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"Locusts are now our beef": Adult mortality and household dietary use of local environmental resources in rural South Africa
August 2007
Lori M. Hunter, Wayne Twine, Laura Patterson

Acknowledgements: FANRPAN acknowledges informaworldTM as the source of this publication: www.informaworld.com


Published in: Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, Volume 35, Issue S69 August 2007 , pages 165 - 174

Abstract

There is currently a lack of research on the association between demographic dynamics and household use of natural resources in rural Africa. Such work is important because in rural Africa natural resources buffer households against shocks, offering both sustenance and income-generating potential. Aims: The article focuses on adult mortality as a household shock, examining use of local environmental resources as related to household dietary needs. Methods: The authors analyze two sources of data collected during May–December 2004 in theMRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt) in rural South Africa. Quantitative analyses use survey data from 240 households, stratified by adult mortality experience. Qualitative data are based on 31 interviews with members of households having recently experienced adult mortality. Results: The interviews provide insight into a variety of household-level mortality impacts and also suggest the importance of proximate resources in the maintenance of food security following the loss of an adult household member. Quantitatively, there are significant differences, both in patterns of usage of the natural environment and in levels of food security, between households that have lost an adult and those that have not. The association between mortality and household use of local environmental resources is further shaped by the gender of the deceased and the time elapsed since the death. Conclusions: Adult mortality, particularly the death of a male wage-earner, affects household food security. Time allocation is affected as resource collection responsibilities shift, and wild foods may substitute for previously purchased goods.

Footnotes:
  1. Institute of Behavioral Science, Program on Environment and Society, Department of Sociology, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA.
  2. MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt), School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.
  3. Centre for African Ecology, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.

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