Household Food Insecurity & Survival in Harare: 2008 and Beyond

2014, Urban Forum 25: 207-216.

In 2008, Zimbabwe was in crisis, with an economy in ruins and a volatile political environment. The country’s GDP had contracted by over 40 % since 2,000 level; the official unemployment rate was over 80 %; hyperinflation was running at over 200 million percent; and food production deficits of the staple crop, maize, hovered around 1,000,000 tons. Within this hyperinflationary environment, food shortages were acute, and over 80 % of households in the country survived on less than US$2 per day. While this deleterious environment affected the whole country, the vulnerability of the urban poor to the economic meltdown and food insecurity was especially severe given their heavy reliance on food purchases and increases in other urban expenses such as rent, electricity, and transport. This paper assesses the vulnerability of poor households to food insecurity in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, under the crisis conditions and beyond. It argues that while the ushering in of the Government of National Unity in 2009 stabilized the political and economic situation by bringing down inflation, introducing a multi-currency regime, and improving the food supply, the general livelihoods of the poor did not drastically improve. The food security challenges facing poor urban households in Harare did not immediately improve for reasons that are discussed in the paper. The analysis is based on a comparison of data from two household surveys conducted in Harare, the first at the height of the crisis in 2008 and the second in 2012.

Godfrey Tawodzera