Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Measuring poor and vulnerable households
Nendila: Newsletter of the University of Venda
April 2009

Can the household vulnerability index objectively measure poor and vulnerable households?

This is a three year research project that stems from a memorandum of understanding signed between Univen and the Food Agriculture Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN).

The project seeks to test the accuracy and reliability of using the household vulnerability index as an objective measure for targeting poor and vulnerable households. Calculation of household vulnerability rests in the sustainable livelihoods approach which considers human, financial, social, natural and physical resources. Gender dimensions, production systems and household consumption patterns are considered.

The Chief Executive Officer of FANRPAN, Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, says the index classifies vulnerability into three levels. “Level one states that a household is vulnerable but is still able to cope with external shocks, at level two a household has been hit so hard that it desperately needs assistance like acute health care in a hospital. If rapid response assistance is provided, the family may be resuscitated. “At level three households have reached an intensive care situation and can only be resuscitated with the best possible expertise.”

She says current approaches to targeting poor and vulnerable households rely heavily on information that local leaders provide, which makes them inefficient because of their subjectivity.

“Preliminary work on use of the household vulnerability index was undertaken to establish the levels of vulnerability that the impact of HIV and AIDS introduced on agriculture and food security. The index's critical importance in relief and development work is realised through ensuring that households that genuinely deserve relief or development support, benefit.”

The Director of Univen’s Centre of Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation and coordinator of the project, Prof Francis says three World Vision International Area Development Programmes in Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe will serve as the project sites.

“One PhD and two masters degree students - all of them World Vision International employees - will register for their postgraduate training with the Centre this year,” says Prof Francis. This relationship opens many avenues for Univen to play a more significant and visible developmental role in the Southern African Development Communities and Common Market of Eastern and Southern countries.

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