Food Security in South Africa: A Review of National surveys/Securite Alimentaire En Afrique Du Sud: Un Examen Des Enquetes nationales/Seguridad Alimentaria En Sudafrica: Revision De Las Encuestas Nacionales

Article excerpt


Food insecurity has emerged as a global crisis following the global economic meltdown. (1) According to the 2004 report of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the state of food insecurity in the world, more than 814 million people in developing countries are undernourished. (2) Of these people, 204 million live in countries of sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa.

Despite the political and economic advances seen in South Africa since 1994, the country is plagued by poverty and unemployment and, following the recent global economic crisis, by steep food and fuel prices, high-energy tariffs and increasing interest rates. (3) These adverse conditions have placed severe pressure on ordinary South Africans already struggling to meet their basic household needs. Thus, a proper definition of the terra "food insecurity" and measures that are suitable for the South African context must be urgently developed.

Food security is said to exist, in accordance with its international definition, when in a society all people at all times have enough food for an active, healthy life. (4) Food security as an umbrella terra includes: (i) the availability of food that is nutritious and safe; (ii) an assured ability to procure and acquire food of good quality in a socially acceptable way (e.g. without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing or similar coping strategies). In contrast, food insecurity exists when food is not easily accessible and households have difficulty securing adequate food. (2)

In recent years particular attention has been paid to access to food and its measurement. This stems from the realization that even when food is available in markets, it may not be accessible to specific households. (4) According to Davids, (5) after 10 years of democracy a large proportion of South Africans still perceive themselves as lacking enough income to meet all their household needs. "Access" has been defined as a household's ability to acquire enough food of sufficient quality to have all of its members meet their nutritional requirements and lead productive lives. (6)

Millions of dollars are spent annually on food aid programmes intended to alleviate hunger and poverty. For these programmes to work effectively, households at greatest risk of food insecurity have to be identified by means of an objective and accurate indicator of food access and food availability at the household level. The Community Childhood Hunger Identification Project (CCHIP) index, the household dietary diversity score and the food variety score are among the measures developed for this purpose in the United States of America. (7-10) The CCHIP index defines hunger as the mental and physical condition arising from not eating enough food because of insufficient economic resources within the family or community. In contrast, the household dietary diversity score and the food variety score measure the average number of food groups or items consumed within a household over a period of 24 hours: from a total of 12 possible food groups and of 45 possible items, respectively.

No national survey has been conducted to assess all the dimensions of food insecurity in South Africa, although some national surveys have included specific components of food insecurity. Thus, the objective of the current study was to review the food insecurity components of these surveys and establish whether they covered food access, food utilization and food availability. Food access can be measured both in terms of the hunger experienced by individuals within a household or of the household's dietary diversity. Conversely, food utilization can be measured using anthropometric parameters (height and weight), dietary intake or blood nutrient levels. Lastly, food availability can be measured using household food inventory and/or food procurement data.

Box 1.Search strategy

The research question
National surveys that measured food security/insecurity
in South Africa from 1999 to 2008

Breaking down of the question into "facets" or "terms"

* Population--South Africa

* Study design--national surveys

* Outcome--food security/food insecurity

* Time frame--1999 to 2008

Combination of terms

The terms were then combined using Boolean Logic (AND, OR) to
create a set of results for articles relating to the aforementioned
topic. … 


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