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Nutrition and food safety are interdependent components of public health and concern everybody, food security remains a serious challenge for many households in Africa and beyond. It has been evident that poor nutrition can lead to reduced immunity, impaired physical and mental development, and reduced productivity. Food security is the condition in which all have access to sufficient food to live healthy and productive lives (World Bank 1986). Food security is dependent on agricultural production, food imports and donations, employment opportunities and income earnings, intra-household decision-making, resource allocation, health care utilization, and caring practices. This essay is aimed at briefly discussing the factors that contribute to improving household food security.

The right to an adequate standard of living, including food, is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Food security should be a fundamental objective of development policy as well as a measure of its success. Household food insecurity affects a wide cross-section of the population in both rural and urban areas. The food-insecure socio-economic groups may include farmers, many of them women, with limited access to natural resources and inputs; landless laborers; rural artisans; temporary workers; homeless people; the elderly; refugees and displaced persons; immigrants; indigenous people; 9 small scale fishermen and forest dwellers; pastoralists; female-headed households; unemployed or underemployed people; isolated rural communities; and the urban poor. Increasing the productivity and incomes of these diverse groups requires adopting multiple policy instruments and striking a balance between short-term and long-term benefits. The choice of policies must be attuned to the characteristics of a country’s food security problem, the nature of the food-insecure population, resource availability, and infrastructural and institutional capabilities at all levels of government and communities. Breastfeeding is the most secure means of assuring the food security of infants and should be promoted and protected through appropriate policies and programs.

Yield is one of the factors that contribute to improving household food security as there is more food available, both for consumption and selling. The ratio of the total quantity of local varieties of maize harvested to the size of maize plots was used to measure yields since local maize is the main crop produced and consumed across these sites.

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Labor availability is an important determinant of household agricultural productivity and thus food security, especially in subsistence-oriented households, typically with small farms reliant on variable rainfall. Crop and livestock labor was calculated as the total number of man-days spent working on crop and livestock-related activities, respectively, (Jiggins, 1986: p17).

Assets, Land, livestock, domestic, transport, and productive assets affect food security in different ways. Land ownership has been shown to strongly influence incomes and livelihoods, and is highly skewed within villages across Africa, (Yamano et al 2003). Livestock assets contribute directly to food security by providing energy through consumption, and indirectly through the sales of animals and animal products that generate cash, the provision of manure, and draft power. Domestic assets such as radios, cell phones, stoves, among others. improve household welfare and assist in the exchange of information, thus facilitating decision-making.

Stabilize food supplies through adequate stockholding in the form of strategic food security reserves as a first line of defense in emergencies; improve post-harvest handling, packaging, storage, preservation, transport and distribution of food to reduce losses at all stages; enhance animal health and production possibilities including fish farming and attention to fisheries resources; ensure a stable supply of fuel for cooking meals; carry out research and introduce measures to improve production, utilization and preservation of indigenous and traditional foods; improve rural food processing technologies; increase marketing facilities at the village, cottage and industrial levels to smooth the food supply flow throughout the year; introduce a variety of cropping strategies, such as crop rotation, mixed cropping, biological inputs and planting of perennial fruit-bearing trees, and develop other agroforestry approaches; ensure an adequate supply of clean and safe water; promote household and community gardens; and ensure the sustainability of food supplies by employing production and marketing systems based on safe and renewable resources that protect the environment and biodiversity.

Conclusively, there is a need to promote better general and nutritional education to eliminate illiteracy and improve knowledge in the selection of a safe and adequate diet and of food production, processing, storage, and handling techniques at all levels, especially the household level. Programs should be directed at household leaders, with a particular focus on women, and should also include home economics education for both boys and girls. The awareness of men and women of the benefits of limiting household size and the advantages of family planning practices should be increased. The role of mass media in delivering positive nutrition improvement messages and eliminating harmful food taboos should be emphasized. It is important to develop and carry out public information campaigns to improve the quality of nutrition through better use of available food supplies by the households and to promote recognition of the fact that each member of a household should be able to share fairly in available food resources irrespective of sex, age or any other individual characteristic.

Reference

    1. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). (2004). Human energy requirements: Report of a Joint FAOWHOUNU Expert Consultation. Rome: FAO Food and Nutrition Technical Report Series No. 1;
    2. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). (1996, 2009).
    3. Freedman, D.S., Horlick, M. & Berenson, G.S., (2013). A comparison of the Slaughter skinfold-thickness equations and BMI in predicting body fatness and cardiovascular disease risk factor levels in children. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. Retrieved from: https:www.cdc.govhealthyweightassessingbmiadult_bmiindex.html on 3rd August 2021.
    4. Garrow, J.S. & Webster, J., (1985). Quetelet’s index (WH2) as a measure of fatness. Int. J. Obes.,
    5. Jiggins J. (1986). Women and seasonality: coping with crisis and calamity. IDS Bull.
    6. Ruel, Marie (2021). Food Security and Nutrition: Linkages and Complementarities. Retrieved from: https:www.nutrifacts.orgcontentdamnutrifactsmediamediabooksRTGN_chapter_02.pdf on 4th August 2021.
    7. World Bank (1986).
    8. Jayne T, Yamano T, Weber MT, Tschirley D, Benfica R, Chapoto (2003). A. Smallholder income and land distribution in Africa: implications for poverty reduction strategies. Food Pol. 2003

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