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Nathan Associates Inc. (2003) Food Security Report . USAID Regional Center for Southern Africa: consultancy reports : 1-166.

Executive Summary

The purpose of this report is to provide: i) an analytical synthesis, based on a broad-ranging review of the relevant literature, of the state of, and trends in, household food insecurity in Southern Africa; ii) a brief review of what has been—and is being—done to confront such food insecurity; and iii) suggestions to RCSA regarding its own possible role in dealing with the causes of food insecurity in the region during 2004–2010. All who are concerned with the causality of food insecurity in Southern Africa concur that lack of access to minimally adequate amounts of food is extremely serious in the region—a situation that has been worsening for at least the past three decades. Development strategies intended to increase the pace of economic growth in the countries of Southern Africa have “disappointed and failed” in the main sectors: mining, industry, and agriculture. As a result, growth in production, productivity, employment creation, and household income have all lagged the rate of population growth. In particular, the agriculture sector, upon which so many depend for their livelihood, has failed to generate sufficient broad-based growth to enable the food insecure poor to gain minimally adequate entitlements to needed quantities of food on a regular basis. This report is divided into three sections corresponding to the categories of enquiry suggested in the proposed food security research questions listed in Appendix 3.

Section 1 contains a synopsis of what is written about food and livelihood insecurity in Southern Africa. It notes, inter alia, that more than one-fourth of the total populations of the six countries
most affected by the 2001–02 food emergency remain, as of early 2003, in a state of acute food
insecurity; that chronic undernutrition in under-fives presently ranges between one-fourth and
one-half of all children in that age group; and that more than half of the total population of the
region—i.e., more than 50 million people—can be numbered among the chronically food insecure poor. In addition something akin to one-fourth of the adult population in these countries is
infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. The causes of these conditions are numerous and mutually reinforcing. They include: i) three decades of negative per capita economic growth; ii) failed growth strategies in all major sectors of the economy, iii) increasing frequency of droughts and other episodic shocks in the region; iv)
apparent climate change contributing to increasing variability in annual and seasonal rainfall levels and increasing average daily temperatures; v) environmental deterioration particularly evident as deteriorating soil health, degraded watershed effectiveness and declining pastureland resilience; vi) decreasing per capita availability of water necessary for human, animal, and crop use; vii) reduced viability and coverage of traditional social insurance and other safety net mechanisms; viii) continued under-investment in women as agents of economic growth; ix) deteriorating transport infrastructure and increasing geographic isolation of larger numbers of the rural poor; and x) the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS among the population—poor and non-poor alike. The primary method among the poor of coping with, and adapting to, these adverse trends and conditions has been a rapid increase in livelihood diversification. One study (Bryceson, 2000) has
determined that by the late 1990s some 55-80 percent of rural household income was being derived from non-farm sources in survey areas—a significant increase from the comparable figure of 40 percent found by researchers just 2-3 years earlier. These substantial changes are a response to diminishing returns to land and labor in the face of market failures and impediments preventing movement into agricultural niches with higher economic returns. Such profound changes in traditional livelihood modalities carry important implications for donor and government
agriculture growth strategies which have, in the past, sought to improve food security primarily
through activities intended to raised on-farm productivity and crop-based incomes. Efforts to
speed asset creation and sustainability through the relatively frictionless and well-integrated
operations of markets and institutions have not created sustainable conditions for increased
production, productivity, remuneration, and household food security. Section 2 looks at what has been done, is being done, and should be done in the future to improve overall household food security in the region. It notes the changing nature of the domains of food security and livelihood security since the mid-1970s. It suggests a growing consensus around the
notion that food security requires—at a minimum—a food system operating to create a sense of assurance among the population that access to adequate food for all individuals and households is a continuing likelihood. Food security policy is intended to maintain the conditions underpinning that assurance over time. During the 1970s and 1980s, the region’s governments and donors focused—with varying degrees of success—on macroeconomic reforms, market liberalization in agriculture and other sectors, and reduction in government involvement in commercial endeavors as central elements of development policy. Investment in agriculture development programs decreased, however, particularly in agricultural services and agricultural research. The availability of agricultural inputs, marketing opportunities, and agricultural credit for smallholders—especially for those far from roads, or who were farming in the less favored geographic areas—also declined during the period.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, investments in education, health and other social sector programs also fell—a function of declining government revenues throughout the region. At the same time, however, particularly after the publication of the World Bank’s 1990 World Development Report (WDR) on poverty, an increasing focus on poverty reduction began to emerge as a central element of development programming in the region. New country development strategies were more likely to focus on the extent and causality of poverty and the impact on poverty of development

