Do household coping strategies mitigate perceived household food insecurity among sample households in Dasse administrative area, Gash-Barka zone, Eritrea?
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This mini-dissertation sets out to examine the perceptions of farmers in the Dasse Administrative Area of Gash-Barka zone of the impact of agro-ecological, socioeconomic and infrastructural constraints on food insecurity, and the coping strategies employed by 101 sampled farm households in order to understand how these strategies increase vulnerability or mitigate the effect of food shortages. Agricultural productivity was low and average cereal production provided only 39 per cent of annual household requirements. Self-sufficiency in grain obtained from own production sustained households for only four months a year. In line with this, the study examined the impact of agro-ecological, socio-economic, and infrastructural constraints to the problem of food insecurity as perceived by the farmers. Farmers perceived drought, erratic rainfall, and weed infestations as major agro-ecological constraints that hindered self-sufficiency in food production. Shortage of draught animals and labour and lack of cash and off-farm income, were most conceived socio-economic constraints that affected production. Lack of farm credit, health problem (malaria), and inadequate farmers advisory service were most perceived infrastructural constraints that affected production and household food security. This shows that food security interventions need to be built around mitigating these perceived causes. The study also investigated coping strategies and their impact on increasing vulnerability or mitigating the effect of food shortages. The coping strategies applied by the studied households were largely consumption-based and non-erosive, indicating that households were relatively resilient to food security shocks. However, these strategies could be detrimental to the nutritional well being of household members, as they determined dietary intake. These coping strategies were particularly detrimental to household food security, as proper nutrition is critical for active and productive life. Thus, health and nutrition related interventions are highly required to address these problems. Food security interventions need to support livelihoods in ways that protect and buffer the natural resilience of households, providing direct assistance when erosive coping strategies are employed to ensure that households remain resilient to the fragile and variable situations in which they exist.
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