Save the Children (UK) held a training in the "Household Economy Approach" to food and livelihood security assessments for staff from national and international NGOs and government agencies (the latter on behalf of the ZimVAC) from September 29th to October 24th, 2003.
The Household Economy Approach focuses on households' ability to access food and other basic services by investigating the sum of ways in which they get food and cash income, and their expenditure patterns. It analyses access to food and income by different wealth groups in a reference period, and then uses that as a basis for projecting the impact of various shocks to livelihoods on future food security and access to services.
As part of the training, led by experienced HEA practitioners, assessments were carried out in parts of two Food Economy Zones found in Zvimba district, Mashonaland West: the informal mining communities around Mutorashanga, and the A1 Resettlement areas. Food security was assessed for the reference period of October 2002 to September 2003, and then projections were made for the subsequent 12 and 6 months respectively in Mutorashanga and the A1 farms.
Mutorashanga Informal Mining Communities
Livelihoods for most households in Mutorashanga are dominated by chrome mining. Secondary food and income sources come from agricultural labouring on surrounding A1 resettled farms, wild foods and gathering, and various types of petty trade and self-employment. Since January 2003, food aid has played an important role, providing 40-50% of the food needs of the communities visited.
In the reference year, the poor and middle groups had food deficits of 0-10% of their minimum needs, while the better off group had no deficit. However, food aid accounted for a large proportion of the food accessed. A parallel nutrition survey carried out by SC (UK), found that the global acute malnutrition rate was 4.3%, which is consistent with the levels of food access found in the HEA.
Total incomes remain very low, ranging from just over Z$81,000 for the poor, up to Z$375,000 for the better off. The price paid to miners for chrome lags very far behind the rate of inflation. Real income continues to be eroded to such an extent that food and non-food baskets are less diverse than in previous years, even in spite of the support provided by food aid.
For the 12 months from October 2003 to September 2004, it is predicted that all groups will continue to have very substantial deficits, both for food and non-food items. The effects of hyperinflation combined with the infrequent and low rate of increase of chrome prices paid to miners will be the primary cause of the problems. Monitoring of key indicators over the coming year, however, will be vital to determine whether the assumptions made for the analysis in both zones, and therefore the conclusions and recommendations, remain valid.
Food aid will continue to be required for the poor and middle groups, and probably also the better off. Additional mining communities which are not currently included in the food aid programme but which face similar problems should be included.
In addition to food aid, to meet minimum non-staple needs it will be necessary to create or expand existing programmes, such as the provision of soap and/ or support for education costs.
Consultations should be held involving Save the Children, ZIMASCO, Zimbabwe Alloys and Government to discuss the long-term future of the mining communities in Mutorashanga. Specifically, what would be required to ensure that the income earned from mining provides an adequate standard of living for miners? As part of this, the role of food aid - upon which most households are heavily reliant - and other forms of assistance in keeping miners in extremely poorly paid employment must be reviewed.
As an alternative livelihood option, those households interested in pursuing agriculture should be considered for allocation of plots under the land reform programme, and for credit for the necessary inputs for the first year of production.
A1 Resettlement Farms
The situation in A1 areas is becoming more stable but is still somewhat fluid, and there are large variations from one farm to the next. Typically, an A1 farm can have up to 5 different wealth groups: unemployed and able-bodied landless - mainly former commercial farmworkers; and poor, middle and better off settlers. The latter are often also formally employed and do not live full time on the farm (and therefore could not be interviewed), but provide employment to others.
From October 2002 to February 2003, all groups struggled to meet their food needs. Poor harvests in 2002 left settlers with no grain stocks; maize availability in markets was a problem; and alternative foodstuffs were often unaffordable. Some food was purchased using income mainly from on- and off-farm casual labour, and from retrenchment packages for former commercial farmworkers. There was also quite a high reliance on wild foods at this time.
The situation improved from March as green maize became available, and then most settlers harvested enough to last an additional 5-7 months, in spite of only cultivating between 1-3 ha out of the total 6 ha available to them. For most settlers, therefore, at the time of this survey, grain stocks had run out or were remaining only for up to one month. Better harvests also benefited the landless, for whom maize became more available and affordable, and for whom agricultural labouring in exchange for food became more available. Different types of casual labouring remained the most important income source for the landless and poor settlers, while sales of food and cash crops became important for the middle settlers.
Overall for the 12 months to September 2003, the landless groups had deficits of 10-20% of their minimum needs; the poor settlers had deficits of 5-15%, and the middle settlers had deficits of 0-5%. Expenditure on non-staple foods and on non-food goods and services was very low. Most households could not afford secondary education costs, and access to healthcare was also limited.
In both zones, the difficulties in accessing adequate food and income were reported to have caused families to have engaged in a number of response strategies that are particularly harmful to children, making them vulnerable to sexual exploitation and exposure to HIV infection, and reducing their attendance at school.
Due to the high reliance on agriculture, at this stage of the season it is not possible to make projections of food security beyond the next harvest. Therefore, detailed projections have only been made for the period from October 2003 to March 2004 for this area.
In the scenario considered most likely to occur, the unemployed landless, the able-bodied landless and the poor settlers (who together are roughly estimated to account for 65-80% of the population) will have food deficits of 60-80% of their minimum needs. This translates into 3.5 - 5 months' worth of food, i.e. from November/ December 2003 to March 2004.
Donors and humanitarian agencies must apply the humanitarian principle of need and impartiality in implementing their programmes, and therefore must include resettlement areas in their activities where needs have been identified.
In addition to emergency food needs, however, it is also clear that there is great need for Government to address many medium- to longer-term issues if the land reform programme is to be successful. In particular:
A serious shortage of agricultural inputs and resulting lack of preparation for the coming season was reported and observed. This situation must be addressed immediately if the progress made last year is not to be reversed.
There is a need for re-stocking of livestock, and particularly cattle
Agricultural extension services need to be further supported, with particular focus on growing crops appropriate to the land, and on sustainable environmental management
Greater investment needs to be made in infrastructure in A1 areas
Former commercial farmworkers should be given greater consideration for formal allocations of land, as they currently face a real lack of viable livelihood options