The study was carried out in the uMzingwane District, a drought prone area in Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland South Province. Motivated by the protracted food insecurity and requirement for humanitarian food aid, it investigated whether availability of humanitarian assistance in the form of food aid has affected households’ responses and behaviour towards achieving their own food security. The District is characterised by frequent harsh droughts, resulting in high levels of impoverishment and food deficits, making it a prime target and perpetual recipient of food aid. The study therefore sought to understand if the vulnerable group feeding programme in uMzingwane had other negative impacts on beneficiaries. A qualitative method was adopted, using key informant and household interviews, in an effort to gather rich, genuine, descriptive and explanatory information on people’s experiences and realities.
The findings concurred with the general theoretical underpinnings of the study, pointing to the significant success of food aid programmes in sustaining poverty, but also revealed an array of other negative impacts. Food aid provides an instant solution to hunger but fails dismally in alleviating poverty. Beneficiaries find themselves waiting on food aid and some even demanding food aid, which has cultivated a culture of dependency and further perpetuated poverty. Furthermore, the beneficiary selection process is fundamentally flawed. It is used as a political tool by local leadership to exclude those not affiliated to the same political inclination. The selection itself follows a rigid application of criteria leading to the exclusion of deserving beneficiaries, creating tension and conflicts.
Food aid fell short in alleviating poverty, and it was suggested that it should be paired with other developmental initiatives, which would enhance self-sustainability such as improving the availability of water and environmental rehabilitation, which would enable significant local food production to mitigate food insecurity. Striving towards self-sufficiency, people were seen to engage in several negative coping mechanisms. These included artisanal small-scale mining which was very lucrative, but with devastating effects on the environment. Prostitution, which had been blamed for the escalating numbers of HIV infections also gripped the District. HIV on its own became a big issue, negatively affecting the availability of labour when households have to care for the sick, further affecting households’ ability to produce their own food. However, people also engaged in positive coping mechanism such as cross border trade and small scale selling in an effort to mitigate against food insecurity.
Dissertation (MSocSci)--University of Pretoria, 2020.