Meet the FABLE South Africa team

The team is led by the University of Pretoria (UP) is one of Africa’s top universities and the largest contact university in South Africa. UP produces socially impactful research to find solutions for the world’s most pressing issues. The team’s main areas of interest have been in ecosystem services, social-ecological systems, sustainable development indicators, food systems and nexuses, and ecological economics.

Models used by the team: FABLE Calculator.

Contact focal point

Odirilwe Selomane

Odirilwe Selomane

Pretoria University

Former member: Belinda Reyers.

Transforming food and land-use systems in South Africa

Renowned for its abundant and diverse wildlife, South Africa boasts a remarkable array of plateaus, plains, bushes, and deserts that provide habitats for countless animal species and thousands of plant varieties, many of which are exclusive to the region. South Africa’s land cover is dominated by 10% cropland, 69% grassland, 8% forest, 1% urban, and 12% other natural land. Agricultural areas overlap with most natural areas and remain a major source of biodiversity loss, with land clearing for croplands being a key driver alongside human settlements, plantation forestry, mining, and infrastructure development.

South Africa experiences a range of relatively moderate climates, making it conducive to widespread agricultural activities. Agricultural production is diverse and economically significant, including crops like maize, wheat, citrus fruits, and livestock such as cattle and poultry. This makes South Africa stand as a leading exporter of horticultural products within the region.

South Africa encounters several challenges in its food and land-use systems that impact biodiversity, agricultural production, and food consumption. The country possesses remarkable biodiversity but faces the risk of loss due to habitat destruction, invasive species, and climate change. The agricultural sector contends with water scarcity, land degradation, and the effects of climate change. Unpredictable weather patterns and droughts pose risks to crop yields and livestock health.

Food consumption patterns reflect a blend of traditional diets and a growing demand for processed foods. South Africa faces the challenge of both undernutrition and overweight/obesity, creating a dual burden of malnutrition. Despite its status as one of Africa's wealthiest nations, almost 23,6% of South Africans in 2020 were affected by moderate to severe food insecurity, while almost 14,9% experienced severe food insecurity. Approximately 27% of children suffer from stunted growth, while 28.3% of adults battle obesity.

Key national objectives and targets