Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Food Security and Insecurity in Tanzania: A Gender Perspective


Initially, in the early 1970s, the concept of food security concerned “the ability of countries to secure adequate food supplies”[1]. However over the years, this concept has been developed to include a focus on food security at local level” and all the way down to households and individuals. Food security can be defined as a situation whereby “everyone has at all times access to and control over sufficient quantities of good quality food for an active healthy life[2]”. The key elements of food security should therefore include: the ease of use of quantity quality food supply; and well as, prerogative or right to use food through purchases, swap and claims.

Food security is driven by these two key prerequisites. Households require food to be available near the homestead, as well as have entitlement towards it. There are obviously a number of factors that come into play in determining a household’s or a community’s access to food. These factors include immediacy to centers of production or supply, market forces, restrictions on buying and selling, and politics. These are some of the crucial determinants for food insecurity. Nevertheless, a household’s entitlements to food determine the ability of it acquiring adequate supplies. There are four types of entitlements that can further be derived: production based entitlements; own-labour entitlements; inheritance and transfer entitlements; and, trade based entitlements. Food insecurity is more pronounced when some or all of the above entitlements are unattainable to the individual, household or community. This is perhaps a point in place where gender differentials and poverty have a strong influence on which individual, household or community will be most affected by food insecurity. Definitions of food security by staff from the Same VECO office ranged from: number of bags of maize a household has after harvesting; financial reserves; number of livestock or poultry; possibility to survive at least one harvest failure; having more than one acre plot; having access to other food crops besides maize; and, having access to markets. However, some of NGOs in the district have defined food security as encompassing: sufficient access to land; sufficient income levels; good storage facilities; having options to drought problems; being independent from relatives; and, high food crop production. Overall food security was linked to sufficiency in maize production.

Gender Dimension of Food Insecurity

Gender relations at the household and community level have a direct influence in regards to: gender division of labour in production, management, and preparation of food; as well as gender differentials in regards to access and or control of food outside the home, or general access to and the management of resources[3]. Inadequate control over means of production and decision making makes women more vulnerable to uncertainties and risk in agricultural production. Insufficient access to land and labour limits the area cultivated, and hence denies women headed households increased productivity. Where men control the output and have a final say on it, “it is very easily misused on non-household beneficial expenditure like drinking alcohol, prostitution and many more”.[4]  Food insecurity may be higher in some households due to the basic fact that agricultural produce “is the only source of food and income for, health, clothing, emergency and education expenditures with little supplement from non-agricultural activities”.[5] In this regard, it is essential that an analysis of gender relations is executed so as to map how women and men, or male and female youths or children, fare as concerns food insecurity.

Food Insecurity in Tanzania

Agricultural system in Tanzania is largely rain dependent and highly vulnerable to climatic fluctuations (the norm since 1996), especially the semi arid and arid areas of central and northern Tanzania. Pitiable access to water and declining soil fertility are the main limiting factors to agricultural production. A large part of the country is considered semi arid. Weather patterns have of recent deviated greatly from traditional seasons, and remain to the best part unpredictable. Irrigated land makes up only 4.3 % of the total area. Nevertheless, agriculture accounts for 89% of water used in the country, and contributes not less than 50% of the GDP. Eighty percent of the agricultural production in Tanzania is undertaken by small farmers using simple basic technology.

Food insecurity in Tanzania has increased over the recent decade. Number of undernourished people has also increased from 23% to 40% in the past decade, with the average daily per capita calorie supply at 2’054 against the world average of 2’709. Severe underweight afflicts nearly 27% of the under five children, with 42% being under their rightful height.  Production of staples in the northern regions of Tanzania has been largely below average, with maize production being 69% under expectations. Cereal production in 1998 was at 3.8 million tonnes (e.g., 0.14 kilogrammes per capita), and the average yield per hectare was 1.21 tonnes. Yields have declined by 6.7% in the past ten years.

