Food Security

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 41–58 | Cite as

Moving from traditional government to new adaptive governance: the changing face of food security responses in South Africa

  • Laura M. PereiraEmail author
  • Shaun Ruysenaar
Original Paper


The food system faces increasing pressure from dynamic and interactive, environmental, political and socio-economic stressors. Tackling the complexity that arises from such interactions requires a new form of 'adaptive governance'. This paper provides a review of various conceptions of governance from a monocentric or politicotechnical understanding of governance through to adaptive governance that is based in complex adaptive systems theory. The review is grounded by a critique of the existing institutional structures responsible for food security in South Africa. The current Integrated Food Security Strategy and tasked governmental departments are not sufficiently flexible or coordinated to deal with an issue as multi-scalar and multidisciplinary as food security. However, actions taken in the non-governmental sector signal the emergence of a new type of governance. Apart from an increasing recognition of food security as an issue of concern in the country, there is also evidence of a changing governance structure including collaboration between diverse stakeholders. We review these governance trends with an understanding of the food system as a complex adaptive socio-ecological system where actors in the food system self-organize into more flexible networks that can better adapt to uncertain pressures.


Food security Governance Adaptation Institutions South Africa 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.University of EdinburghEdinburghScotland

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