Predictors of Food Insecurity in Swaziland: Lessons from the 2015/16 El Niño Induced Drought

The National Food Security Policy (NFSP) 2005 stresses recurrent droughts and the high incidence of HIV/AIDS in Swaziland as the major contributing factors towards adverse food insecurity in the country. Consistently, when droughts hit the country, food production plummets and pushes a significant portion of the population into food insecurity. An investigation of the predictors of food insecurity among households during the 2015/16 drought provides information on the households that are prone to drought induced food insecurity, so as to inform food security risk mapping in the country. The assessment found that the most significant factors associated with increased food insecurity odds at the household level include households in the Lubombo region which is the poorest among the four regions. Households that do not have toilet facilities in their homesteads, those that depend on rainwater and boreholes as their main source of drinking water, as well as households that use lanterns or oil lamps as their main source of lighting are more likely to be food insecure. Another important factor that can be a good predictor of increased food insecurity during a drought is the ownership and use of tractors and hoes within households that depend on crop production as one of the main sources of food. The study also finds that the price of maize and rice is a good predictor of food insecurity among households, given that maize is a staple food in Swaziland. Finally, health decline and disabilities were correlated with high incidence of food insecurity in a household. If the price becomes too high due to food inflation during a drought, many rural households become significantly vulnerable to food insecurity. A major finding that cuts across all households in the country is that all monthly incomes above E1,000 significantly reduce the likelihood of food insecurity, with a monthly income of E3,500 being the optimal level of income for a household to shirk against extreme levels of food insecurity.