The impact of HIV/AIDS on food security - a study of orphan adoption in rural Ingwavuma, KwaZulu-Natal.
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"Food security is access by all people of all times to enough food for an active, healthy life" (World Bank, 1986:1). It is thought that between 300 million and 1 billion people in the world are food insecure. This could be as much as twenty percent of the world population. A World Bank study estimated that 340 million people in developing countries did not have enough calorie intakes to prevent stunted growth, and a further 730 million did not have enough income to ensure an active working life. Many households barely subsist around a poverty line - at times above it, and at other times below. Such transitory food insecurity is common, dependent on the weather and other environmental or socioeconomic factors. In South Africa, a rising population growth has meant a rise in food insecurity for many rural households, and this may be further exacerbated by the impact of HIV/AIDS which increases occupancy and dependency ratios in households when orphaned children are taken in to be cared for. This research introduces the key concepts and indicators of food security set in the framework of rural subsistence and a high HIV infection rate in Ingwavuma, KwaZulu Natal. Four research objectives have been developed around a 'case-control' design, whereby the demographic, agricultural and socio-economic characteristics of families who have adopted AIDS orphans are compared to households who have not adopted orphans. The first objective of the study comprised an assessment of the make-up and social fabric of households in order to analyse the household head's ability to manage the family's consumption requirement. The results showed that forty six percent of households in Ingwavuma were headed by a 'mother' (single parent) figure and that the larger household occupancy ranges tended to be female headed. Furthermore, households comprising between 11 and 15 people, were female to male headed 7:1, pointing to high dependency ratios in households less likely to receive consistent income from a local and employed male household head. The second objective was to assess the level of dependency on income related purchases of food compared to the level of food production generated within the household itself. Sixty-three percent of households stated that they would not anticipate being able to obtain any work and thirty two percent felt they might be able to obtain work in the cities or with neighbours which would sustain them for one month. Only two percent of the sample anticipated being able to source income for three months, and another two percent for six months - highlighting the high level of dependency that the study area has on agriculture as opposed to income. The third aim of the study was to assess the impact that illness, death and the adoption of AIDS orphans have on the dependency ratio within a household, and its resultant impact of food security. A high level of illness and death was shown to occur in both cohorts of the sample, although deaths in the 'orphaned households' created larger numbers of household occupants and thus dependents when compared to households without orphans. Finally, three logistic regression models of food security were developed based on the main food and livelihood management indicators in the Ingwavuma community and the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on these was included in the models. The indicators could be incorporated in the development of a predictive early warning food security model for the area, similar to the work undertaken in Mozambique and Botswana where an early warning system is used to highlight expected periods of 'lean harvest' in order to ensure that the most vulnerable households are cared for. Another recommendation of the study is the development of a surveillance system for the monitorinq of the epidemiology of illness and death in the area to enable organisations to tackle the impact of the HIV epidemic. Specific research to address the targeting of 'households at risk' which include grandparent headed households and household heads who are HIV positive would also be of great benefit. Research into the development of both the formal and the informal economy, the industrial and entrepreneurial development of the area and the training of the community's untapped labour supply would also be of value to the community. Finally, research into methods to improve the agricultural base and food production skills would be enormously useful in developing the capacity of the community to provide for itself.