The South African Association of Family Ecology and Consumer Science (SAAFECS) was founded in 1998. This association was preceded by Home Economics Association of Southern Africa (HEASA). SAAFECS was adopted as the new name for the association due to changes and new developments, moving from the traditional Home Economics to Consumer Sciences.

The focus of Home Economics changed from family/households to other areas where knowledge is applied to the production and marketing of goods and services outside the family/household context. For this reason the change in the name to family ecology and Consumer Sciences was justified.



On 17 February 1953 a group of dieticians met at the Johannesburg   General Hospital with the aim of forming a professional association.  On 15 May 1953 the membership of this new association was extended to include home economists.  The name of this professional association was The South African Dietetics and Home Economics Association (SADHEA). In 1954 it was decided to start a News Bulletin and a bursary fund.  The first issue of the News Bulletin was published in 1954.  In 1973 this News Bulletin became a fully fledged journal, namely the Journal of Dietetics and Home Economics (Tydskrif vir Dieetkunde en Huishoudkunde).  This is the only scientific journal in South Africa publishing home economics research and other articles.

The bursary fund that was established made loans available to students in dietetics and home economics.  Since about 20 years ago this fund was used to make one bursary available to an undergraduate or graduate student in home economics who is a paid-up member of the HEASA.

Full membership of this organisation was limited to people with a degree, while associate membership was granted to people with a diploma plus a certain number of years work experience.  This prevented many potential home economists from joining the association because they felt that they were discriminated against.  Full-time bona fide students can become junior members.

During the years the SADHEA worked for and achieved success in promoting different causes in the interest of the dietetics and home economics professions and the fields of study in South Africa.  An example of a few of these causes are that SADHEA worked for the compulsory registration of dietitians with the SAMDC, teaching of Home Economics to all girls at high school and for the beginning of a Department of Home Economics and Dietetics at an English language university.  In 1973 the University of Natal was the first English language university offering dietetics and home economics.

The SADHEA also instigated the creation of a home economics extension service in the Department of Coloured Affairs as well as the creation of agricultural/home economics community workers in the erstwhile home lands.  Later on the SADHEA was successful in creating the Professional Board for Dietetics, who is responsible for the codes of conduct of practicing dietitians, and who also sets and monitors the training requirements for registration of dietitians in the country.

The SADHEA tirelessly applied and motivated for association with the International Dietetics Association and the International Federation for Home Economics.  After many years of great effort, the SADHEA was accepted as member of the IFHE.  Many South African home economists have since attended the international congresses and there are now some of our own people in the governing structure of the IFHE.

The SADHEA was originally a national association with no branches.  In 1964 the first branch was established namely the SADHEA branch of the Western Cape, while the parent organisation remained in Pretoria.  In 1970 the Peninsula branch was established, in 1972 the Natal branch and in 1974 the Witwatersrand branch.  Later on followed branches on the East Rand, the Free State, Vaal Triangle and Western Transvaal.  Soon after the Western Cape branch was established, it was decided to rotate the Executive Committee function between branches.  The Western Cape branch hosted the Executive Committee for a period between in the seventies.  Then the Executive Committee moved to Pretoria again.

In 1977 the SADHEA organised it’s first National Congress.  This created the opportunity for dietitians and home economists to learn through workshops offered during the congresses, it provided a platform for researchers in dietetics and home economics and related fields to share research findings with their fellow home economists and dietitians, and it provided opportunity for serious deliberations on different issues confronting dietetics and home economics in South   Africa.  This congress was organised every two years.

During the sixth national congress which was held in Stellenbosch in 1987, the dietitians decided to form their own association, namely the Association for Dietetics in Southern Africa.  Due to this, most of the dietitians resigned from the SADHEA.  This led to the closing of the Peninsula, Vaal Triangle and East Rand Branches of the SADHEA because the majority of their members was dietitians.  The Natal Branch also disbanded, due to a drop in membership as a result of the resignation of dietitians, and the long distances members had to travel to meetings in Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

1987 –

The SADHEA continued functioning under that name.  During the 1989 Annual General Meeting of the SADHEA it was decided to change the association into the Home Economics Association of Southern Africa.  At the same time the Constitution was amended with respect to membership.  All home economists, with a degree or a diploma are now able to become full members on application and on supplying a certified copy of their qualification.  At the beginning of the new era, the HEASA consisted of an Executive Committee selected from members living in the Pretoria area and four branches, namely Pretoria, Western Cape, Western Transvaal and Free   State.  Since 1989 branches were established in the Northern Transvaal (6 May 1993), Natal (1993) and Eastern   Cape (1995).  Now it seems as if 12 March 1997 is the next mile stone!

The Constitution of the HEASA was amended during 1993 to select Executive Committee members from all branches so that it became a national function and not associated with one branch alone.  Since the beginning of 1995 the structure of the Executive Committee has been changed with members selected from all over South   Africa.  Each member is selected for a specific portfolio.  You have the information in your nomination forms.

