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Analytical summary - Food safety and nutrition

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Swaziland is primarily an agrarian economy and the right to adequate food is seen as a basic human right. This basic right however, has been constantly under threat in the past two decades. The decline is attributable to a number of factors which includes successive years of drought in the context of rain dependence food production; utilization of inappropriate agricultural technologies, limited understanding of the impact of climate change and the multidimensional impacts of HIV and AIDS. Maize production as a stable food and the most dominant crop has declined over the years as shown in figure 5.3.1.

figure 5.3.1.

The production of the staple food crop maize is used as a measure of availability. Food production for the country shows a declining trend from 2004/5 to 2006/7. In 2004/05, total production was 68,565 metric tons, declining to 46,604 metric tons in 2006/07. Although an increase to 70,672 metric tons was observed in 2008/09, this was not enough to satisfy the minimum national food requirement of 161,800 metric tons. (Cereal Food Balance Sheet, 2008/09)

As maize is a staple food, any shortage of it creates an increase in the proportion of the population that is below the minimum level of dietary energy consumption. As such, the country depends on food imports to overcome production shortfalls. The country also consumes significant amount of rice and wheat which are also imported from the region.

Accessibility to food in the country is based on what people grow, what they are given as food aid and/or what they are able to buy in the market to meet their food basket. Food aid has been a resource for the poor over the years. When production is low and the poor cannot afford to buy food, food aid becomes the solution. Annually more than 200,000 people needed food aid every year from 2002 to 2009.

The estimated figure above shows that approximately 20 -25 per cent of the population receive food aid from Government and Development Partners every year, except in 2004. The fact that food aid is given every year seems to suggest that a dependence syndrome has developed. Most of the time, food aid is given to people who have no other means of survival; and if that food aid is not given, some people may die. Maize prices are used as a measure of food prices in the country and can indicate accessibility to food by the poor.

The country also faces external factors that are likely to negatively affect food security for the foreseeable future. These include the reduction of remittances from migrant workers due to retrenchments, especially in export-oriented companies, and closure of companies as a result of reduced demand of goods from the United States and European Union markets. Climate change also poses new challenges due to the unpredictability of the weather and its effects on agricultural production.

In the absence of modern agricultural production methods well adapted climate change, it is estimated that there will be a reduction of up to 50 per cent in rain-fed crops. The country’s capacity to import food is also threatened by declining earnings for the Southern African Customs Union as a result of the prevailing global financial downturn.

According to the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) of 2008, 11.3 per cent of the population had the minimum level of dietary energy requirement when they examined the two categories of poor food consumption and borderline food consumption. Poor food consumption is the consumption of only cereals and vegetables on a daily basis. Borderline food consumption is the consumption of cereals, vegetables, oils and pulses, but with a nutritive value that is less than 2100 kilocalories.