An investigation of household food insecurity coping strategies in Umbumbulu.
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This study set out to investigate the food insecurity coping strategies of sample households from the Embo community in the Umbumbulu district of KwaZulu-Natal. A total of 151 Ezemvelo Farmers' Organisation and 49 non-EFO members were interviewed in two rounds, beginning in October 2004 and March 2005. The total sample included 200 respondents from 176 households. A survey questionnaire was used to collect data on socio-economic characteristics, food consumption patterns and application of consumption coping strategies. The study used the Coping Strategy Index to establish the food security status of the households by calculating and comparing the Coping Strategy Index Scores of households. Households applied short-term food consumption coping strategies to cope with food shortages and resorted to short-term income coping strategies when they experienced income shocks. Coping strategies employed by households were effective in mitigating food insecurity. Most strategies applied by most households were not detrimental to livelihoods and did not compromise future household food security. Food insecurity increased the frequency and severity of application of coping strategies employed by households. Households ate less preferred foods, skipped days without eating and ate wild foods. These coping strategies were particularly dangerous to households as proper nutrition is critical for ensuring healthy and productive lives. Food security interventions need to support beneficial coping strategies currently employed by households. Relevant stakeholder like the Departments of Health and Social Development need to target nutritional interventions through workshops and training with vulnerable households. Supporting protective coping mechanisms entails protecting entitlements to land, water resources and productive and non-productive assets. Agricultural production improved the incomes and food consumption of the sampled households. Sustainable agricultural production should be promoted and sustained at household level. The Ministry of Agriculture and local development agencies should assist the community by providing production inputs, for example, provision of vegetable seeds, mechanisation, infrastructure and information on improved production techniques to encourage greater productivity and wider engagement in agriculture. Home gardens could make iii valuable contributions to family food supply and income. The Ministry of Agriculture and local development agencies should give more advice through extension and training services, providing support through negotiation of contracts with suppliers. While agriculture may play a major role in the reduction of food insecurity, attention should also be given to the promotion of non-farming activities, particularly those that can reduce food insecurity. The community and households should actively engage in the design and implementation of policies government policies and strategies for farm and non-farm interventions.
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