Although overall food production has increased by 17% since 1981, per capita food production has fallen by 19.7% due to a faster population growth rate. For a successive number of years the country has experienced drought induced food deficits. Household food reserves and coping mechanisms have been greatly affected, with a large proportion of rural households experiencing dire straits. Coping mechanisms at the household level are reduced to a few options such as: reduction on calorific intake; migration to other areas; and, sale of productive assets. More than fifty per cent of the population in Tanzania lives below the national poverty line (e.g., below $1 a day). The bimodal and unimodal rainfall patterns in the northern and coastal areas play a huge role in this demise. In June-July 2003 food insecurity in Tanzania was diagnosed at 77’490 metric tonnes (affecting more than 2 million people).

The 2002/03 farming season saw below average rainfall, with food crops falling between 30% and 50% in affected areas. However an assessment conducted by the “Food Security Information Team” in June 2003 in 52 districts, revealed that 70% of normal production was lost[6]. The national food balance sheet for the 2003/04 period shows a gap of about 502’000 metric tonnes of grain (the net harvests for 2003 are estimated at 7.69 metric tonnes as compared to 8.57 million tonnes in the previous year). An assessment undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in 72 districts showed that most households were to face food shortages due to the erratic rainfall patterns, until the June-September harvest in 2004. Food deficit of around 800’000 metric tonnes, or 10% of consumption requirements, was observed in a large number of districts during the 2002/2003 farming season. Price increases were the direct result of the deficit, with many poor households suffering. Sale of household maize reserves for cash to manage other household expenses aggravated household food insecurity in Tanzania.

Food Insecurity in Kilimanjaro Region[1]

The 2002 census figures show that the population in Kilimanjaro region was at 1’381’140 million inhabitants (whereas 713’284 were female). Population growth rate has dropped slightly from 2.1% in the 1978-1988 periods to 1.6% in the 1988-2002 periods. Total number of households in Kilimanjaro was at 297’439 houses, with an average of 4.6 inhabitants per household. Population density in the region is at 104 inhabitants per square kilometer, which is outpaced only by Mwanza region on the Mainland. About three quarters of the population lives in the rural areas with reliance on agriculture and livestock keeping. GDP earnings in Kilimanjaro region increased from shillings 1.9 billion in 1980 to shillings 72.8 billion in 1994. However in terms of per capita income, Kilimanjaro residents ranked 8th in the country in 1994, with 55’716 shillings (compared to Dar Es Salaam’s per capita of 197’000 shillings per resident). Life expectancy in 1988 was 59 years (with men living to an average 57 years and women to 62 years), and infant mortality rate at 92 in 1994. Literacy rate in the region was at around 95% in 1988. Primary schools numbered 701 and secondary schools were at 91.

The National Sample Census of Agriculture 1994/95 (Tanzania Mainland, Report, Volume III, April 1996), shows that out of 196’277 heads of household in Kilimanjaro region, 24’255 were women (12.3%). According to a World Food Programme report[2], Same and Mwanga Districts were the most food deprived districts in Kilimanjaro region in December 2003 and March 2004. Out of a total population of 327’945 people in the two districts (212’325 in Same and 115’620 in Mwanga), 57’838 (18% of the population), were facing food insecurity (34’819 in Same and 23’019 in Mwanga). The critical months were December 2003 and January 2004. Food requirements were estimated at a total 1’152 metric tonnes (694 tonnes for Same District and 459 for Mwanga district).

Profile of the Case Study Area in Same District

Same District comprises of about 5’186 square kilometers. The district is divided into 6 divisions, with 24 Wards. There are not less than 72 villages in the district (of which 16 are supplied with electricity or 1’497 out of 28’831 households in 1994). The 2002 census places the population in Same district at 212’325 inhabitants (up from 170’053 inhabitants in 1988), with 108’805 being female (51.2%). Population density was at 5.6 people per square kilometer in 1988. Number of households in the district was at 30’337 in 1998 (44’474 in 2002), with the average unit having at least 5.9 inhabitants (rural) and 4.8 inhabitants (urban). Nearly two fifths or 44% of the inhabitants have access to clean water. Rainfall in Same District averages at 500 to 2000 millimeter per annum, with temperatures ranging at 15 to 30 degrees centigrade. Up to 44% of the population in the district receives safe drinking water (38% of the urban population). There were at least 6 rivers and 52 traditional irrigation canals in the district. Half of the roads in Same District are classified as all-weather.

