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A Systems Analysis and Conceptual System Dynamics Model of the Livestock-derived Food System in South Africa: A Tool for Policy Guidance

Queenan, Kevin; Sobratee, Nafiisa; Davids, Rashieda; Mabhaudhi, Tafadzwanashe; Chimonyo, Michael; Slotow, Rob; Shankar, Bhavani; Häsler, Barbara


Kevin Queenan

Nafiisa Sobratee

Rashieda Davids

Tafadzwanashe Mabhaudhi

Michael Chimonyo

Rob Slotow

Bhavani Shankar

Barbara Häsler


Global food production systems are currently under scrutiny, in particular the health, nutrition, and environmental impacts of livestock-derived food (LDF). Despite South Africa’s recent socio­economic transformation and increased per-capita LDF consumption, the triple burden of malnutri­tion persists. Policy responses to such complex problems often fail because of linear thinking with short-term goals. However, a systems approach helps identify root causes, feedback mechanisms, potential unintended consequences, and opportu­nities for integrated, durable solutions. Participa­tion in the systems-thinking process improves stakeholder understanding and buy-in. Our par­ticipatory workshop facilitated the development of a systems map for South African LDF, identifying key system elements, linkages, and nexus points. The latter included climate change, land access and management, livestock management and produc­tivity, farming systems, food safety, policy articula­tion, agricultural knowledge, and income. Based on these findings, and an overview of related litera­ture, we produced a conceptual system dynamics model of the LDF system. We identified key vari­ables and causal relationships, vicious and virtuous loops, system archetypes, conceptual stock and flows, and links to Sustainable Development Goals. The LDF system is complex and dynamic, with a dominance of commercial enterprises across agriculture and food retail, presenting barriers for small and medium-scale individuals. Other key elements relate to population growth and urbaniza­tion, land access, deregulation of international trade, climate change vulnerability, feed production limitations, and food safety. Our work provides a unique reference for policymakers, identifying the need for deep structural change, highlighting the possible unintended consequences, and thereby mitigating the risk of system destabilization.


Queenan, K., Sobratee, N., Davids, R., Mabhaudhi, T., Chimonyo, M., Slotow, R., …Häsler, B. (2020). A Systems Analysis and Conceptual System Dynamics Model of the Livestock-derived Food System in South Africa: A Tool for Policy Guidance.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 17, 2020
Publication Date Aug 6, 2020
Deposit Date Sep 3, 2020
Publicly Available Date Sep 3, 2020
Journal Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development
Print ISSN 21520801
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 1-24
Public URL
Publisher URL


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