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Powerless: How the struggle for electricity worsens hunger and food insecurity


In a country like South Africa, where almost 18 million adults have been forced to live without electricity due to unaffordability, the combination of loadshedding and financial constraints has intensified our food security crisis. Food security, which encompasses the availability, access, and utilisation of food, is a pressing concern in South Africa, where poverty and hunger have reached epidemic proportions. The lack of access to electricity for millions of people, compounded by the disruptions caused by loadshedding, is exacerbating this critical issue.

Loadshedding impacts everyday life for every South African. For impoverished South Africans, however, the consequences are particularly dire, as the lack of electricity and the unpredictability of loadshedding directly affect food storage, production, distribution, and preparation.

Without electricity, families struggle to preserve perishable food items, as refrigerators and freezers become useless. With loadshedding occurring more frequently and for longer periods, planning and preparing meals becomes an uphill battle, leading to increased food waste and reduced access to nutritious food. This issue disproportionately affects those who cannot afford alternative solutions such as backup generators.

To make matters worse, electricity supply disruptions hinder food production and distribution. Farmers, who depend on electricity to power irrigation systems, greenhouses, and other agriculture-related equipment, face reduced crop yields and food spoilage. The consequences extend beyond farmers’ livelihoods, contributing to food shortages and price increases that hit the poorest communities hardest.

Loadshedding and the lack of electricity also disrupt food preparation and cooking. South Africans who cannot afford electricity or who are affected by loadshedding often rely on traditional cooking methods, such as stoves or open fires, which require a constant supply of electricity or alternative fuels. Consequently, their ability to prepare food is severely hampered, further contributing to food waste and limiting access to nutritious food.

According to Daily Maverick, a study by DebtBusters has revealed that South Africans are increasingly borrowing money to fund groceries, emphasising the severity of our food security crisis. The combined effects of loadshedding and unaffordable electricity only deepen the crisis by exacerbating the challenges faced by already struggling families.

While SA Harvest and other hunger relief organisations strive to make a difference in the fight against hunger, if we are to ensure that everyone has access to sufficient food to meet their basic needs it is crucial that the electricity crisis is addressed by finding sustainable solutions for electricity supply and affordability. And, as a nation, we need to hold Government accountable for implementing these solutions.

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