Food Security

Food security is defined as "when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Household food security is the application of this concept to the family level, with individuals within households as the focus of concern” (FAO 2001).


Malnutrition is a narrower concept and is defined by inadequate food intake, which is influenced not only by availability, but also by education, culture, food preferences and disease. The World Health Organization recommends a minimum dietary consumption of 2 100 kilocalories per day, including daily protein intake of 56 g and 48 g for the average adult man and woman respectively. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines undernourishment as food consumption of less than about 1 900 kilocalories per day (FAO 1996). Undernourishment may lead to malnutrition, which reduces human well-being by impairing physical functioning, the ability to work and learn, and processes such as growth, pregnancy, lactation and resistance to disease (SAfMA 2004).

Food security in sub-Saharan Africa is compromised by declining household incomes, changes in land tenure and market access, and HIV/AIDS (SAfMA 2004). Although there is enough food produced in the Orange-Senqu River basin to sustain the entire population, poorer inhabitants still suffer from malnutrition and undernourishment because of social inequalities and disparities in income distribution (SAfMA 2004). In Botswana, the malnutrition prevalence (weight for age) for children under five was 10,7 % in 2000, 21,2 % in Mozambique (2003), 11,5 % in South Africa (1999) and 14 % in Zimbabwe (2006) (WDID 2009). Malnutrition among the poor can more accurately attributed to structural and social problems than to inefficiency in food production.

Food Security in the Basin

Limpopo River basin countries are net importers of cereals and meats with a small amount of livestock exports from Botswana and Zimbabwe in 2000 (IFPRI 2009). Food security is projected to improve overall by 2050 in the basin based on estimated calorie availability; however, as shown in the table below, the current situation will get worse before it improves.

Baseline projections to 2050 of country-level malnourishment indicators, per capita kilocalorie availability.
Per Capita Kilocalories Available
  2000 2050 2025
Botswana 2 181 3 327 48
Mozambique 1 999 2 606 715
South Africa 2 890 3 212 1 076
Zimbabwe 2 039 2 158 408

Source: IFPRI 2009

As seen in the 2002 southern African Food Security Emergency, erratic rainfall combined with an economic downturn, ineffective government policies, poverty and the HIV/AIDS pandemic can result in devastating food shortages. In order to avoid future food emergencies, such as the one experienced in 2002, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has developed a Regional Early Warning System through the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Department. This early warning system is part of the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), a collaborative activity designed to provide early warning about food security issues. Every six months, reports are published about food crop yields, supplies and requirements for the SADC countries by the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Directorate.

Subsistence agriculture forms an important part of food security - Kumalo West, Zimbabwe. Source: Schaefer 2010



Poverty and vulnerability are frequently associated and closely linked. Vulnerability includes both the likelihood of exposure to stresses, as well as sensitivity, which is the capacity to cope with such stresses (Watts and Bohle 1993). Poor people expend most of their resources on purchasing or producing food for subsistence living (Devereux and Maxwell, 2001 from SAfMA 2004). Pursuit of food security frequently involves trade-offs, such as reduced expenditure on healthcare and education (Boudreau 1998 from SAfMA 2004). This in turn further undermines the capacity of individuals to improve living conditions or increase their resilience to stress and shock; thus increasing their vulnerability. Enabling communities to break this cycle of poverty is the key to addressing food security over the long term.

Vulnerability is discussed in greater detail under Human Development Initiatives.

Dams can reduce vulnerability by regulating flow to provide water for consistent crop production. Source: Schaefer 2010


Current ongoing initiatives.

LIMCOM's current ongoing interventions being undertaken