The need to upscale and coordinate our interventions on ‘food’ as a key priority for Nelson Mandela University’s engagement work emerged through various discussions during over the past few years. The production, distribution, availability and politics of food is a key marker of systemically-anchored inequalities. It thus came as no surprise that ‘food’ re/emerged as a major thematic in 2021 through the Covid-19 pandemic; central to people’s daily struggle for dignified and sustainable livelihoods and income.

In considering the existing food projects in the university space, the potential to evolve a productive and collaborative transdisciplinary project across knowledge-fields and functional areas of the university; to consider student, university, urban, township and rural food systems that are deeply connected to our broader communities, became evident.

The programme was established in January 2021 within the DVC Engagement and Transformation Portfolio (ETP) – and later, located within the Engagement Office under the ETP - and aims to work across faculties and units, different sets of networks within the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM), as well as the Eastern Cape as a whole.

The Terms of Reference of the Mandela University Food Systems programme have been set out as follows by its Working Group:

  • To coordinate and create a level of priority for our collective approaches and interventions on 'food' as a key component of Nelson Mandela University's engagement strategy.
  • To clarify, explore and nurture a demonstrable and transdisciplinary programme across knowledge-fields and functional areas of the university.
  • To collaborate with multiple stakeholder-communities, both internal and external, that are food systems-oriented.
  • To develop strategic partnerships provincially, nationally, continentally and globally, and to reach out to diverse stakeholders for input, buy-in and programme implementation.
  • To hold meetings of the various stakeholder-communities in order to engage in dialogues, discuss progress made, and collaborate on new ideas moving forward.