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Food security in rural sub-Saharan Africa: Exploring the nexus between gender, geography and off-farm employment

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  • Dzanku, Fred Mawunyo

Abstract

How to eradicate hunger and achieve food security remains a key developmental issue, particular in countries south of the Sahara. Most of the empirical literature focuses on agriculture-based interventions although it is well known that rural households have a gamut of income generating activities that constitute their livelihood. This article uses panel data for six African countries to examine the association between off-farm income and household food security and tests key hypotheses that have not been previously explored. We hypothesize that the association between food security and off-farm income is neither gender-neutral nor the same for households living in low and high agroecological potential areas. Because a nontrivial number of households do not earn off-farm income, we also hypothesize that the food security effect of nonparticipation differs by gender and geography. The results show that although off-farm income has a strong statistically significant association with food security the correlation magnitudes are not as strong. However, off-farm income has a significantly stronger association with food security among female-headed and poor region households than it has among male-headed and rich region households in most countries. The gender-related result supports the notion that households tend to benefit more from women's greater control over resources than when such resources are controlled by men. We also show that nonparticipation in off-farm income is more costly, food security wise, for female-headed households and households who live in low agroecological potential regions than it is for male-headed households and those who live in high potential regions. The rural nonfarm sector in high agroecological potential areas tends to be associated with greater poverty reduction among female-headed households than among male-headed households. From a policy and development practice perspective, the results suggest that focusing rural development policies on factors that raise farm productivity alone (e.g., input subsidies) may not lead to gender-neutral welfare outcomes. This means that interventions such as rural nonfarm microcredit schemes that targets female-headed households or women in general could help achieve gender-equitable poverty reduction, as others have shown.

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  • Dzanku, Fred Mawunyo, 2019. "Food security in rural sub-Saharan Africa: Exploring the nexus between gender, geography and off-farm employment," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 26-43.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:113:y:2019:i:c:p:26-43
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2018.08.017
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