Improve Household Food Security and Nutrition in Rural Areas

Improve Household Food Security and Nutrition in Rural Areas

In many rural communities and over-crowded townships in peri-urban areas, the unemployment rate is alarmingly high, and many families suffer daily from hunger and poverty. This negatively affects the early development of the children. Although some of these families receive some form of government grant and help from a school feeding scheme, they are not food secure and do not have sustainable livelihoods. The poverty and food insecurity amongst the very poor results in an endless cycle of malnutrition and poor societal and economic development. Malnutrition negatively affects all aspects of an individual’s life and households suffer long-term effects and irreversible changes because of poor nutrition in early life. Many people in these areas do not have access to a balanced diet and even struggle to enjoy at least one decent meal a day. Most families can only afford to purchase maize porridge as their staple food. The challenges of availability and access to nutritional food due to unemployment brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic have worsened the situation even further. The novel Coronavirus disease (Covid-19), climate change, conflict, and economic challenges are the main factors responsible for food insecurity.

Malnutrition amongst scholars is common and it affects their education negatively. Scholars are unable to concentrate for a long time on empty stomachs. Children’s diets are characterized by nutrient-deficient complementary foods. Cheaper foods with a longer stomach-filling effect, such as white maize porridge and sugar, are the most purchased and used. Hence, the children consumed very limited amounts of foods rich in proteins, minerals, and vitamins, which significantly increased the risk of their being malnourished.

The dire situation in poor rural and peri-urban areas supports the need for a rainwater harvesting program to alleviate food insecurity and poverty and increase the conservation of the natural resources in these vulnerable areas.

How to address food insecurity in rural communities

Production of various vegetables and other cash crops in homestead gardens is an important strategy in household food security and nutrition-enhancement in the local food system. Homestead gardening plays an important role in contributing to the food security status of poor households in developing countries, including South Africa. Effective water use at the household level would mean increased production of food, which may guarantee an adequate supply and open marketing opportunities for any surplus, thus allowing the poor to enter the agricultural value chain and earn an income.

In many of the areas where many poor communities reside, the production potential is low. This is especially true in areas with a semi-arid climate and marginal soils where most rain occurs in the form of heavy thundershowers, resulting in high water losses due to runoff. The lack of sufficient water has therefore prevented many villagers and smallholder farmers from growing crops and producing livestock, resulting in severe food shortages and loss of income. The situation is aggravated by the fact that municipal water supply in these areas is infrequent and taps often run dry for long periods, which makes it difficult to give crops in homestead gardens supplementary irrigation during periods of drought stress. The low and erratic rainfall patterns make crop production for own household consumption risky and unreliable. Furthermore, most households in these areas do not have an agricultural background and do not have the necessary knowledge, skills, inputs, and equipment to produce their food. However, by applying appropriate rainwater harvesting and conservation technologies it is possible to produce enough food to ensure household food security and to have access to an improved nutritional diet for both parents and children. This not only reduces the syndrome of dependency on government grants but also helps the vulnerable communities to sustain a viable livelihood, ensuring that the children and mothers of these disadvantaged communities can have a bright and productive future. The inclusion of school gardens will ensure that freshly produced crops can be harvested from these schools and supplement the National School Nutrition Programme. Land and water productivity in rain-fed agricultural areas can be greatly enhanced through rainwater harvesting and conservation technologies.The full article is for subscribed members only. To view the full article please subscribe. It’s FREE!Log In Register

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