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Report on survey in Sekhukhune to pilot the development of a food insecurity and vulnerability information management for South Africa
March 2005
Department of Agriculture

Acknowledgements: FANRPAN acknowledges the following website as the source of this report:


This introduction defines some key concepts that informed the survey that was conducted as part of the pilot phase to establish a Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System in South Africa (FIVIMS-ZA) and provides a general description of vulnerability and food insecurity in the country as well as in the survey area in Sekhukhune.

A number of hypotheses were developed around livelihood strategies that appeared to be fairly common in Sekhukhune to guide the analysis of a very rich data source. These hypotheses were derived from a range of documents that were produced during the pilot process, which were referred to throughout the data analysis process. These have been listed at the end of the report and are available of the FIVIMS-ZA website (

Objectives and use of the FIVIMS survey:

The FIVIMS survey was designed to:

  • feed into a survey report on food insecurity and vulnerability in Sekhukhune,
  • identify key variables for the livelihoods / food security models that were developed as part of the pilot process, and
  • the integration of the field data into the system to complement or replace existing variables, which have been presented in various forms such as maps, tables, graphs, and short reports.
The main strength of the FIVIMS survey is that it allowed for wide-ranging analysis and for diverse hypotheses to be tested around the vulnerability of individuals, households or groups of people in Sekhukhune, to identify and characterise their livelihood strategies and to measure levels of food insecurity. The intention was to critique the questionnaire through the analysis of the data and reflections on the field experience in order to refine future instruments that might be used in a possible roll-out of the system across additional Integrated Sustainable Rural Development nodes and nationally.

The Survey Report:

The data has been analysed and presented in this report to enable potential users of FIVIMS to understand vulnerability and food insecurity in Sekhukhune through the description and characterisation of diverse livelihood strategies and the measurement of key food security outcomes.

Vulnerability refers to the full range of factors that place people at risk of becoming foodinsecure. The degree of vulnerability of individuals, households or groups of people is determined by their exposure to the risk factors and their ability to cope with or withstand stressful situations. Thus an analysis of risk factors in Sekhukhune and people’s coping strategies have been included in the report, particularly as this causal analysis will enable the future identification of actions to reduce food insecurity -information that is vital to policy-makers and programme designers intending to reduce food insecurity. The survey analysis will therefore contribute to the identification of structural causes of vulnerability (for example agro-ecological constraints for farming; inadequate and infrequent income, lack of assets and job opportunities) and provide measurements of vulnerability (for example through the percent of expenditures on food, which is a measure of vulnerability to food deprivation).

Food insecurity exists when people are undernourished as a result of physical unavailability of food, their lack of social or economic access to adequate food, and / or inadequate food utilisation. Using the survey, food insecurity will be measured as an outcome through nutritional status using the anthropometric measurements and, where possible, the food diversity within respondent’s diets. Thus the survey report presents analyses around the physical availability of food, people’s access to food (through diverse livelihood strategies), and their nutrition levels (to assess the adequacy of food access and the physical utilisation of food).

Identifying Key Variables:

The survey analysis also contributed to the identification of key variables for the livelihoods / food security models that have been developed by the FIVIMS team (both “supervised” modelling and “unsupervised” modelling using neural networks).

The identification of key food security and nutrition indicators in Sekhukhune is fundamental for the future monitoring of levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in the area, as the data is “refreshed” through future FIVIMS surveys or alternative sources of data. Thus the variables (measures) can be used to calculate within sub-national level (Sekhukhune) the prevalence of food insecurity and to monitor how these change over time. An attempt will be made to match the food data with various demographic characteristics of households to further enable the identification of who the food insecure are.

Integrating the data into FIVIMS:

The field data has been integrated into the system (FIVIMS) to complement or replace existing variables. This data has been presented in various forms such as the survey report and the models, and also through maps, tables, graphs, and short reports.

Given that food insecurity manifests itself at household and individual levels, the survey data are likely to be more reliable than those derived from data collected at more aggregate levels, as they are collected directly from households themselves.

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