Monash University
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An empirical analysis of aspects of food security in Zimbabwe

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posted on 2017-03-01, 23:26 authored by Marembo, Miriam Haatsari
At the World Food Summit held in Rome in 1996, world leaders reaffirmed the right of each and every individual to have access to safe and nutritious food and to be free from hunger. The quest since then has been to halve the hungry population by 2015. To this effect, various measures aimed at improving food availability, accessibility, utilisation and stability at individual, national and global levels have been taken. Currently, capacity building interventions are being promoted as a more sustainable way of improving food security. Capacity building projects encourage the beneficiaries to utilise locally available resources to improve their food security. Whilst progress has been evident in other regions, regions like South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are still lagging behind. A challenge thus remains of alleviating hunger in these two regions as the deadline for the attainment of the goal of halving the hungry population is fast approaching. This thesis analyses various aspects of food security in Zimbabwe, a country in Sub-Saharan Africa. Firstly, the relationship between short-term (BMI-for-age) and long-term (height-for-age) child health is assessed for children below the age of five years. Secondly, the contribution of maternal nutrition (denoted by the mother’s BMI) towards a child’s short-term nutrition (denoted by the child’s BMI z-score) is explored. Thirdly, this thesis assesses the merits of a capacity building project, the Smallholder Drip Irrigation Project, in alleviating household food insecurity in Mutasa and Mutoko districts of Zimbabwe. Two areas are examined; the determinants of dropout rates from and the duration a beneficiary lasts in smallholder drip irrigation projects and whether the project’s main goal of improving household food security was achieved. This thesis adds to existing literature on the relationship between short-term and long-term child health by using the Demographic and Health Survey data to assess this relationship for a poor country, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s main challenge is that of underweight children as opposed to overweight children who have been the focus of most of the studies on the relationship between BMI and height. The results show that there is a robust negative relationship between BMI-for-age and height-for-age for children below the age of 5 years. This means that taller children (better long-term health) are more likely to be underweight (poor short-term health). In terms of policy, this result implies that targeting food insecure children using the BMI-for-age measure, as is the current practice will result in the selection of children with better long-term health. For Zimbabwe, the prevalence of stunting (low-height-for-age) compared to being underweight (low BMI-for-age) is higher. Thus if BMI-for-age is used, some children with poor long-term health may be left out. Policies aimed at targeting the food insecure should therefore consider incorporating the height-for-age measure as part of their targeting criteria. Existing literature on the impact of maternal BMI on a child’s BMI mostly incorporates maternal BMI as an explanatory variable for child health. This thesis adds to the existing literature by modelling this relationship for using a nationally representative dataset from the Demographic and Health Survey. In addition, potential endogeneity or simultaneity bias arising from unobservable household factors that affect both the mother and the child’s BMI is accounted for. The results reveal that maternal BMI has both a direct and indirect positive influence on a child’s BMI. This implies that programs aimed at improving maternal nutrition for mothers who are not pregnant or lactating will also directly improve the child’s nutrition. So in addition to existing programs targeting the nutrition of pregnant and lactating mothers, nutrition based programs for other mothers with children below the age of 5 will be beneficial to both the mother and the child. Very little literature is available on the merits of capacity building projects in improving food security. For the smallholder drip irrigation project implemented on a large scale in Zimbabwe, available literature points out that dropout rates were quite high. This thesis adds to the literature by using data from the Smallholder Drip Irrigation Survey (conducted by the author) to examine why beneficiaries dropped out of the project. In addition the thesis also explores the factors that influence the duration a beneficiary lasts in the drip irrigation project. The results obtained indicate that timing of receipt of the drip kit, yield increases in vegetables and better socio-economic status significantly reduce chances of dropping out of the project and increase the time the beneficiary remains in the project. On the other hand, yield increases, experiencing water problems and the beneficiary’s age increase chances of dropping out of projects and have a negative impact on the duration a beneficiary lasts in the project. These results can be incorporated in improving the implementation of smallholder drip irrigation projects as well as other capacity building projects in Zimbabwe. The results of this thesis also suggest that the main impact of the smallholder drip irrigation program on household food security in Mutasa and Mutoko districts was through a reduction in the number of coping strategies used by the household. Dropping out had no significant impact on a household’s dietary diversity score, in spite of the project aiming to increase household food diversity.


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Principal supervisor

Brett Inder

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Econometrics and Business Statistics


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Business and Economics

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