Gendered food security in rural Malawi: why is women's food security status lower?

Peer Reviewed
1 January 2015

Abstract: Gendered food security gaps between female- and male-headed households (FHHs and MHHs) can be decomposed into two sets of components: those explained by observable differences in levels of resource use, and those due to unobserved differences affecting the returns to the resources used. Employing exogenous switching ordered probit and binary probit regression models, this paper examines the gendered food security gap and its causes in rural Malawi. We conducted a counterfactual analysis and found that the food security of FHHs would improve significantly if they had the same levels of resource use as MHHs. However, even if FHHs had the same levels of resource use as MHHs, the gendered food security gap would not be closed because of the differences in the returns to those resources. Such differences in returns to resources explain 40 % (45 %) of the observed gendered chronic (transitory) food insecurity gap and 54 % (19 %) of the food break-even (surplus) gap. Further analysis suggests that the intensity with which sustainable agricultural practices have been adopted has a greater impact on the food security of FHHs than on MHHs.

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Publication | 23 February 2016