Msunduzi ‘severely food insecure’

2013-02-01 00:00

RESEARCH into 11 southern African cities has found that Pietermaritzburg is one of the most ffood insecure cities.

“While all cities have some households receiving food aid, the greatest number are in Msunduzi, one of the most food insecure cities in the survey,” the study said.

The study was conducted by University of Cape Town’s African Food Security Urban Network to gauge food insecurity among the poor urban households in Msunduzi, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Windhoek, Gaborone, Maseru, Manzini, Maputo, Blantyre, Lusaka and Harare.

The study also found that about four out of five poor urban households do not have enough to eat at any given time.

Johannesburg had fewer food insecure household at 42% than any other sampled city — Maseru, Manzini, Lusaka and Harare, which recorded food insecurity levels at 90%.

“Even Cape Town [80%] and Msunduzi [87%] have higher than average levels of food insecurity despite South Africa being the wealthiest country in the region with an extensive social protection system,” it said.

The study found that poorer households in their sample — 53% of them headed by women in Msunduzi — spent the greater portion of their income on food.

“In a number of cities over half of households’ expenditure is on food, including Harare [62%], Cape Town [55%], Lusaka [54%], Maputo [53%] and Msunduzi [52%],” said the study.

While poor families bought food from supermarkets and the informal sector, they also survived by growing their own food and depended on “coping strategies” that included food aid, receiving food from neighbours and using community food kitchens.

There were some that relied on “food transfers” — food from households living elsewhere.

“Of 129 households in Msunduzi, 23 received food transfers,” said the study.

The study said of sampled households, 60 were “severely food insecure”.

The researchers said that dealing with urban food poverty would be a major policy and development challenge to cities and governments in the Southern African Development Community in coming decades.

The Gift of the Givers Foundation manager in KZN, Salim Sayeed, said the work by his organisation in Msunduzi had shown high levels of poverty in the informal settlements where the relief organisation helps people after disasters.

“All those areas are poor. Most of them are unemployed,” he said, and most of the people the organisation helped depended on casual jobs for a living.

Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa) said it agreed with broad conclusions of the study.

“A significant proportion [up to 60%] of households in the city cannot afford to buy a basic basket of food for their families, or if they can then very little money is available to buy anything else,” said Julie Smith, a researcher at Pacsa.

She said a majority of the city’s population faced food insecurity and that all projections were that the situation would worsen significantly.

“Ensuring that poor households have sufficient, nutritious and affordable food must be the main priority of the municipality,” said Smith.

Msunduzi Municipality manager Mxolisi Nkosi said he was unaware of the report.

“For one to make a comprehensive response, we will need to have a look at the research.”

However, Nkosi said he did not think that the municipal area was any different from other parts of the province and the country when it came to levels of poverty.

• mayibongwe.maqhina@

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