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Agricultural Research Council

‘Sufficient capacity for the ARC will lead to food security in South Africa’

There currently are two focal points for policy reforms in South Africa’s land and agricultural sectors: those dealing in the main with issues pertaining to land, and those dealing with issues pertaining to the overall productivity and efficiency of the agricultural sector (production of food, fibre, and energy).

One of the key institutions dealing with research and technology creation and adoption in the agriculture sector, supporting what is a critical area of the economy, is the Agricultural Research Council (ARC). The Agricultural Research Act 86 of 1990 (as amended by Act 27 of 2001) governs the ARC, which is the principal agricultural research institution in South Africa.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown without a doubt the need for a capable state, with the ability to make informed and effective decisions based on superior knowledge and access to accurate and timely information. At the heart of South Africa’s reaction to Covid-19 has been the pooling of resources of state, public, private and even international bodies and experiences to provide an informed, scientific response to an emergency facing not only the country, but also the whole world.

South Africa’s world-class capacity in health, heath management, academia and research, spread across such institutions as the Medical Research Council (MRC), the South African Medical Association, Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and various academic hospitals is undoubtedly the main reason why the country has been able to deal fairly effectively with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite South Africa not being endowed with the best agro-climatic and physical resources and being water scarce, its agriculture is renowned and is leading in many spheres. Of critical importance is the fact that South Africa is one of the world’s few net exporters of food and at a national level has remained “food secure”. The notion of a nation that is food secure is frequently misunderstood and is therefore often misinterpreted, with potentially disastrous consequences.

What makes a nation food secure, and what are the critical factors that keep a nation in a state of being food secure? The answer is a complex one and a short article such as this will not do it justice, but informed research shows that nations that invest in research stay ahead of the curve, and the returns from research far outweigh the costs.

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