Can CSI have a measurable impact on food security?

Can CSI have a measurable impact on food security?

We’ve written about the role of food gardens in South Africa to improve food security, but what about the role of private sector? With malnutrition the single greatest cause, and result, of poverty, what should South African businesses be doing to alleviate it?


We believe that businesses have a key role in meeting the challenges of food insecurity and malnutrition. Rather than seeing corporate social investment (CSI) as charity, it’s an opportunity to provide real, sustainable change – partnering with communities to empower them to become self-sufficient. The debate shouldn’t be about whether companies should get involved, but how they should get involved.


Greater impact with clustered programmes
After seeing the benefits of the joint implementation of some of FTFA’s programmes, we decided to start clustering programmes within communities for greater impact. This “eco-cluster” of programmes, including Food Gardens, Trees for All, Trees for Homes and the FTFA’s EduPlant school gardening and nutrition programme, teaches environmentally sustainable food security and planting techniques to under-resourced communities, such as the benefits of permaculture and mini-orchards to improve nutrition. Since February 2019, Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) have partnered with Fortress REIT, a property group and real estate investment trust, to roll out several clustered programmes linked to their locations.


These clustered programmes provide resources such as seeds, herbs, trees as well as gardening tools, educational materials, training and mentorship to help communities become self-sufficient and food secure.


Creating relationships every step of the way
It’s a pioneering concept. Instead of merely distributing a CSI budget, Fortress REIT has become an important part of the process. For example, FTFA’s Food Gardens for Africa programme will help establish a food garden; from that garden, we will distribute trees to the local community through the Trees for Homes programme. The community members who come to the garden to collect their trees, form a positive association with the garden (and community centre/co-operative running the garden) which leads to increased local buy-in and support for food gardening activities. When the community is involved and impacted in this way, rates of theft and vandalism decrease.


Through the Trees for Homes distribution, and associated foot traffic, the garden can grow their local customer base. With Trees for Homes, FTFA trains community members to support the community in the maintenance and care of their trees, creating employment opportunities. Fortress REIT staff also help prepare the gardens for planting or distribute trees through volunteer days, forming relationships with the communities who live in the areas around their flagship properties.


Promoting systems thinking
“As these gardens are usually on school properties, they support the school feeding scheme, while fruit trees planted at homestead gardens provide fresh fruit for households throughout the community. The community benefits from fresh, organic fruit and vegetables; indigenous trees planted as windbreaks attract beneficial insects, create shade, clean air and help sink rainwater; and educational programmes support a greater understanding of the local environment and food systems.”


Emily Jones, Trees and Carbon Programme Manager
Clustering these programmes allows communities and school children to see the impact of a healthy environment and ecosystem first hand – they helped create it.


Impact that can be measured
Together with Fortress, we’ve initiated cluster programmes across the country, greening Evaton and Sebokeng in Gauteng, Vredenburg in the Western Cape, Cornubia in KwaZulu-Natal and Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape. In Mpumulanga’s KwaMhlanga, we’ll be implementing a clustered programme in November 2019, which includes an enterprise orchard of 2100 trees. By conducting thorough needs assessments in these areas, we’ve identified opportunities for greater impact. In Evaton, for example, Fortress REIT is exploring the opportunity to support high schools through extra maths programmes.


For the period February – November 2019 Fortress REIT have donated and planted 11550 trees across our Trees for Homes, Trees for All and our enterprise orchard programmes. The total reach of the Fortress REIT interventions include:


8 long-term food gardens
103 community members trained
4500 households impacted
24 390 people reached (direct beneficiaries)
3892.99 tonnes of carbon offset


“It is an honour for us to roll out such positive food security and environmental programmes. We believe in building strong communities, and where better to start than in the schools and homes of our learners? The ability to plant, grow and harvest your own food produce can be a sustainable way to promote food security and poverty alleviation,” said Jodie Ellinor-Dreyer of Fortress REIT.


Yes, CSI can make a difference!
As we’ve seen with Fortress REIT, socially-orientated businesses can engage with communities to create measurable impact that changes lives. These businesses can effectively use their CSI budgets to improve nutrition and alleviate poverty through FTFA and our cluster programmes – stimulating greater environmental awareness and creating productive, green environments that contribute to sustainable socio-economic development.


For more information on our cluster programmes and solutions for corporate social investment, contact FTFA now.


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