Dr Pali Lehohla is the former statisticiangeneral of South Africa and former head of Statistics SA. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi
Dr Pali Lehohla is the former statisticiangeneral of South Africa and former head of Statistics SA. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi

Data is key to measuring, alleviating poverty

By Opinion Time of article published Nov 29, 2020

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Covid-19 has heightened the need for measurement, deepening the practice of science and the commitment to the use and application of evidence.

Rapid community assessments are now possible given the digital devices that can be deployed for collection, processing and dissemination of data.

Such information can be very useful in the levels of understanding and economic co-operation between employers and employees.

These production communities, especially in the mining sector, often witness heightened conflicts. It is in this regard that Mining Dialogues 360° was born to facilitate sustainable economic activities that are conscious of the planet, people and generate prosperity for future generations.

The case of Postmasburg in the Northern Cape makes for an important read. With high relative levels of unemployment, inequality and poverty in a province with the highest proportion of households with severely inadequate access to food, concerns were raised regarding the likely impact of the Covid19 lockdown on household food security in Postmasburg.

Following conversations with youth and community leaders in 2019, it was decided to conduct an urgent Food Security Study to develop a body of local knowledge that could inform and help calibrate strategies for the reduction of food insecurity in the Postmasburg area.

The results of the study painted a sombre picture, confirming that most households in Postmasburg had been negatively affected by the lockdown in terms of employment, incomes and expenditure on food.

In a town with already very high levels of food insecurity and disproportionately high levels of dependency, many households were found to be experiencing hunger and were struggling to survive.

Despite the increases in social grants that followed lockdown, the data gathered revealed that lockdown had widened the gap between households that were integrated into the local mining economy and those that existed on its periphery.

Among its conclusions, the study advocated establishing a multidimensional poverty baseline, the installation of a food security and food poverty monitoring system, investment by government and corporate entities in community organisation, genuine and inclusive cross-sectoral collaboration and a social compact for food security and sustainable development.

The desire to measure poverty in its multidimensional aspects is very apt as institutions such as the National Foundations Coalition deliberating on access to water among the Limpopo communities resident in mining towns especially bring this point home.

Recently, the Oxford Human Poverty and Human Development Initiative published a report on multidimensional poverty level in 597 sub-national localities across Africa.

Postmatsburg will be part of this sub-national tapestry of poverty in Africa in the context of Covid-19. Mining Dialogues 360° has remained a true partner and honest broker in finding lasting solutions.

Dr Lehohla is the former statistician general of South Africa and former head of Statistics SA


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