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Takes more than two to tango: Intrahousehold food system agency
and its intricacies in South Africa

Heliyon

Ngarava, S.

November 2023

Intra-household food system agency is affected by individual physiology, environmental diversity, variations in social conditions, relational perspectives and distribution within families, resulting in differing capabilities and functionings which have a bearing on welfare. The study used the capability approach to assess intrahousehold food system agency, its determinants and welfare impact, taking a cross-sectional survey of 1184 households from three heterogenous study sites in South Africa. Poisson count regression, Propensity Score Matching and Monte Carlo Simulations were used in the study. Duration of stay within the community, tenure, employment status and household size were significant in the number of intrahousehold food system decisions made by female heads and none-nuclear family members, with however overall reduction in number of decisions made. Yet, when female heads showed agency in agricultural production and food expenditure, food security improved by 5 % and 6 %, respectively. On the other hand, it is reduced by between 4 % and 5 % for none-nuclear family members. Duration of stay in the community and age of household head had the highest contribution to agency variation. In conclusion, there are varied intrahousehold food system decisions made by various members of the households, resulting in varying degrees of food security. In addition, variations in the socio-economic factors of the households result in varied agency, especially for female household heads and other none-nuclear family members. Female-head intrahousehold food system agency should be promoted in lieu of their positive impact on food security, and their reduced decision-making capacity in hindsight.

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