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Developing a statistical index - The Household Vulnerability Index (HVI) - for quantifying vulnerability as a means of improving targeting of impact responses
2006
Southern Africa Trust


Summary of project

  1. FANRPAN is undertaking a research on developing a statistical index - the Household Vulnerability Index (HVI) - for quantifying household vulnerability as a result of the impact of the HIV and AIDS pandemic on agriculture and food security. Preliminary work on the theory, dimensions and preliminary findings of the HVI was done as part of the advanced analysis of the FANRPAN's regional study on the impact of HIV and AIDS on agriculture and food security - but because the original study design was not specifically targeted at the HVI - some gaps exist which need to be addressed. FANRPAN would, thus, like to re-run a study specifically targeted at developing the HVI. The re-run study will be conducted in three countries: Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe - where the preliminary findings were significant. Most vulnerability assessments, to date, have not been done using a statistical index - hence making targeting of responses rather difficult.

    The use of an index to quantify vulnerability will revolutionise the entire understanding of household vulnerability in the region. Indices are useful tools in development planning and policy development because they provide a yard-stick for determining the extent of certain social challenges and thus make it possible to measure the progress of a particular development strategy or policy on a linear scale. The World Bank uses the consumption-expenditure based absolute poverty index to determine the level of poverty of an individual or household or country. An individual or household is, thus described as poor if they are unable to consume goods equivalent to 1US$ a day. The UNDP includes social and cultural factors in this index to describe the level of human development in a particular country using the Human Development Index (HDI). Roger Plant, 1987, used the Role Effectiveness Index (REI) to assess the role effectiveness of individuals within an organisation. The Household Vulnerability Index (HVI) will quantify household vulnerability.

    The preliminary work done on the index, as part of the advanced analysis for the FANRPAN regional study, suggests that from the HVI computations, it is possible to categorize the "affected" households according to, at least, 3 different degrees of vulnerability:

    1. Vulnerability level 1 = Coping level Households (CLH) - a household in a vulnerable situation but still able to cope;
    2. Vulnerability level 2 = Acute level households (ALH) - a household that has been hit so had that it badly needs assistance to the degree of an acute health care unit in a hospital. With some rapid-response type of assistance the family may be resuscitated;
    3. Vulnerability level 3 = Emergency level Households (ELH) - the equivalent of an intensive care situation - almost a point of no return - but could be resuscitated only with the best possible expertise.

    This index will, thus, be a very useful tool in developing social protection policy for vulnerable households under different categories of vulnerability. Development and relief packs will be developed based on these indices to support and resuscitate households in the different categories. These packs would be linked to a monitoring process tracking how households graduate or deteriorate from one level to another.

    In the preliminary work, the theoretical framework of the Role Effectiveness Index (REI) was adopted for determining the dimensions of the Household Vulnerability Index (HVI). Seventeen (17) livelihood dimensions were identified as critical in quantifying the vulnerability of households as a result of the impact of the HIV and AIDS epidemic on agriculture and food security. The 17 dimensions identified fell in 8 categories: Human capital, Financial Capital, Physical Capital, Social Capital, Natural capital, Household Production Systems, Household Consumption and Expenditure patterns, and Household Food and Nutritional Security. FANRPAN would, thus, want to conduct a quantitative and qualitative study tracking variables specific to these dimensions - and use the findings to test the viability of the HVI.

    FANRPAN would also like to test the model for computing the HVI, constructed in the preliminary work, which takes on from the work originally proposed by Costa (2002) on a multi-dimensional approach to measuring poverty. The quest for the exercise, as was the case in the work by Costa, 2002, is to quantify the multi-dimensional aspects of the impacts of a health problem on a household. FANRPAN's specific quest will be to assess the vulnerability introduced, at the household level, by the impact of HIV and AIDS on agriculture.


  2. Relevance to regional level priorities for poverty reduction

    In Southern Africa - the worst affected region in the world, HIV/AIDS represents a severe development crisis. According to UNAIDS, 2003, even if exceptionally effective prevention, treatment and care programmes take hold immediately, the scale of the epidemic means that the human and socio-economic toll will be massive for many generations.

