Original Research

Local worlds: Vulnerability and food insecurity in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa

Xolisile G. Ngumbela, Ernest N. Khalema, Thokozani I. Nzimakwe
Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies | Vol 12, No 1 | a830 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jamba.v12i1.830 | © 2020 Xolisile G. Ngumbela, Ernest N. Khalema, Thokozani I. Nzimakwe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 March 2019 | Published: 07 July 2020

About the author(s)

Xolisile G. Ngumbela, Centre for Transdisciplinary Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Fort Hare, East London, South Africa
Ernest N. Khalema, School of Built Environment and Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Thokozani I. Nzimakwe, School of Management, IT and Governance, College of Law and Management Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


The overwhelming finding is that after more than a decade of democracy, the Eastern Cape (EC) province remains trapped in structural poverty. This shows in all aspects of its demographic, health and socio-economic profiles. Methods, measurements and statistics vary, but from the various studies and data sets one can attest that the majority of the population still lives in poverty. Despite the democratic transformation that began in South Africa in 1994, poverty, unemployment and inequality exist today along with the food insecurity that is symptomatic of them. Food insecurity in South Africa varies across its nine provinces, with the EC province frequently measured as the poorest province in the country. This article examines the extent to which the EC can be defined as vulnerable to food insecurity by using a review of current literature. These vulnerabilities are compounded by the environmental vulnerability factors of climate change and drought, which affect households’ ability to grow food. The elderly and children are affected by life cycle vulnerability factors, with children prone to malnutrition and the elderly unable to work to produce food. Race and gender are associated with vulnerability to food insecurity. Most of the people in the EC who are poor and are African, and a high percentage of women-headed households is poor. The vulnerability factors identified suggest that job creation and agricultural productivity may be useful ways of targeting food insecurity. Interventions need to take local contexts into account and focus on particular communities and their unique needs.


food insecurity; vulnerability factors; poverty; unemployment; interventions


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