The Lusaka Basic Needs Basket for July has been released. Associated press release below :
Press Release (7 August 2009)
ZAMBIA NEEDS TO FIGHT “CYCLES” OF HUNGER, SAYS JCTR
“Meeting the first Millennium Development Goal seems to be a far fetched dream,” says JCTR as the number of people suffering from chronic hunger and poverty in the world officially reaches an estimated one billion and twenty, the highest in the history of humanity. This is not surprising considering the recent shocks of the food and economic crises that has left the urban poor, who spend more than 60% of their income on food, more vulnerable. It is this same category of people that has been most affected by the job losses further undercutting their purchasing power.
While the global food and economic crises are at the core of higher poverty and hunger, Zambia has for a long time had a persistently high number of people who were food insecure. According to the 2006 Living Conditions Monitoring Survey, 51% of those classified as poor do not have access to adequate safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs for an active and healthy life.
Conventional wisdom suggests that access to food in both the rural and urban areas is affected by availability of food. “However”, says Miniva Chibuye, Coordinator of the Social Conditions Programme, “what is peculiar in most developing countries and indeed in Zambia is that accessibility and affordability of food varies according to season”. For example, the JCTR’s Urban Basic Needs Basket (BNB) has on an annual basis exhibited a clear case of reduced food prices, particularly cereals, in the post-harvest season. Conversely, the prices increase towards the end of the year as stocks deplete. Other food items on the urban BNB such as greens also exhibit seasonal price fluctuations depending on availability. The main non-food item affected by seasonality is charcoal, an alternative to electricity, which rises in price during the rainy season.
This “seasonality” of prices can be seen from the behaviour of the prices of food in the July BNBs. The overall cost of food in Lusaka for the month of July was recorded at K784,500 representing a nominal increase of K45,000 over the June figure of K739,500. The increase was influenced by the rise in prices of green vegetables, tomatoes and onions attributed to difficulties that arise with growing vegetables in winter. However, high prices have been compounded by the unrelenting influences of the unprecedented global food crisis. In Ndola, the cost of food was K837,210 in July compared to K825,170 in June while Livingstone recorded K805,950 compared to K791,550. Food items in Solwezi cost K804,450, K764,850 in Kitwe, K758,040 in Monze, K739,830 in Mongu, K728,690 in Kabwe and K721,200 in Kasama.
It is important to note that these figures reveal to us the extent of the challenge poor households are facing in meeting their basic needs. When the costs of housing, transport, energy, soap both wash and bath, etc., are added, the challenge becomes bigger. For example, the cost of essential non-food items in Lusaka was K1, 442,330 bringing the total BNB to K2, 226,930. This high cost of living plays an important role in exacerbating hunger.
The volatility and intensity of seasonal hunger is even more intense in rural areas. The peak hunger season – mainly September to February – leads to a reduction in food intake by most families. During this period, most poor households experience a combination of micronutrient and protein deficiencies, which ultimately leads to stunted growth in children and reduced productivity in adults. “These deficiencies have been confirmed by the JCTR’s rural basket research, which shows a low average calorie intake of 1,600 per person per day against the recommended 2,400 calories per person per day,” says Ms. Chibuye
Cyclical seasonal hunger is a phenomenon which needs substantial remedial action if chronic poverty in both urban and rural areas is to be reduced. Indeed, the JCTR Urban and Rural Baskets have shown that there is a high correlation between availability of food in rural areas and affordability in urban areas.
Clearly, meeting the first Millennium Development Goal is contingent upon government implementing policies that smooth effects of expected and unexpected hazards. The challenge therefore is to break these effects of seasonality by linking seasonal patterns to effective development plans such as investing in rural infrastructure.
It is our hope as JCTR that the National Constitutional Conference plenary will adopt the right to adequate food as part of the new Bill of Rights, along with other Economic Social and Cultural Rights. This will surely be a significant step toward guaranteeing the right to food for every Zambian, with priority given to the most vulnerable. “In realising this right, Government will be required to come up with concrete policies, national plans and strategies on attaining food security. Additionally, national budgets would have to clearly reflect that the right to food is assigned its appropriate place on the national agenda”, says Ms. Chibuye.
[For more information, contact the Social Conditions Programme of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection, P. O. Box 37774, Lusaka, Zambia; tel: 260-211-290410; fax: 260-211-290759; e-mail: email@example.com; internet: www.jctr.org.zm]