Understanding the food insecurity of vulnerable households residing in Kalanga, Swaziland
Mondlane, Vuyisile Colleen
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Food security is a worldwide concern, especially in developing countries. A substantial number of researchers have investigated the causes, consequences, and possible solutions to this challenge. Well eluded in most studies is the vulnerability of developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. As part of the Southern Africa region, Swaziland is not exempt from the challenges facing most countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Roughly 80% of the Swazi population is rural based, and their livelihoods depend on subsistence farming and livestock rearing. Climate change has affected crop production, in addition to the severe droughts of the past three decades. As a result, the people experienced severe food shortages. The biggest concern in these countries is to ensure that all people are food secure to prevent negative consequences for the health and well-being of the citizens. Food security is essential at all levels, particularly to ensure good nutrition at household level. Although there are food security policies in place in Swaziland, many households are still food insecure. Food aid is a short-term remedy, which does not improve long-term food security, especially in rural areas. Therefore permanent, self-sustaining strategies should be researched to ensure accessibility to food by all households at all times in Swaziland. One possible way to ensure sustainability could be to focus on the sufficient production of food by households. The scarcity of food has resulted in the deterioration of the nutritional status of vulnerable households, affecting their productivity. Hence, the overall aim of this research was to determine the eating patterns of vulnerable households in KaLanga in the rural Lubombo region of Swaziland. In addition, the researcher aimed to identify factors contributing to malnutrition and understand coping strategies used by the households when there was a shortage of food. This research was quantitative, explorative, and descriptive in nature with a cross-sectional approach. The researcher used a purposive method of sampling to sample households with specific characteristics of vulnerability to obtain the required information. A total number of 292 respondents were given questionnaires to complete, signing a consent form before participating in the survey. Two hundred usable questionnaires were used for descriptive and frequency statistics. The results showed that the majority of the respondents consumed three meals a day. However, the food consumed was not stated, so it was challenging to determine whether the food was nutritious enough to sustain a healthy life. If meals were to be skipped, it was most likely lunch, and the main reason would be to save food, or there was no food to eat. Snacking in between meals was not popular with the majority of the respondents, although traditional snacking patterns was popular in Swaziland, especially in summer. The factors contributing to the vulnerability and food insecurity of households included the limited growing of crops and keeping of livestock as sources of income to the vulnerable households. Shortage of rainfall has forced households in the Lubombo region not to grow crops, which intensified the lack of food in vulnerable households. This has resulted in them incorporating coping strategies to improve food security. In addition, adequate supply of water can improve the state of food insecurity in the region. The results of the study confirmed that household food security in rural households was compromised because most households employed various coping strategies when food was insufficient. However, many of the respondents were not relying on general coping strategies; instead, they were relying heavily on food aid from different organisations. Food aid is a short-term remedy, as most respondents indicated that it did not last for the whole month. Moreover, food aid is not always consistently available. The food aid parcels consist of cooking oil, beans, maize meal, and some include rice and mealie rice. Food production should be improved in the drought stricken community of Kalanga in order to increase food production that will improve the community member’s health. Food production can reduce food aid donated to the households because it does not sustain them. In addition, it can enable the most vulnerable to produce their own food. Construction of dams will enable the households to produce their own food through irrigation of crops. Moreover, supply of farming inputs to vulnerable households, fencing of fields and adhering to food security policies can solve the problem of food insecurity.