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Household food access in rural South Africa: Lessons for emerging food security policy

24 April 2012
12:30 - 13:30

Date :24 April 2012

Time :12:30 – 13:30

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Presented by Dr Peter Jacobs, Economic Performance and Development, HSRC

The right to food is entrenched in South Africa’s 1996 Constitution but appropriate interventions to give real-life effect to this overarching socio-economic right must still be implemented. What kinds of socio-economic actions are needed to ensure that all households have access to adequate food? The presentation answers this question and highlights key policy implications in three areas: social safety nets (cash grants), agricultural support packages and agro-food market policies.

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Available South African food security studies group all ‘low-income’ rural households into one social category despite evidence of distinct livelihood strategies, in turn, impacting on the types, volumes and quality of foods accessed. Unlike these studies, this presentation begins with a more nuanced assessment of rural household food security across two types of low-income rural households: farm workers and resource-poor small farmers. The discussion builds on comparable evidence from the 2007 and 2009/2010 rounds of the General Household Surveys (GHS), a nationally representative survey which is conducted annually by the official statistical agency. The 2007 GHS used subjective experiences of hunger based on a five-scale question whereas the 2009/2010 version switched to a local adaptation of the HFIAS. A basic logistic econometric framework is used to examine the relationship of household food security status (dependent variable) and food access (food expenditure share in total household spending). The model controls for household profiles, own food production and access to various social safety nets.

Evidence on the food access patterns among (poor) rural households in South Africa suggests that they are mainly net food buyers. Such households are particularly vulnerable to rapid food price inflation, calling for appropriate food security policy to meet their food needs.

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