The Assessment of Food Insecurity in South Africa

Research Report. Centre for Poverty Employment and Growth, Human Sciences Research Council

Labadarios et al. provide a synopsis of national data sets that may contribute to a better understanding of how food security is conceptualised and assessed in the South African context. A number of such data sets, with different parameters, have been used to inform policy and strategies aimed at addressing food insecurity – the National Food Consumption Surveys, the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information Management System, the General Household Survey, the Income and Expenditure Survey, the Labour Force Survey, community surveys and national HIV/AIDS surveys. The paper presents these surveys in a tabular format, highlighting their key indicators, target audiences, sample sizes, survey time intervals and primary sampling units. Each of these data sets addresses food insecurity in a way that reflects the survey-specific terms of reference, and has a unique methodological approach with varying strengths and weaknesses. In addition, each measures different dimensions of food insecurity. Given the nature of these surveys, the findings from these data sets differ. Comparing such findings, therefore, presents its own challenges. Based on the technical differences and/or the similarities of the surveys and their key findings, the paper draws conclusions and makes recommendations on the need for a more focused and integrated approach to measure food insecurity. Finally, and despite the potential for the better utilisation of the existing data sets, this review argues in favour of a more food security-specific approach in national surveys.