The HEASA decided to continue publishing the journal under the registered name.  Since 1995 a new section called “ACTION” was included in the journal.  This is to encourage new and inexperienced writers to share their valuable experience and knowledge and views with their colleagues.  The rest of the journal is devoted to more scientific articles to expand the knowledge base of home economics in Southern Africa.  The HEASA also started publishing a NEWS LETTER alongside the journal.  This contains information of a more general character about activities of branches, congresses, work shops etc.

The HEASA also continues with organising a biennial congress, as set out in the Constitution.  The first National Congress of the HEASA was held in 1991 in Pretoria, the second in 1993 in Bloemfontein, the third in 1995 in Stellenbosch and this year it should have been in Natal.  Unfortunately Natal decided that they could not organise the congress.  So instead of a national congress we will have a national workshop on the scope and content of home economics in South Africa in Pretoria (1997).  At the Annual General Meeting of the HEASA which was held on Saturday, 7 February 1998, Constitutional changes were adopted concerning membership.  These changes extend the full membership to include the following two groups of home economists:

Home Economics teachers with a two year teacher diploma  and  Agricultural home economists who qualified at an agricultural college.

A motion to change the name of the HEASA to the South African Association for Family and Consumer Sciences (SAAFCS) was also tabled.  The motivation for this name was included in the agenda for the AGM which was sent to all members entitled to vote.  According to the Constitution all paid-up full members of the HEASA are entitled to vote.  After the membership of the HEASA was changed by vote to include the above mentioned to additional categories of home economists, it was argued that the admission of agricultural home economists to the HEASA necessitated another name for the Association.  The name was then changed by the AGM to the following:

South African Association for Family Ecology and Consumer Studies (SAAFECS).

The motivation for this change is the following:

  • The emphasis on family and consumer sciences in the name of the Association accentuates the term family sciences more than can be justified according to the practice of home economics in South Africa.
  • The emphasis on consumer sciences negate the focus of home economics practice by home economists who are principally involved with families/households in rural areas where the emphasis is on household production.  Production includes inter alia the production of food for food security and of food and other products for income generation.
  • The term family ecology refers to the interaction of the family/household with its various environments, namely the micro, meso and macro environments.  In the interaction of the family/household with its meso environment (community) the practice of community development is implicated.  The macro environments of the family/household refer to the social systems and the natural and man-made environments with which the family/household is in interaction.  These social systems include the socio-cultural system, the political system, the economic system and the technological system.  The interaction with the economic system includes both the production and the consumer functions of the family/household.  Because of these reasons the name Family Ecology will be more inclusive and a better description of the practice of home economists than the term Family Science.
  • Since the very beginning the focus of home economics in South   Africa was on the family/household.  Household refers to a group of people sharing resources to reach goals and who share the same physical micro environment.  This term therefore includes all the different family forms, communes, and bigger households like for example hostels, homes for senior citizens, etc.  In home economics practice the focus of many home economists has changed from the family/household to other areas where their knowledge are utilised in the production of goods and services outside the family/household context.  This happens in the interest of consumers and/or marketers.  In this regard reference can be made to eg food service managers/caterers, producers/marketers of food and clothing products, advice to consumers eg with reference to the use of equipment (which is both in the interest of the consumer and the marketer), etc.         Because of this reason the reference to Consumer Science in the main, besides that of Family Ecology can be justified.

The Association continues to publish a scientific journal.  Since the beginning of 1998 it is published electronically under the name of the Journal of Family Ecology and Consumer Sciences.  It is a free access journal and is available on http://www.ajol.info/index.php/jfecs  The name of the journal has since changed and is now known as the Journal of Consumer Sciences.

The Constitution was again changed in 2000 to incorporate the changed membership and to provide for interest groups along with branches, because it became clear that branches are very difficult to run in the changed security environment in South Africa.

What do you gain by becoming a member of the SAAFECS? 

  • Promoting the profession.             By becoming a member you join a group of professionals who work in the interest of Consumer Science and Family Ecology in South Africa.
  • Contact with other professionals and creating networks.                Apart from the fact that you form a part of an important professional group, you also start networking with other professionals during workshops, congresses, at meeting and during seminars.  This is very important support that is gained from fellow professionals.
  • Opportunity for continuing learning.          During the biennial Congress, quite a variety of workshops is offered on very important and new topics.  These are opportunities offered by SAAFECS for members to grow as professional people.  The journal further makes new knowledge about South African topics in Consumer Science and Family Ecology available to its readers.
  • Benefit to the South African society.     SAAFECS was instrumental in providing information and the rationale for the change of the name Home Economics to Consumer Science at the tertiary level.

SAAFECS was also instrumental in the process of changing the school subject Home Economics into Consumer Studies and in writing the Learning Outcomes and their associated assessment standards, as well as the Guidelines for the learning outcomes of Consumer Studies that became part of the new National Curriculum for grades 10, 11 and 12.

SAAFECS is a non-profit association devoted to promote research.

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