African public opinion on food security and the MDGs

I heard a really interesting presentation by Andrew Rzepa of the Gallup opinion poll company recently, sampling public views in 2009 in 18 Sub-Saharan African countries with the following questions:

· Could you please rank the following elements on this card in order of importance for you as an individual? 1 being the most important and 6 the least important
· What is the most important issue the government should address in the next 12 months?
· Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
· The price of food has increased significantly over the last few months
· In the next six months it will be harder for my family to eat because food prices have increased
· Because of these price increases, we can no longer afford 3 meals a day
· The government of this country is doing enough to help people to get food
· Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money full to buy the food that you or your family needed?
· Over the past year, how often, if ever, have you or your family gone without enough food to eat?

The full presentation is here, but some highlights are:African MDG ranking

Poverty and hunger topped people’s priorities (see table, right). Interestingly, new technology came bottom, but unfortunately (from my perspective, if not Andy Gray’s), second bottom was gender equality.

African government priorityAsked without prompting what their governments should focus on, agriculture and jobs came top (bar chart, left)

Two thirds of people felt their governments were not doing enough to help people get food, but the variation within Africa is striking, with Malawi’s government apparently earning approval for its fertilizer and seed subsidies African food insecurity(see Max Lawson’s recent post on this). (bar chart, right)

In the previous 12 months, 60% of adults had experienced not being able to buy the food their family need. Think about that for a minute.

They’re repeating the exercise this year – should be interesting to see how views have changed (if at all).

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One Response to “African public opinion on food security and the MDGs”
  1. Henry Northover

    Interesting but mysterious findings.

    It wasn’t so long ago that the first generation of national PRS consultations in 4 African countries put WASH 1st in the ranking of priorities of the poor. The exception was Malawi where it came 2nd.

    Also, the Pew Group international survey 2007 (the largest opinion poll in dev countries) put WASH as highest priority out of the 3 essential services (WASH, Education and Health). 2 years ago, in a similar PRS national consultation exercise in Nigeria, WASH came out as the No.1 priority. Just last year a national survey in Papua conducted by the ADB again put WASH as No.1

    So, what’s going on with the Gallup findings where it comes 10th? Improved WASH access in the countries surveyed by Gallup? Shifting priorities for the poor juggling with pressing choices and life chances?

    I’d be interested in seeing the suvey’s sampling and questionnaire structure. Did it include rural areas? Did it focus on poorer marginalised groups? Or was it a metropolitan-based sample?

    Also, in the questionnaire design, did they translate “Gender equality” into something that didn’t sound, well, wonkish?

    Did they also, reorder the MDGs in the in the questioning? It’s slightly uncanny that, with the exception of the primary education MDG, the results rank the priorities more or less the same order as the MDGs’ numbering.

    So, it’s great that someone has commissioned a survey on what the poor say is important to them.

    Hopefully, such an important set of questions is being handled with the rigour necessary to make it representative.

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