Food Security, Intra-Householder Processes and Access to Credit

It is known that access to credit has a direct impact on vulnerable householders’ income. However, what is less known is whether it is a potent means to increasing food security. Zeller and Sharma (1998) found that in the majority of country studies undertaken “there was a significant and sizeable importance on access on income and household food security” (Zeller 1999, p. 3). The concept of the poor paradigm is well documented; although it is mainly considered in the context of poverty, in a sense it considers vulnerable people with low income and consumption per capita. The social justice theory criticizes this by suggesting other parameters for consideration such as Sen’s capabilities approach. We suggest considering the poor paradigm from a food security perspective. This perspective considers ownership factors such as ownership over human resources and allocation of labour (Maxwell 1995). Studies by Guyer and Peters (1987) and Folbre (1986) suggest that intra-household processes should also be examined to understand the forces driving urban farming and in turn food security. The processes are not individual but are dependent on the distribution and allocation of resources and responsibilities between household members including gender roles within the processes. To this extent intra-household dynamics involves not only economic considerations but also socio-economic and institutional ones. There has been significant research considering the relationship between intra-household dynamics and food security (e.g., Behrman 1988a; b; Rosenzweig and Wolpin 1988; Pitt et al. 1990; Thomas 1990, 1991; Behrman and Deolalikar 1990) evidencing the link between householder income, resource allocation, food security and householder health. What is not included in this relational equation is the access to credit ability.

There have been studies indicating gender access to credit and health status. For example Pitt et al. (2003) observed that women’s (more so than men’s) household bargaining power and therefore better access to micro-credit in rural Bangladesh showed a significant improvement in children’s health outcomes.

The three-way relationship between intra-household processes, food security and credit access can be determined in three ways: actual borrowing uptake, membership in credit programmes and the credit limit (i.e., the maximum available for borrowing). The first two factors are voluntary and deemed endogenous (David and Meyer 1980). It may well be that parents who are proactive in managing health and food security might avail themselves of the loans and also the loan may not always be taken to the full limit. The food insecurity perspective of vulnerability has been largely explained through various lenses such as the poverty lens (Sen 1981), where access to food is limited or householders do not have bank accounts (Demirguc-Kunt et al. 2015); the socio-cultural lens, where accessibility may be restricted for reasons other than need such as castes and religion (Scully 2004); the property ownership lens, where there is no asset ownership or there is discrimination in the labour market (World Bank 2008); and the gender lens, where there are considerations of inequality (Holmes and Jones 2009). Such vulnerability and household consumption shocks are seen to create large fluctuations in income.

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