Exploring Statistics South Africa’s national Household Surveys as Sources of Information About Food Security and Subsistence Agriculture

by ALIBER, M, 2009
Research Report. Centre for Poverty Employment and Growth, Human Sciences Research Council

Aliber explores the usefulness of three Statistics South Africa surveys on household food insecurity and subsistence agriculture: the Income and Expenditure Survey, 2005/06 (food expenditure, food basket composition and dietary diversity); the General Household Survey (the nature and location of households experiencing hunger); and the Labour Force Survey (the involvement of black people in farming).The study finds that rural households provide significantly more of their diets through small-scale farming than was generally supposed. They spend about 15% less money on food per member than their urban counterparts, which can be attributed to unrecorded own production. Relatively more of this spending is on grain products, while their spending on animal products is relatively less. Between 2002 and 2007, the incidence of hunger decreased significantly, but this can only indirectly and weakly be linked to the increase in the number of farming households. A large proportion of households experiencing serious hunger reside in a limited number of urban and rural municipalities. Most live in formal dwellings in established settlements; however, a disproportionate number reside in informal settlements. More than half are eligible for social grants that they do not receive. There is considerable flux into and out of hunger, implying that food insecurity is more extensive than the figures suggest, because households who are not hungry in one year may well be hungry in the next. Wage income is a key route for escaping hunger, suggesting that the decline in the incidence of hunger cannot solely be attributed to the rollout of social grants.