Interpreting Food Security Research Findings With Rural South African Communities

  •  Angela McIntyre    
  •  Sheryl Hendriks    


INTRODUCTION: The presence of concurrent childhood stunting and adult obesity observed in poor, rural, former homeland communities in South Africa appears to be explained by nutrition transition, but the factors shaping rural food security are still poorly understood. Localized constraints and capabilities are often overlooked by food security policies, strategies and programs. Grounding food security data in local contexts is often a missing step in the diagnosis of food insecurity.

AIMS: This qualitative study aimed to engage members of poor rural communities in generating a more grounded, localized understanding of food insecurity.

METHOD: Members of South Africa’s poorest rural communities were asked to validate and interpret food production, consumption and nutrition data from a three-year, multidisciplinary food security study, with the aid of graphic presentations to overcome literacy barriers.

RESULTS: Interpretations of food security research findings by communities revealed unique local experiences and understandings of food insecurity.

CONCLUSION: Engaging people in the joint diagnosis of their food security challenges generates information on the environmental, economic and cultural conditions that shape experiences of hunger and influence nutrition outcomes, which are not always captured by conventional food security analyses. More inclusive and participatory research could support the design of more effective food security interventions in marginalized rural communities.

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