Agricultural activities and livestock keeping are the main economic activities undertaken by the majority of the inhabitants in the district. Maize, beans, sorghum, cassava, sweet potatoes, paddy, Irish potatoes, and bananas, are the main food crops grown by farmers in Same District. Maize is the most important staple food in the district, and widely used in making the staple meals of “ugali” and “makande”. However, the lowland areas of Same District do not receive sufficient rainfall to support the growing of maze, with only each third season‘s harvest being abundant. 

Persistent stubbornness by most of the district’s residents in sticking to maize is one of the main reasons for persisting food insecurity in the district. Sell of maize harvests is higher among poorer households than the richer, mainly due to the fact that poorer households have fewer alternatives for attending their immediate cash problems (e.g., cash requirements for school fees and uniforms, health costs, etc), and thus expose themselves further towards food insecurity, and both Njoro and Kisiwani Wards produce not too far from the district’s average yield per acre, which is 315 kilogrammes per acre (e.g., Njoro produces 283 kilogrammes per acre as compared to 333 kilogrammes per acre at Kisiwani). It is obvious that maize is therefore is at the very epicenter of the food insecurity problem in Same District. Coffee, cotton, cardamom, sunflower and sisal, are the other main cash crops. Two thirds of the Same District’s land area is taken up by Mkomazi Game Reserve (there are also Kalimawe and Ruvu Game Reserves), with not less than 11 forest reserves in the district. Livestock kept are mainly indigenous cattle (123’259 head in 1993/94), goats (110’893) and sheep (37’345).

Women and Agricultural Production

Overall the statistics in Tanzania show that there are 11’561’146 women (compared to 10’823’942 males), among the usually active population above 10 years of age. Agriculture is the mainstay for 84% of females as well as 74% of the males in the above categories. Nevertheless, traditional agriculture employs more than 13’694’935 inhabitants. Domestic help cleaner work, farm hands and labourers are the other occupations for most women (4.7%), and men (7.5%). Personal service work is the third main occupation for women, and poultry farming for men. Looking at the active employed population, it is evident that 88% of the women and 83% of the men are engaged in agriculture, followed by industry, trade and personal service.  Women dominate in housework related duties (66.5% of its workforce), and private traditional agriculture (52.3%). Men on the other hand dominated almost entirely in parastatal organisations (81.4%), NGO/party or religious organisations (76%), central and local government work (67%), and the private informal sector (59.3%).

On employment status, the survey showed that women had an upper hand as regards unpaid family helper (61.4%), and in own farm or shamba (52.3%). Men on the contrary were dominant in paid employees, self employed (70.7%), with employees (70.2%), and self employed without employees (56.6%). This proves that women were considered as unpaid family helpers, and men were favoured as regards work which carried financial remuneration. The overall mean income for women was 38’888 shillings as compared to 54’423 shillings for men. An earlier study by VECO Same, showed that average annual household income for high resource households at Kisiwani and Njoro Wards was between 1.3 to 1.9 million shillings while the low resourced households had between 346’000 to 379’000 shillings respectively. 

The study also showed that the high resource households earned more from sales of surplus produce (92% of the income), rather than sales of food (8% of the income), while the low resource households depended relatively more on sale of food crops than the well resourced families (44% of the income). The average daily income for the richer households in Same District was projected as being at USD $10.00, while in the poorer households, it was at less than USD $ 0.75.  Obviously this implies that most of these households live below the poverty line. Moreover, the poorer households were seen to spend more of their resources on the food budget, and thus left little else for other family requirements.