growth strategies. While economic—and, in particular, agricultural—growth was still viewed as
essential, such growth had to be achieved in ways that lifted large numbers of the poor out of
poverty, and over a shortened time frame. During the later 1990s, this concern was
institutionalized in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) process in several countries in
the region. At the same time, such concerns also gave rise to interest in “livelihood security”
strategies (initially among the NGO community, but later throughout the donor community and
governments generally) intended to involve the poor in all aspects of program activities meant to
raise the economic and social status of the poorer income deciles of the populations throughout the
At present, there is growing consensus regarding the notion that development programs in Sub-
Saharan Africa should be increasingly focused on the agriculture sector as the premier “engine of
economic growth.” Research by Mellor and others on Southern and Eastern Asian economic
growth modalities seems to authenticate the centrality of agricultural growth as the major
contributor to overall economic development in countries like India, Indonesia and Egypt. Within
overall agricultural growth, the key role is played by “middle sector” farming households in
generating growth “multipliers.” Increases in productivity, incomes and expenditures on nontradables
by this particular group seem to be associated with the largest economic multipliers and
the most rapid spread of growth from rural agricultural producers to, first, rural non-agricultural
goods and services providers and, subsequently, to urban population groups—all linked to
increases of production in both non-tradables and tradables.
While this agriculture growth-led strategy seems almost certainly to be the appropriate priority for
future growth-oriented development programs in Southern Africa, there is, nonetheless, concern
that the rate—and particularly the spread—of growth might not operate within the same 8-10 year
time frame in Sub-Saharan Africa to lift the incomes of the poorer farm households which form the
vast majority of the rural poor in the region. The positive impact on the livelihood status and food
security might well be less, or take substantially longer, than was the case in Asia and North
Africa. There are a number of corollary concerns. First, is the concern that the size of the factor and
product market “multipliers” will be less, and the velocity slower, than in the studied country
experiences. The much higher percentage of households with minimal high quality land and other
productive assets might, through greater “friction” or inertia, serve to greatly slow or block the
spread effects of agricultural growth. There may, thus, need to be a corollary element in Sub-
Saharan Africa involving additional, more focused, livelihood approaches. Second, there continues
to be too little attention devoted to women’s roles in agriculture and their continued underrepresentation
in agriculture growth strategies. Third, the role of intra-regional and international
trade must be more effectively addressed than in the past. Fourth, the issue of appropriately
focusing agricultural research—either on the better-off areas or on food insecure poor
smallholders—needs to be resolved. Fifth, the real world problems of governance—in “fragile”
and, in some cases (the DRC), “failed” polities—adds complexity and difficulty to the already
daunting task of effectuating pro-poor, food security-focused, agriculture-led development
programs in many countries in the region.
In the “looking ahead” sub-section, the case is made that donors and governments should “buy
into” an agriculture growth-led development strategy for all the countries of the region. It seems
the approach most likely to generate broad and inclusive economic growth and increased
production and incomes generally throughout the populations—including the food insecure
poor—in Southern Africa over the longer term. The need for a second—livelihoods—element is
compelling, however, in order to more quickly enable the poorer smallholders and service
providers to participate at an early stage. This would add targeted efforts to assist communities in
the less well-endowed areas to create and maintain sustainable assets (e.g., rural road
rehabilitation and maintenance, small water projects, erosion control structures, communityowned
grain storage facilities, and similar physical assets). Such efforts would likely be managed
or assisted by local and international NGO development agencies and financed through food aid,
social action funds, and bilateral donor projects. Early involvement of small-scale farmers in export
crops—using the Malawi NASFAM model—is also proposed.
In its look into the future, the report focuses on the need to design and implement the proposed
agriculture-led, livelihoods-focused growth strategy with full cognizance of the importance of
confronting growing vulnerability of households to the adverse impacts of drought and other
shocks and the growing risk that these adverse events will occur at any given time. The food
insecure poor are made more vulnerable by the depth and pervasive nature of the poverty in
which they are increasingly enmeshed. It is one thing not to be productive enough to grow food
sufficient for household consumption; achieving food security is made even more difficult by not
having the cash income, assets, or social insurance networks to purchase or otherwise secure
enough food to prevent hunger and malnourishment.
Section 3 focuses specifically on what role RCSA could and should play in the agriculture growthled,
livelihoods focused, development strategy suggested. Recognizing that the bulk of the effort
will need to be undertaken and accomplished at local, community, and national levels, there are,
nonetheless, a number of areas where RCSA, with its regional mandate, can play an important—
and sometimes critical—role.
First, RCSA should “buy into” the agriculture-led, livelihoods-focused strategy discussed in the
body of this report as the guiding modality for a food security-oriented development strategy in
the region. Second, direct support should be provided for implementation of those aspects of
USAID’s AICHA strategy best dealt with in a regional context in Southern Africa. These might
include efforts yielding expanded regional and international trade, facilitating riparian rights
agreements for the use of increasingly scarce river and lake water resources, and investing in
cross-national evaluations of long-term effectiveness and impact of USAID and NGO program and
project approaches in generating improved employment, household income, food security and livelihood security. Third, RCSA should increase its focus on those aspects of USAID program design in the region that deal specifically with reducing vulnerability to—and the risk of experiencing—shocks, disasters, and calamities that affect multiple countries simultaneously, or sequentially, in the region. Whatever RCSA undertakes—within its regional responsibilities— should be designed to enable and facilitate the effectiveness of national and sub-national programs in achieving improved and enduring household food security in this highly food insecure region.

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