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World Food Programme C-SAFE

Community and household surveillance system (CHS): executive summaries for Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia

Food security and livelihood in-depth trend reports

May 2004

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To access the full Malawi report, go to:

Zimbabwe CHS trend report - executive summary

Purpose of Community and Household Surveillance (CHS) data

CHS data is collected quarterly by WFP and C-SAFE through a joint data collection exercise. In Zimbabwe, 39 sentinel sites have been established in 34 districts spanning 9 Food economy Zones. Data on which this report is based was collected between the 15th and 31st of October 2003 and provides information on the livelihood and food security status of vulnerable households in the preceding three month period.

The purpose of the CHS is two-fold:

  1. To compare the livelihood and food security status of beneficiary households with that of non-beneficiary households. This forms the basis of the CHS Outcome Reports.
  2. To identify and describe trends or changes in the livelihood and food security status of targeted vulnerable groups in the WFP and C-SAFE areas of operation. This forms the basis of a more In-Depth Report, and represents the content of this document.
Key findings

  • Household Composition

    The survey included 854 households and a total study population of 5,351 persons. Among the households, 34.5% were female headed. The average age of female household heads was slightly above that of their male counterparts (53.5 years and 49.9 years respectively). The average age of the whole study population was 22.5 years.

  • Average household size

    Female-headed households on average had smaller sized households than their male counterparts (5.6 and 6.6 persons respectively). Household size has implications for labour availability especially for agriculture. Members of male-headed households were at least 2 times more involved in agriculture (30.4%) than was the case in female-headed ones (14.7%)

  • Vulnerable groups

    Categories of vulnerability have been defined and form the basis on which WFP and C-SAFE target households. These categories are:

    • Female headed households1
    • Households with a chronically ill member
    • Households with a disabled person
    • Households hosting orphans

    In addition to these more obvious characteristics of vulnerability, a number of derived variables were computed to explore other factors that indicate an increase in household vulnerability. These characteristics included in the analysis presented in this report are:

    • Households with high dependency ratio
    • Households in the asset poor and asset very poor categories
    • Households (both male and female headed) falling into two or more vulnerability categories

    Based on these characteristics, the number of vulnerable categories that households fell into was computed. The difference between male and female-headed households was highly significant in this regard (p-.000) with 89% of female-headed households falling into 2 or more vulnerable categories as compared to just 39% of those headed by males.

    Overall, 60% of households receiving food aid fell into one or more of the vulnerability categories defined above.

  • Effective Dependency ratio

    Each household was assigned a dependency ratio classification based on its computed effective dependency ratio. Cut off points were determined and households classified as having high, medium and low dependency rates. More female than male-headed households have a high dependency ratio (44 % and 40% respectively).

  • Chronic illness

    Chronically ill individuals, for the purposes of the study, are those who have been ill for three months or longer prior to the study and are suffering from a recurring illness which results in loss of productive. This definition is used as a proxy for AIDS, and thus, includes mainly individuals with AIDS although a few with other long-term illnesses as cancer or asthma may be found. The majority of the study population (96%) was in good health. The findings showed that of those who were chronically ill, 1 in 10 was a household head and 52% of this chronically ill group fell within the productive age (15 - 64).

  • Asset wealth

    The asset wealth rank was assigned to households based on an average estimation of the total present monetary value of the assets they currently owned. Two thirds of households in the study population fell in the asset poor and asset very poor categories. There was no significant difference between male and female headed households in terms of their asset wealth.

  • Orphans

    Children (0 - 17 years of age) accounted for 54% of the study population and 31.4% of the studied children were single or double orphans. This means in effect that nearly one in three children is an orphan. Of the single orphans, the dead parent was nine times more likely to be the father than the mother. There was no significant difference between orphans and non orphans with regard to school attendance. School enrolment rates were over 75% for both orphans and non-orphans.

  • Primary economic activity

    Almost all households had at least one main source of income. Forty five percent of households had an additional second source. Income was mainly derived from vegetable sales (20% of households). Remittances and petty trade were a primary source of income for more female than male headed households (16.3% vs. 11.4% respectively). Male-headed households were more reliant on casual labour (both agricultural and non agricultural) than female-headed households.

  • Cereal stocks

    At the time of the survey, only 15% of households had any food stocks and a mere 4% expected to still have any stocks three months after the survey.

  • Food consumption and sources

    Maize, vegetables and oil/fats were widely consumed (50% or more households) in the study population. Food aid and own garden contributed to the previous day's meal in over 50% of the households. A third or less of households consumed sugar, meat, legumes, other cereals or fruit.

  • Coping strategies

    The most commonly relied on coping strategies (used 5 - 7 times a week by at least 60% of households) were; limiting portion seizes at meal times, reducing the number of meals and harvesting immature crops.

  1. The term "female headed households" implies absence of a husband or other man being the main decision maker, as generally in African tradition, the man is accorded this title, however 2% of households accorded the woman this title despite presence of a husband.

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