Roles and Tasks of Women in Agriculture[3]

It is undeniable that women in Africa are the backbone of agricultural production. Women account for 70% of the labour, 60% of the production, and 80% of food crop produced. However, their long term benefits from the sector remain vague. Role of women in agricultural production is largely misrepresented due to myths and sheer neglect to accounting for the value of women’s contribution. Women remain invisible to the eyes of most male practitioners, due to cultural and social constraints. Current gender blindness excludes women. Tanzania’s Agriculture Policy acknowledges the fact that women perform most of the tasks in crop farming. The policy reads; “It is estimated that the ratio of males to females in the agricultural sector is 1:1.5. Women in Tanzania produce about 70% of the food crops and also bear substantial responsibilities for many aspects of export crops and livestock production. However, their access to productive resources (land, water, etc.) supportive services (marketing services, credit and labour saving facilities, etc.) and income arising from agricultural production is severely limited by social and traditional factors.[4]

Decision Making and Property within Farmer Households

A pilot census carried out by the Central Census Office of the National Bureau of Statistics[5] in March 2001, showed that there were many more shared incidents of decision making between the sexes, with 43% of decisions being shared. Men dominated in deciding over aspects such as education of children (41%, compared to women’s 24%), and land use (39%, compared to women’s 25%). The only aspect where women had a relative domination was in regards to health care (27% to men’s 24%). As mentioned earlier, shared decision making was the growing pattern. Women’s participation in decision-making is found to be related to their access to resources as well as their role in agricultural production. Determination on who decides on what as regards selling, consumption, processing, or storage of agricultural produce, is undoubtedly based on elaborate gender relations between women and men. An earlier study by the researcher[6] illustrated that land is a scarce commodity in Same District, and therefore hotly contested between the sexes. The current 1999 Land Act and Village Land Act, aims at addressing some of these shortcomings by including provisions that demand consultation with women on jointly managed land properties as well as qualified representation of women in land tribunals.

Women’s Work Burden in Farming

Women’s burden in various activities at the household level emanate mainly from the imbalances in the division of labour between men and women. Data from central Tanzania, shows that while women performed 13 hours of hard work daily (with only 1 hour of apparent rest), men worked only for 7 hours (and rested for at least 3 hours). Women endure excessive burden in their daily lives because besides they have to endure both domestic and non-domestic obligations daily. Most women undergo what is considered as the second working day, which involves: processing agricultural produce, storage of crops, hewing water and fuel wood, and preparation family meals. Migration of male members of households in search of income earning opportunities has also placed more burdens on women, and further shifted the division of labour and obligations at the rural household. Increased responsibilities for women at the farm holding have pushed some women into non-farming income generating activities as a means to supplement their incomes. However, in most situations, women find themselves encountering increased work load in non-remunerative domestic tasks, without the accompanying transfer of entitlements that are necessary (e.g., access and control over factors of production).

[Extracted from a Report titled “Food Security and Gender in Tanzania. Case Study: Same District in Kilimanjaro Region.” By Edward Hiza Mhina. VECO Tanzania & GAD Consult. June 2004.]

[1]           Kilimanjaro Region Socio-Economic Profile, The Planning Commission, Dar Es Salaam.
[2]           Tanzania Emergency Operation Report 10313.0, WFP
[3]           Background: The Economic Position of Women in Agriculture and Rural Society.
[4]           The Agriculture and Livestock Policy, Ministry of Agriculture & Livestock. 1997. Page 3.
[5]           The Pilot Census for the 1999 Population and Housing Census. National Bureau of Statistics. March 2001.
[6]           Edward Mhina, Traditional Irrigation Improvement Programme (TIP) Gender Impact Study. September 1994. Page 43.

[1]           Helen Young, Susanne Jaspars, Rebecca Brown, Jackie Frize and Hisham Khogali. Food Security Assessments in Emergencies: A Livelihood Approach., page 3. ODI..
[2]           Ibid, page 3.
[3]           Ibid, page 73.
[4]           Ndiyo, D., and Urassa, J.K., Gender Imbalance in Agricultural and Non-Agricultural Activities and Its Impact on Household Food Security: A Case Study of Morogoro Rural.
[5]           Ibid.
[6]           Tanzania Emergency Operation Report 10313.0, World Food Programme, WFP.

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