the overall significance of maintaining the production of indigenous vegetation as was observed in the communities that formed part of this study, helps with the conservation of the ecosystem and stability of species diversity. This research attempts to eliminate the stigma that is associated with the utilisation of indigenous vegetables and develops a framework that influencers and policymakers in the politics of food could adopt in order to integrate these undervalued foods to the food systems. To achieve this, a mixed methods approach was adopted wherein the triangulation of qualitative and quantitative findings was made. Quantitative data was gathered through the use of a survey wherein a questionnaire was administered to 195 participants. Qualitative data on the other hand, adopted a phenomenology research design and was collected through interviews from six focus group discussions which comprised a total of five participants in each group. Using the Microsoft Excel software package (version 2016), a Pearson Correlation Coefficient analytic approach was used to test the nature, strength and direction of key variables being measured. This was complemented by a Chi Square Test of Independence that was useful in determining cause and effect outcomes, while a correlation coefficient was used to calculate the frequency and direction of interaction between variables.