Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Comparing Objective and Experiential Indicators of Household Food Insecurity in Zimbabwe

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 1:45 PM
Brickell Center (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Garima Bhalla, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Sudhanshu Handa, UNICEF
While progress has been made, 805 million people are still chronically undernourished, and one in four people remain undernourished in sub-Saharan Africa (FAO, 2014).  Cash transfer programs, which have also fast expanded in this region in the last decade, address this problem of food insecurity. Food insecurity is a multi-dimensional construct and there exist several indicators that measure different domains of this construct. In recent years, there has been a shift in focus from objective to subjective measures, to recognize the experiential aspect of the disinvestment process that leads to the condition of being hungry. This paper analyses the relationship between objective and experiential indicators of food insecurity in the context of a national cash transfer program in Zimbabwe. We use longitudinal data collected for the evaluation of the Harmonized Social Cash Transfer (HSCT) Program. The HSCT is an unconditional cash transfer program targeted to ultra-poor households who are food poor and labor constrained. The program was introduced in 2011 by the Government of Zimbabwe, and is intended to become the country’s primary social protection program. Eligible households receive cash payments every two months ranging from US$20 - $50 based on household size. Our sample comprises of over 3000 households in 90 wards across six districts. Three of these districts comprise the treatment group, where the HSCT payments have been initiated, and the remaining three form the comparison group since they do not begin receiving transfers during the study time period. Comparison wards were selected to match the treatment wards by culture, level of development and agro-ecological characteristics. Data was collected through a detailed household survey, conducted at baseline and 12-month follow-up.  In this paper, we compare the standard 9-item Household Food Insecurity Scale (HFIAS) scale with other proximate determinants of food insecurity.  The HFIAS may be providing us with important information about households’ anxieties/worries about future food consumption, rather than present food expenditure. We investigate: 1) whether an increase in income (through the HSCT) leads to a change in the severity of food insecurity, and 2) whether the impact of the cash transfer on food insecurity score is significantly associated with impacts on other related indicators such as food expenditure. Gaps between the two measures may point to two different sets of specific policy actions