Food Security - Living in Hunger

Food security describes a situation in which a human being does not have to live in hunger or fear starvation. According to the (1996 World Food Summit) food security exists when every person has physical and

economic access at all times to healthy and nutritious food in sufficient quantity to cover the needs of their daily ration and food preferences in order to live a healthy and active life. As a concept it can be applied at many levels: global, national, household and individual. World-wide around 852 million men, women and children are frequently hungry due to extreme poverty; while up to 2 billion people lack food security due to varying degrees of poverty.(FAO2003).

Food consumption levels reflect on poverty, families that don’t suffer from chronic hunger are the ones with financial resources, while the ones that suffer most are the ones without any financial resources and are also that part of the population that will be affected most in case of food shortages or famine. Food insecurity can be categorized either as chronic or transitory. Chronic food insecurity translates into a high degree of vulnerability to famine and hunger, ensuring food security presupposes elimination of that vulnerability. Chronic hunger is not famine, it is similar to under nourishment and is related to poverty, it exists mainly in poor countries.

Food security as an issue became prominent in the 1970s and has been a topic of considerable attention since then, thirty definitions of it have been identified by Maxwell and Frankenberger (1992). Originally there was a tendency to understand the issue of food security only from a supply point of view. In 1979 the World Food Programme Report conceptualized food security, equating it with an "assurance of supplies and a balanced supply-demand situation of stable foods in the international market." The report also emphasized that increasing food production in the developing countries would be the basis on which to build their food security. This would mean that the monitoring by famine early warning systems for food insecurity should focus on the availability of food in the world marketplace and on the food production systems of developing countries. However, global food availability does not ensure food security to any particular country because what is available in the world market (or the surplus in the US or Canada) cannot be accessed by famine-affected people in African countries, as the economies of these countries, in general, cannot generate the foreign currency needed to purchase food from the world market.

Three-quarters of the world’s poor and hungry are located in rural areas. These people depend directly and indirectly on agriculture and agriculture-related activities for their food and income. USAID proposed several key steps to increasing agricultural productivity which is in turn key to increasing rural income and reducing food insecurity. These key steps include:

Boosting agricultural science and technology. Rising agricultural productivity drives economic growth. Improved agricultural technology is a key component for boosting productivity. This includes support to agricultural research and support to the application of improved technologies and practices.

Developing domestic market and international trade opportunities. Expanding farmers’ commercial opportunities is critical for ensuring adequate returns. This includes improving domestic markets and international trade opportunities.

Improving policy frameworks. Only with sound policies in place can domestic and foreign private investment and development assistance catalyze growth by helping people solve the problems that all too often keep them poor and food insecure.

Securing property rights and access to finance. Asset distribution shapes broad-based progress because it determines the impact of the economic benefits. Asset distribution also contributes to empowerment, hence participation and ownership, by the larger proportion of the rural population.

Protecting the vulnerable. Conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms and democracy and governance based on principles of accountability and transparency in public institutions and the rule of law are basic to reducing vulnerability in the short term and eliminate conditions that create vulnerability over the long term.
Enhancing human capital. Better education and improved health contribute to greater scientific capacity, more productive farmers, and better decision-makers over a range of economic and non-economic activities.

The agriculture, hunger, poverty nexus is also a very important link involved into ensuring food security, utterly removing hunger and poverty requires an understanding of the ways in which these two injustices interconnect. Hunger, and the malnourishment that accompanies it, prevents poor people from escaping poverty because it reduces their ability to learn, work, and care for themselves and their family members. If left unaddressed, hunger sets in motion an array of outcomes that prolongs malnutrition, reduces the ability of adults to work and to give birth to healthy children, and erodes children's ability to learn and lead productive, healthy, and happy lives. This shortage of human development undermines a country's potential for economic development for generations to come.
Of the eight Millennium Development Goals, eradicating extreme hunger and poverty depends on agriculture the most. Millennium development goal’s one calls for halving hunger and poverty by 2015 in relation to 1990 and also halve the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day between this same period.

Another method of achieving food security is the ‘‘Special Programme for Food Security.’’(SPFS) This is Food and Agricultures Organization’s flagship into achieving the above goals which is adopted by 105 countries today with donations of up to $800 million dollars. It assists countries, particularly but not exclusively Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs), to improve food security within poor households through National Food Security Programmes (NFSPs) and Regional Programmes for Food Security (RFSPs). Their most current goal after an independent evaluation in 2002 is to move away from their exclusive focus on raising agricultural output, to finding ways to improve poor people's access to food. New directions include locally supplied school meals, food for work schemes and capacity-building activities to improve agriculture, aquaculture, agroprocessing, animal health and irrigation techniques. It is also replacing the earlier trend for small-scale pilot projects with National Food Security Programmes which address the needs of a country as a whole in a more holistic and comprehensive way.


A global view of food security. Agriculture + Rural Development
Singer, H. W. (1997).

Agriculture, food security, nutrition and the Millennium Development Goals
Von Braun, Joachim; Swami Nathan, M. S.; Rosegrant, Mark W.

World Bank. World Development Report 2000/2001: AttackingPoverty.
Oxford University Press, 2000.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

An Active Learning Approach to Teaching About World Hunger


World Food Summit

Household food security: concepts, indicators, and measurements: a technical review. New York, NY, USA and Rome, UNICEF and IFAD.
Maxwell, S. & Frankenberger,1992.

Related Essays Anthropology