The aim of this study was to investigate the food availability, food choices and nutritional adequacy of household food in the study area. Both primary and secondary data were used in this study. The primary data was collected by using a pre-tested questionnaire administered to selected farmers in the study area and focus group discussion methods. A probability sampling method (that is, pure or simple random sampling technique) was used to select the respondents. From a total population of 3,236 small-scale irrigators in Vhembe District, 147 respondents who happened to be irrigation farmers were randomly selected while 43 dry-land farmers were selected adjacent to the selected irrigators. This study revealed that the type of carbohydrate food eaten most is the maize meal (pap) which is eaten seven times in a week by a large majority of the respondents (about 60%) out of 190 respondents, while very few eat other carbohydrate foods and only less than 1% eat oat meal few times in a week. This could be because maize meal (pap) is the staple food eaten in the Vhembe district. The study revealed that household food security depends on a nutritionally adequate and safe food supply at the household level and for each individual; a fair degree of stability in the food availability to the household both during the year and from year to year; and access of each family member to sufficient food to meet nutritional requirements. There is no significant difference in the type of food eaten between the irrigation and dry-land farmer households. Social factors and cultural practices in most countries have a very great influence on what people eat, on how they prepare food, their feeding practices and type of food they prefer. The likelihood of food security increases when farmers increase agricultural output and have access to a piece of land on the irrigation project. Therefore, with concerted support from government, and all stakeholders, food security can be enhanced at the household levels. Also, education and extension training are essential for farmers so that they are able to adopt new technologies. The study suggests that households that need to be targeted for food aid are those with large families, and those without access to irrigation projects. Also, to be included are those families with few assets, and those without access to agricultural land and implements.
Key words: Food groups, food security, nutritionally adequate food, coping strategy.
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