Evaluation of the impact of a household food security programme in QwaQwa using a coping strategy index.
The Free State Department of Agriculture distributed food security packages to Qwaqwa households in 2003. The purpose of distributing food security packages was to improve the food security status of poor households. Thirty households received food security packages to the value of R4500.00 each between March and May 2003. The packages were designed to include: garden fencing materials, gardening tools, winter and summer seeds, fertiliser, water hoses, twenty village chickens, chicken feed and a portable, ready made poultry cage. This study sets out to evaluate the impact of these packages distributed by the Department of Agriculture to Qwaqwa households by comparing dietary diversity, frequency of consumption, income sources, coping strategy applications and food security status. Maxwell et al 's (2003) Coping Strategy Index (CSI) was used to determine relative food security status. Data on household demographics, food consumption patterns and consumption coping strategies was collected from 30 recipient households and 30 non-recipient households whose names were on the waiting list for food security packages in Qwaqwa. The results of the study showed that the packages improved food security in recipient households. First, the frequency of consumption of most foods included in packages (carrot, beetroot, eggs as by-product of chicken and chicken) was higher among recipient households. Food consumption patterns improved in recipient households as more households diversified food intake. Second, some coping strategies applied by recipient and non-recipient households were similar, but the frequency of application of these strategies differed between households in the two groups. The frequency of application of similar strategies (eating less preferred food, purchasing food on credit, visiting friends to eat with them, restricting consumption of adults in order for small children to eat, borrowing food, sending children to visit relatives, skipping entire meal eaten in a day, reducing meal sizes, and sending household members to beg) was higher in non-recipient households. The classification of strategies according to severity levels (least severe, moderately severe, severe and very severe) was done by community members. Recipient households applied the least severe strategies and moderately severe coping strategies more than non-recipient households. Non-recipient households applied more severe and very severe strategies more often than recipient households. As a result, recipient households' average coping strategy index score was lower than that of the non-recipient households, suggesting that food security packages improved recipient households' food security status. Lack of suitable scavenging space for the chickens and lack of knowledge of freely available chicken feed constrained the impact of the packages on household food security. Recommendations include training of extension officers and households in village chicken rearing and harvesting of chicken feed. It is recommended that the Department of Agriculture should adhere to its original plan of giving twenty-month old chicken to households and should use the Coping Strategy Index for identifying food insecure households and monitoring and evaluation of the impact of the food security programme.
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