Centre of Sustainable Livelihoods has originated from the Department of Tourism and PR, faculty of Human Sciences 2004. It was first established a Food and Nutrition Research Centre (2005), Then into Institute of Sustainable Livelihoods (2006) and finally as the first centre of Excellency of VUT (2010). At the moment CSL reports directly to the office of the Executive Deal of Human Sciences even though housed at Science Park Campus of VUT.

Research in the Centre of Sustainable Livelihoods (CSL) has focused on poverty, malnutrition and household food insecurity in rural (n=4), peri-urban (n=2) and urban (n=2) communities in the Vaal region, Qwa-Qwa and Cofimvaba District in recent years. In a number of baseline surveys undertaken in Eatonside, Bophelong, Boipatong, Sharpeville, Orange Farms and Qwa-Qwa, the major research question was to what extent micro-mechanisms, household food gardens influence food nutrition and health of the dwellers in these areas.

The results showed that poverty, household food insecurity, and risk of malnutrition were the most prevalent problems experienced by these low-income communities. The close relationship that the CSL has with these communities has resulted in a relevant research programme with a high level of implementation of clinical trials to improve malnutrition (through school feeding and supplementation projects) and enhance innovations in food product development. Furthermore, a number of food gardening programmes were also initiated to address chronic household food insecurity. These initiatives have received a high level of financial support from the National Research Foundation (NRF) (2000-2012), the South African Netherlands Partnership in Alternative Research in Development (SANPAD) (2007-2012) as well as the United States Potato Board (2010), CSIR (2013-2014) and the Oilseeds Advisory Committee (2014).


Of the strategies implemented by the CSL in recent years were:

1) health promotion, specifically nutrition education programmes for the target groups, namely the children, pregnant and lactating women and the elderly;

2) addressing household food insecurity by implementing sustainable household vegetable and soy gardening programme;

3) developing affordable and energy-saving manual household and industrial soy food processing equipment through the exchange of knowledge and technology; and

4) evaluating the impact of this programme on food and nutrition knowledge (short-term) and dietary intake behaviour (long-term), as well as household food insecurity in this community.

5) Use of technology for formulating healthy food products through extrusion technology .

All above objectives were and will be implemented through the pairing of actual community needs with postgraduate academic research projects.

All the research undertaken in the CSL should result in significant scientific impact through publications in accredited (n=49 since 2002) and other peer-reviewed (n=26 since 2002) scientific journals and postgraduate qualifications (n=33 since 2002), but should also have sustainable effects on the development of low-income rural communities, specifically related to the food security and nutritional and health status of the children and their caregivers as well as elderly people in these communities.

This is in line with international priorities such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the national priorities of rural development, access to affordable health services and food and nutrition security. The activities undertaken in the CSL further support the South African Integrated Nutrition Programme of the Department of Health (DoH) incentive to promote the health of women, in particular pregnant and lactating women, to reduce the prevalence of malnutrition in children, to reduce hypertension, obesity and diabetes mellitus amongst  the elderly, to ensure optimal growth in infants and young children, to improve capacity at all levels in order to solve problems of household food insecurity and its adverse effects , malnutrition and hunger, and to improve inter-sectoral collaboration and community ownership of the programme and resources.


CSL has cooperated

A key contribution to the success of the CSL is the capacity building of postgraduate students and local community organisations, resulting in creating sustainable links between the CSL and various community organisations, non-government organisations, funding agencies and other national and international academic institutions.

Furthermore, the following established international links with the following food and nutrition researchers who assist CSL with postgraduate supervision, article writing, research assistance, and advice are still active:

  • Ms Cade Fields-Gardner, a dietitian specialising in community nutrition and HIV and AIDS, from the Cutting Edge in Chicago, Illinois, United States of America (USA). Ms Fields-Gardner visited the CSL on 20 April to discuss future projects in Africa.
  • Dr Rozanne Kruger from the University of Massey in Auckland, New Zealand. Dr Kruger is a nutritionist specializing in community nutrition and dietary diversification and visited the CSL from 07-23 May for article writing as well as from 20-26 September to participate in the Soy Seminar and Workshop hosted by the CSL.
  • Dr Folake Samuel, a nutritionist from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. Dr Samuel visited the CSL from 21-27 September as a guest speaker at the Soy Seminar and Workshop hosted by the CSL.
  • Mr Jim Hershey and Mr Josh Neiderman from the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) in the USA. Mr Hershey visited the CSL from 24-26 September to participate in the Soy Seminar and Workshop.
  • Prof Mary Murimi, a dietitian specialising in community nutrition, specifically mother and child nutrition, from Texas Tech University. Prof Murimi visited the CSL from 5-10 January to discuss collaboration. She also presented an article writing workshop to 23 researchers and postgraduate students from VUT, UNISA and North-West University (NWU).
  • Prof Symon Mahungu, a Professor of Food Chemistry at Egerton University, Kenya. Prof Mahungu visited the CSL from 21-27 September to participate in the Soy Seminar and Workshop and future collaborations in terms of the soy research programme were discussed.
  • Prof Craig Gundersen, the Executive Director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory, Illinois University, USA. Prof Gundersen visited the CSL and participated as speaker in the Soy Seminar and Workshop.
  • Prof Wilna Oldewage-Theron, Professor of Nutrition, Texas Tech University, USA. Prof Wilna was founder and former director of CSL.
  • Prof Roberto Pilu, Associate Professor Di.S.A.A. – Produzione, Territorio, Agroenergia, Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences – Production, Landscape, Agroenergy Università degli Studi di Milano Via Celoria, 2 20133 Milano .

The international links established by the CSL are aligned to the VUT strategy of internationalisation and the specific networks into Africa can result in collaborative projects in which the CSL successes can be impacting on the rest of Africa. On the other hand, Africa is faced with unique problems around poverty, food security, malnutrition and health. It is thus important to network across the continent in order to mobilise the full capacity to address the problems unique to Africa. Bringing international students on board will further result in creating more capacity for the continent. Concomitantly, South African postgraduate students can enrich their skills through this international exposure.

Collaboration with South African institutions include the following:

* A Memorandum of Agreement was signed between the Department of Food and Nutrition at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the CSL to develop the South African food-based dietary guidelines for the elderly in July 2012. This agreement is for a period of three years. Prof CE Napier and Ms H Grobbelaar visited the CSL from 21-22 October to analyse the data collected with Prof WH Oldewage-Theron during 2014.

* A Memorandum of Agreement was signed between CSIR and the CSL in May 2013 to collaborate on the school feeding programme implemented in Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape. This project is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and ended in June 2014.

* A Memorandum of Agreement was signed between Nestle and the CSL in April 2014 to collaborate on the Healthy Kids nutrition education programme implemented in Hammanskraal. This agreement is for the period 2015 to 2016.

* A memorandum of Understanding was singed Between CSL and HSRC on Human Nutrition and food security.

* A letter of intent was signed between CSL and Texas Tech University for possible data exchange and jointly implement projects on food and nutrition security in South Africa and beyond.