Drivers of household food availability in sub-Saharan Africa based on big data from small farms
The analysis in this article (PDF) in PNAS uncovers the drivers for the variation in household food availability in sub-Saharan Africa. It suggest that targeting poverty through improving market access and off-farm opportunities is a better strategy to increase food security than focusing on agricultural production and closing the yield gaps. The analysis builds on data from 93 sites in 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, across contrasting agro-ecologies and calculated a simple indicator of food availability. The authors found that crop production was the major source of energy, contributing 60% of food availability. The off-farm income contribution to food availability ranged from 12% for households without enough food available (18% of the total sample) to 27% for the 58% of households with sufficient food available. Using only three explanatory variables (household size, number of livestock, and land area), the authors could predict correctly the agricultural determined status of food availability for 72% of the households, but the relationships were strongly influenced by the degree of market access. The authors state that their findings call for multi-sectoral policy harmonization, incentives, and diversification of employment sources rather than a singular focus on agricultural development. Recognizing and understanding diversity among smallholder farm households in sub-Saharan Africa is key for the design of policies that aim to improve food security.