Food security inequality between female and male headed households : evidence from Northern and South Western Uganda
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Reducing gender inequalities is morally, ethically, and economically viewed as one of the principal strategies for reducing food insecurity and poverty in the developing world. Resource access in favour of men has bred a productivity gap, stagnated growth in agricultural GDP and increased the national price of food insecurity. Empirical evidence on the impact of gender on food security required to re-align intended and actual food security sensitive policy outcomes remains scarce in Uganda. This study thus sought to 1) determine the degree of, and characterise food security in female and male headed households, 2) determine whether the drivers of food security differed between female and male headed households, and 3) determine the causal effect of gender of the household head on food security. The study adopted 2012 and 2014 panel data of 3626 households collected by Makerere University and the Nutrition Innovation Laboratory for Africa in parts of South Western and Northern Uganda to address the objectives. The Household food Insecurity Access Scale-score (HFIAS-score) was adopted to measure the degree of household food insecurity. The Exogenous Switching Treatment Effects Regression (ESTER) framework was adopted to estimate the drivers of, and the impact of gender on household food security. Descriptive statistics show that access to food was more constrained in female than male headed households in both 2012 and 2014. Anxiety for future food supplies, severe consumption of less desirable and nutrient sparse meals, and prevalence of severe food insecurity were most evident in female headed households. Contrastingly, more male than female headed households consumed fewer and smaller meals in both years. Households residing in South Western exhibited greater food insecurity than those in Northern Uganda. Significantly more male headed households accessed credit and extension services, adopted sustainable agricultural practices, adopted improved marketing techniques, had diversified agricultural portfolios, and earned higher crop income in a season than their female counterparts. Econometric results revealed that completion of primary and secondary education, larger farm size, ownership of a radio, and growth of cash crops significantly improved food security in both household types. However, agricultural diversification (growing cereals, tubers and owning livestock), adoption of sustainable agricultural practices, product value addition, access to credit and extension services, annual income, social group membership, location and employment of improved marketing techniques were significant only in male headed households. Decomposition analysis based on the ESTER model showed that food insecurity would decrease by 4.5% in female headed households if they were exposed to similar conditions as their male counterparts. On the contrary, food insecurity would increase by 13% in male headed households if they were accorded similar conditions as female headed households. The study recommends more efforts in ensuring equitable access to extension services and credit; increased promotion of value addition, collective marketing and agricultural portfolio diversification among female headed households as is the case in male headed households.