The United Nations has reported a significant spike in global hunger, as a result of the pandemic. According to the 2021 edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, Africa experienced the biggest jump, with the estimated prevalence of undernourishment currently residing at 21% of the population – more than double that of any other region.
Zooming in on South Africa, the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) revealed that during April/May 2021, approximately 2.3 million households reported child hunger, while an Ipsos study found that more than 40% of South Africans of all age groups were affected by hunger.
Isaac Chalumbira (Ike Cha), CEO at Lionshare, YPO member and who – as co-founder and funder of non-profit organisation (NPO) One Moment Foundation, which focuses on alleviating hunger – cuts an experienced figure on the subject.
He admits that the past 18 months have severely exacerbated the local situation. Through his involvement with the One Moment Foundation, Cha says that the relief efforts to provide food to communities hardest hit have needed to double down, given the fast-growing poverty.
“Within a short space of time, we started seeing more people on the streets in desperate hunger, forced to rifle through bins for food. Despite South Africa being one of the more food-secure countries in Africa, the pandemic had torn deeper holes in its socio-economic fabric.”
This is in line with the data from Ipsos, with around six out of 10 South Africans (58%) saying that “The Covid-19 pandemic has a negative impact on the income of my household.”
As of late, food security has been a hot topic, ignited by the civil unrest that swept across Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in July 2021. Yet according to Cha, “our supply chains are relatively quite robust; something you don’t always find in developing countries.
“The most notable problem is not necessarily our food supply – but rather the inability of many South Africans to afford food.”Inflation is also not helping on the affordability front: according to Statistics South Africa, South Africa’s consumer food price inflation was at 6.8% year on year in May 2021.
Increasing world hunger has been widely attributed to what has been dubbed the ‘Triple C’ effect: climate change, Covid-19 and conflict. Cha offers the recent looting as a pertinent example of the latter two. “Consider the economic disparity and the deep poverty that already exists in South Africa. Then suddenly, a crisis of black swan proportions hits – the pandemic – and unemployment skyrockets.
“In South Africa, one individual can be financially responsible for several family members, so if they suffer a job loss, the knock has a ripple effect. It’s a ticking time bomb for conflict and social upheaval.”
As someone who grew up in a township, Cha is familiar with hunger, and has channelled his philanthropic efforts into its eradication, as “without education, it’s far more difficult to exit poverty, and there’s no learning when your belly is growling.” Cha has since gone on to become one of the country’s most prominent business leaders – leveraging his influence and YPO network to effect sustainable change within Gauteng and other South African communities.
Cha’s One Moment Foundation is unique in its modelling, which he says draws parallels with companies such as Uber, in that it is founded on community aggregation and collaboration. “We are creating an ecosystem with other organisations, whereby we each fulfil a certain role or ‘link’ in the value chain. We have no head office or heavy overheads – instead we channel all of our resources into food preparation and distribution across key touchpoints within communities. Growing up in a township means that I have an understanding of how these communities work, and how we can access passionate volunteers in order to have the greatest impact.”
Cha says that this lean and focused model was inspired by his tenure at YPO, where he was made to understand the power of a peer-to-peer network. “YPO talks to leaders of impact, and the network is an integral component of this. Each individual is able to share their knowledge or resources, while leveraging that of their peers. As individuals we are but one, but together we are able to create deep, meaningful and lasting impact.”
Cha concludes by acknowledging that providing immediate hunger relief is one aspect, and that public and private sector need to work together to design long-term solutions. “As business leaders, it is our responsibility to create jobs – but we need government to create an environment through policies and laws that is conducive for business and job creation.
“We need to continue to support our communities and engage our resources to systematically reduce hunger and poverty.”