    The proposed index will contribute greatly to improving the assessment and quantification of vulnerability - especially at household level. The use of "vulnerability" as an absolute status - for example by simply describing chronically ill or female-headed households or orphans as vulnerable groups should be avoided. Vulnerability should especially not be used synonymously with need. Vulnerability ought to reflect the likelihood of a particular outcome arising for that group in the future. The proposed statistical index will reduce the current generalizations - and place households in categories based on a set of variables within defined livelihood dimensions.

    This will provide excellent basis for the effective design and targeting of social protection and safety net programmes for mitigation of impacts. It is important, though, that "social protection" be perceived in its broader sense that emphasizes a "longer-term development approach" along with "social assistance and insurance". The uniqueness of this index lies in the fact that it will be possible to monitor the graduation of households to better levels over a given period.


  3. "New light" to Regional Dimensions of Poverty and Inequality

    The poverty and food security crisis in Southern Africa - is increasingly being understood as a "vulnerability crisis". The total livelihoods outcome - needs to be understood in terms of increasing levels household vulnerability - which are, in turn, reducing the "resilience" of households. The HVI will shed new light on the different degrees of household vulnerability, which will facilitate the design of tailor-made development and relief packages for the different categories. The package design will have a built in monitoring plan for ensuring that the households graduate to better levels.


  4. Added Impact from Regional Approaches over and above what can be achieved at national level

    The added value of the proposed index lies in improving the regional early warning system on the impact of HIV and AIDS on agriculture and food security. If this index is adopted, it will be possible to determine the current levels of vulnerability - and be able to model projections for different scenarios. Early warning systems have worked well from a regional perspective.


  5. Multi-country research linkages

    The initial work on the index was undertaken in seven study countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The proposed follow up study will be done in Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland.


  6. Drawing from Research capacity in the Region

    The FANRPAN study on the impact of the HIV and AIDS pandemic in the SADC region was carried out by researchers from the universities that host the various FANRPAN nodes. The follow up study on the index will be undertaken using the same researchers from universities in the region. In Lesotho the study will be led by the Department of Social Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work, National University of Lesotho. In Swaziland it will be led by the Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Swaziland. In Zimbabwe, it will be led by the Dept. of Agric Economics, University of Zimbabwe.


  7. Link to policy Processes

    The study on quantifying vulnerability will be closely linked to the Early Warning and Vulnerability Monitoring Systems of SADC Disaster Preparedness strategy. The study will highlight the need to monitor the impacts of HIV and AIDS with similar seriousness accorded to drought and other natural disasters. The study will seek collaboration with the FEWSNET VAC system. The study will also develop links with the component of Strengthening Vulnerability Monitoring Systems of DFID's Hunger and Vulnerability Programme.


  8. Driven by or supportive of existing areas of stakeholder action

    FANRPAN is a regional network whose policy research and analysis is based on strategic multi-partner institutional arrangements that ensure high quality research outputs. The proposed study will be undertaken in collaboration with Michigan State University (www.aec.msu.edu) that has been involved in studies for anticipating the consequences of HIV and AIDS on the agricultural sector, as well as, helping rural communities become more resilient to the impacts of the pandemic, in the southern Africa, region for several years.


  9. Forms of Dissemination for policy influence

    The FANRPAN regional study was funded through the SADC HIV and AIDS unit. This is a natural link to the SADC policy processes. The results of the study will be fed into the SADC council of Ministers as a follow up to the Maseru declaration. FANRPAN is, also, recognized in the region as a vibrant multi-stakeholder public policy dialogue platform for discussions on regional agricultural policy in Southern Africa. It has become the natural regional platform for the coordination and harmonization of agricultural policies in the southern Africa region. The findings of the study will be further disseminated through the various policy dialogue fora organised by FARNPAN.


  10. Innovation to reach wider audiences - particularly constituencies with the poor

    The study is targeted at poor 'affected" households based in the rural areas. It seeks to quantify the vulnerability being introduced into households at this level. The index will enable effective targeting of publicly funded programmes for mitigating impacts.

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