Improving food security in KZN: too little, too slow

A recent study conducted by the universities of Stellenbosch (SU) and Ghent, and published in Development Southern Africa, has cast doubt on the efficacy of the Empowerment for Food Security Programme (EFSP) run by the KwaZulu-Natal department of agriculture in co-operation with the Flemish Development Corporation.

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 Launched in 2007, the EFSP aims to improve agricultural practices, establish community (and home) gardens and broiler projects. But, led by Prof Marijke D’Haese, of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Ghent University, and Prof Nick Vink, of the Department of Agricultural Economics at SU, the study found that while the programme improved access to resources and helped to diversify the diet available to the beneficiaries, it has not markedly improved food security levels in the province.

More than half of the 390 beneficiary households interviewed experienced severe food insecurity, with many living on less than R12 per person per day. Average diets consisted mainly of cereals and some animal products. Food production is rather diverse, with vegetables, cereals and tubers being the most important crops produced. Many respondents noted production difficulties related to access to water and lack of inputs.

The most important sources of income were social grants and gifts, followed by a formal salary. Unemployment is high, with borrowing the main coping strategy when shocks or stresses such as food price increases or livestock losses occur.

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One reason why the EFSP had not improved access to food is that “food insecurity cannot be seen in isolation from other development questions such as income sources, rural and urban development, household demographics, and access to resources such as water, land, credit, technology and markets,” said Vink.