Community vulnerability to food insecurity : a case study of World Food Programme (WFP) Food Aid Programme in the southern lowlands of Lesotho
Thesis (MA (Public and Development Management))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.
Chronic food insecurity continues to be a major problem for rural poor households in Lesotho. This condition is caused by a number of factors including poverty, landlessness, and extreme land degradation, reduced remittances due to retrenchments from South African mines, closures of some of textile industries, the effects of HIV/AIDS and a significant decline in farming practices due to erratic weather patterns and conditions. All these factors have led to an increase in vulnerability levels. This is magnified by the rapid erosion of traditional coping mechanisms, a situation that has consequently left communities unable to respond to any form of disaster. The primary aim of this research was to investigate the community vulnerability to food insecurity in the Southern Lowlands and review the World Food Programme (WFP) food aid programme in the same area. The research addressed the questions such as the causes of food insecurity in the Southern Lowlands; and social protection initiatives that are being implemented by WFP to address food insecurity. The research revealed that WFP has been distributing food aid to the vulnerable households in the Southern Lowlands since 2002. These households belong to categories such as households hosting orphans and vulnerable children, chronically ill persons and physically disabled persons; female-headed households; elderly-headed households; child-headed households; and expectant and nursing mothers. In addition to these categories, WFP implemented food for work activities in which vulnerable households with able-bodied persons worked in to receive food aid. The research found evidence of chronic livelihood failure in the Southern Lowlands. This failure renders it increasingly difficult for households vulnerable to food insecurity to develop and maintain sustainable livelihoods. In particular, the research revealed that, a large proportion of households (53%) are at risk of food insecurity in the Southern Lowlands; the majority of vulnerable households did not hold any cereal stocks remaining from the immediate post harvest period; chronic illness, unemployment and erratic weather patterns are causes of food insecurity in the Southern Lowlands. As means of coping strategies, most households adopt various strategies such as switching expenditure patterns; reducing number of meals per day; kingship support; selling of livestock; and searching for casual labour opportunities. Food aid has improved the livelihoods and quality of life of the beneficiaries especially the chronically ill people. While some food for work activities such as building of toilets and water taps have been very helpful, others such as tree planting were not embraced by some of the beneficiaries and finally food aid promotes dependency among its beneficiaries and nursing mothers intentionally starve their children in order to stay in the programme. The two significant challenges in the distribution of food aid were found to be food pipeline break and the beneficiary selection criteria. The findings therefore generate the conclusion that although there seems to be an improvement in food access by households benefiting from the food aid programme, there is no evidence that those households will continue to access food in the absence of food aid. In essence, the absence of social food security foundation, executed in tandem with food aid interventionist measures, does not realistically augur well for the future. This conclusion comes from the finding that food for work activities which are more likely to generate income for the vulnerable households are not sustainable because the discussions further revealed that these activities have been imposed on the beneficiaries, without the coownership corollary that partners the communities with food aid agencies such as WFP. It is therefore recommended that development agents should not determine the developmental projects/programmes within the communities. The process should be interactive and should not be done in isolation but in mutual social learning and capacity building process as both parties (development agents and the beneficiaries) learn from each other and manage to develop a reciprocal relationship and partnership that will eventually reap sustainable outcome. It is therefore concluded that, the food aid programmes failed to offer sustainable social safety nets to the beneficiaries. The research hypothesis that there is no clear exit strategy in the implementation of the food security interventions and that there are no sustainability and continuity measures that were put into place by WFP remains valid.