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An Individual Household Assessment (IHA) Approach in the Swaziland Lowveld Cattle-Cotton and Maize Livelihood Zone

An Exploratory Analysis Focusing on Food Access, Income and Expenditure

Swaziland Vulnerability Asessment Committee (Swazi VAC)

October 2004

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Executive Summary


Increasing numbers of households are not just ‘vulnerable’ but are experiencing ‘livelihood failures’ and ‘economic collapse’ -- this situation is particularly acute in the Lowveld Areas of Swaziland

Swazi VAC,
Annual Vulnerability Monitoring Report,
May 2004



Swaziland's rural livelihoods have been in crisis since the beginning of the millennium. The most visible symptoms are of a ‘poor’ and ‘depressed’ rural economy which is characterised by food insecurity and poverty at the local level. Since early 2001, the Swaziland VAC has repeatedly highlighted the Lowveld Cattle-Cotton & Maize Livelihood Zone as a particular area of concern. Livelihoods have suffered from a complicated combination of shocks that have detrimentally affected livelihoods of all socio-economic groups. Economic collapse and chronic poverty are the main attributions to the dire conditions facing many households.

This study presents the initial findings of a pilot survey of an individual household assessment (IHA). The Swazi VAC is piloting this tool as an alternative and more indepth approach to existing Household Economy Analysis (HEA).

The study was carried out with the participation of the Mamisa community located in the southwest corner of Lowveld Cattle-Cotton & Maize Livelihood Zone of Swaziland.

The aim of the study was to test and familiarise the Swazi VAC with the use of individual household economy methods and to:

  • better understand household and community vulnerability in a typical Lowveld area of Swaziland;

  • analyse the main features of the livelihoods in relation to assessed levels of food access;

  • analyse the relative vulnerability and socio-economic status within the community;

  • assess the overall quality/consistency of the evidence and,

  • provide decision-makers with enhanced information to support ongoing development strategies and interventions.
The IHA household survey describes and quantifies the components of food access, incomes and expenditures. A total of 137 households were systematically drawn using an unbiased systematic sampling method from eight CSO Enumeration Areas (EAs). Detailed demographic information was collected on all 958 household members.

Information gathered in the field has been selectively captured in a form ready for statistical and/or other analysis. These include all the demographic data and the subtotals of the core components of food access, income/employment and expenditures. There remains a lot of detail item-by-item information yet to be captured. This information will facilitate, among a number of possibilities, the assessment of a 'standard of income' - which is the expenditure of each household required to meet a defined standard of living and the generation of a measure of 'disposable income' (e.g. money available to the household after meeting their basic needs).

At this stage of exploratory analysis, the surveyed households have been stratified according to their total Kcal/Adult Equivalent/Day and then grouped into deciles providing an index of food access/well-being for ten stratified groups of households. Food Access/AEU/Day is compared with the threshold need of 2100 Kilocalories (Kcals), and an estimate of Income/AEU/Day is compared to the 1.00 US $/Day equivalent.

The reference year for the survey was September 2002 to August 2003, which was a period when the community was in receipt of Emergency Operation Programme (EMOP) food aid.


Highlights of main findings and recommendations
  • Agriculture’s contribution toward overall livelihoods and wellbeing is currently so low that even major leaps in productivity will contribute small changes to overall income levels. The promotion of agricultural production and recovery programmes should therefore not be the only component of a livelihood recovery programme.


  • Setting aside the recent phases of food aid deliveries, food purchases remain the most important part (30-48%) of total food access in this livelihood zone. The continued functioning and improvement of the food marketing infrastructure and services should be targeted for support and development.


  • The evidence of miss-targeted food aid and over supply, highlights the need to break away of the current mould of ‘emergency response’. Improvements in effectiveness and efficiency of a reduced food-aid programme could shift resources into recovery and development programmes.


  • At present, the Swazi maize industry is failing to either maximize national production or secure viable returns to producers. The national cereal balance indicates a growing dependency on imports, while better-off farmers in surplus producing areas of the Highveld and Middleveld, are apparently sitting on up to two years of unsold maize.


  • Where possible and appropriate, food aid budgets should be diverted to supporting market-based interventions and cash transfers. The best targeting systems should employ several critical elements, including: self-targeting under various food- or cash-for-work schemes, plus administratively targeted ‘free’ food or cash injections for those who are unable or cannot work.


  • The collapse of the cotton industry has contributed to very low levels of cash income, poverty and vulnerability. Along with the rehabilitation of the cotton industry, some form of cash injections into the economy could play a role in jumpstarting the longer recovery of the Lowveld economy.


  • Decision & Policy makers require guidelines on a wider range of options for intervention. These include the above and ways of facilitating access to land, labour, the creation of productive assets, support to non-farm employment and the self employed plus improved community-level ownership and management of local natural resource base in a more comprehensive sustainable livelihoods approach.




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