Measuring rural household vulnerability to food insecurity : the case of uMzimkhulu Local Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
The objective of this study is to examine the factors associated with vulnerability to food insecurity among rural households in Umzimkhulu Local Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal. This includes identification of the most vulnerable and food insecure households and assessment of their needs; studying socio-economic and demographic characteristics of the most vulnerable; and understanding the sources of idiosyncratic shocks which expose households to food insecurity. Food insecurity is measured by Vulnerability as Expected Poverty (VEP) using data collected from 150 households from ward 12 and 14 under Umzimkhulu Local Municipality. This model allows the estimation of vulnerability using cross-sectional data from a single point in time which as a result limits data requirements. Variables that were found to have a statistically significant effect on household future food consumption were education level, household productivity ratio, age of household head representing experience and wealth accumulation in the course of the household life cycle, Coping Strategy Index (CSI), Total Livestock Unit (TLU), Food Consumption Scores (FCS), and the number of household members who fall sick in the year preceding the survey. The findings of the study show education and labour as two fundamental factors that contribute towards improved household food security and economic strength. The low literacy levels in rural areas is still evident; thus the government interventions to enhance access to education by all is required as it hinders and minimises employment opportunities hindering socio-economic development therefore aggravates the poverty cycle. With regards to labour productivity of households has a positive effect towards the improved household food basket. The higher labour productivity in both on-farm and or off-farm activities strengthens the economic power for food purchases. Age of the household head was found to have a negative effect on the vulnerability of rural households to food insecurity. This is because as people get older they accumulate socio-economic wealth. In this study socio-economic wealth is referred to experience or wisdom and asset acquirement. People who were over 65 years were reported that their contribution to household food basket depreciated with a negative implication on household productivity maximising exposure to vulnerability. There is a need for rural development policies to refocus on creating jobs for rural economic active group and further develop support systems for the older generation already in pension to optimise their livelihoods options. Limited diversified livelihood strategies used by rural households compromised the household food security status exposing them to vulnerability. Consequently, the constrained diet of the household was found to pose a negative effect on income and education improvements. More diversified livelihoods opportunities maximise the chances of households the poverty trap. An intensive support in agricultural activities, job creation and equipping people with appropriate skills is highly recommended. In this study livestock ownership was regarded as an investment, buffer and a coping strategy Livestock plays a significant role in the well-being of rural households. This is a strategy used by most rural households to be resilient towards poverty and vulnerability as they used livestock to send their children to school and for food consumption. This suggests how critical agriculture is for effective development policies addressing food insecurity in rural areas. Priority has to be given to rural development agenda in South Africa as it was found that about half of the sampled households were both currently food insecure and highly vulnerable to food insecurity. This suggests that while long-term interventions that promote investment on education, infrastructure and job creation are highly needed, provision of food parcels and food stamps can be an appropriate relief to households that are severely suffering from food insecurity.