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Food Security in the Developing World

Food Security in the Developing World

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Food Security in the Developing World

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Lançado em:
Jan 30, 2016


Food Security in the Developing World provides an entry point into the complex and challenging subject of providing access to nutritious and safe food in a readable format, capturing the essence of the subject in an effective and impactful manner. Organized into nine chapters the book covers the manifestation and measurement of food insecurity; means whereby households endeavour to be food-secure; causes of food insecurity; mitigation of current food insecurity and prevention of future food insecurity. There will then follow a chapter with case studies, a chapter on cross-cutting issues and the final chapter drawing conclusions and recommendations on the way forward to increase the prevalence of food security in developing countries. A glossary and Bibliography will round off the book.

Dr. Ashley’s real-world experience makes the book accessible while providing valuable insights into the broad range of factors that contribute to food insecurity in this large at-risk population, and practical means of addressing them.

  • Presents all aspects of food security in a logical sequence
  • Covers the manifestation and measurement of food insecurity
  • Includes case studies and cross-cutting multidisciplinary issues
Lançado em:
Jan 30, 2016

Sobre o autor

John Ashley graduated in botany from London University, and then applied that knowledge to the field of agriculture for his doctorate from that University, working with the groundnut crop in Uganda. He also holds a degree in psychology from Cambridge. Dr Ashley has engaged in projects which have sought to help governments address current food insecurity, and increase resilience against future food insecurity. He has multi-sector program experience in agriculture and forestry, rural development, water, environment, education, nutrition and social transfers, roads and local government. He has worked in some thirty vulnerable and/or conflict-prone countries for 40 years, especially in Africa and Asia. He was with FAO for five years, and then became an adviser to national governments in interventions funded by international banks or donor agencies. He has conducted research with grain legume and cereal improvement programs in Libya, Kenya, Uganda and Nepal, and taught agronomy, crop physiology, ecology and human nutrition at Makerere University, Uganda.

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Amostra do Livro

Food Security in the Developing World - John Michael Ashley


Epilogue: A Rude Awakening

In anyone’s life there are watershed moments in which one finds oneself on a near upwardly vertical learning trajectory. For the author, one such moment was at the bedside of a child in the government malnutrition clinic at Mulago hospital, Uganda. The child died in his presence, the first child he had ever seen die. The mother, without touching her son burst into loud wailing and fled the bedside, leaving him and the Ugandan staff nurse with her dead child. The nurse abused the mother as she left because she had responded so. Strangely, as a non-Ugandan, the author gently chastised the nurse that she should be more considerate of local custom. Looking back on it, how superfluous the three separate behavior patterns were … one more child had died, for an inglorious and preventable reason for which we should all be ashamed and take responsibility, whoever we are, wherever we are.

As a rookie lecturer in human nutrition to agricultural students at Makerere University during General Idi Amin’s regime, this was a lesson for the author on how poverty is a more silent stalker of life than the gun, and how closely poverty, conflict, hunger and undernutrition are conjoined. He still meets his former women students on the streets of Kampala sometimes, who tell him that the Mulago practicals were the best thing that happened to them in their undergraduate life. An afternoon in which they learned that the sciences of agriculture and medicine are inextricably linked to each other, and to the continuum of health, morbidity and death. This is analogous to the great advances made in the sciences when two erstwhile separate fields have been bought together in the same research program, allowing commonalities and synergies to be better understood and exploited, like biochemistry and biophysics in the treatment of cancer, or thermodynamics and mechanics in advancing propulsion engineering.

With scientists telling us that the world has embarked on the sixth phase of mass extinction of species (see Section 3.3) we must shake off any feeling that we can continue in a business-as-usual modality, to expect our food, water and energy supplies to be assured ad infinitum. Never has a more urgent call to action been warranted than now. We all need to work together seamlessly and urgently, with wiser political leadership than currently we often have, marshalling all the technical, economic and anthropological expertise in a multisectoral and coherent way, to ensure sustainable food security for us and our descendants in perpetuity.

The reader may now wish to consult the companion website associated with this book, comprising 10 case studies providing snapshots to elaborate on key concepts and variables that have been discussed in this book. Readers requiring yet more detail can refer to the reference lists provided, for both the book and the companion website.

Chapter One



This chapter provides an overview of the boundaries and contours of food security and its link with nutrition security. The topics include key definitions: worldwide distribution of food insecurity and the number of people affected; short- and long-term food insecurity; flashpoint grain deficit areas compared with traditional grain surplus areas; investment as the apex solution to food and nutrition insecurity; hunger as a rights issue and UN organizations which directly address it; and, a brief history of feeding the world from 1945. These topics, together with others, will be covered in more detail in subsequent chapters and the companion website, http://booksite.elsevier.com/9780128015940.


Scope; worldwide distribution; number of food-insecure; short-/long-term; grain deficit/surplus; rights issue; investment; UN organizations; feeding the world

1.1 General Scope of the Subject

1.1.1 Introduction

In 2014 the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that more than 800 million people are undernourished in terms of dietary energy intake. Another manifestation of undernourishment, micronutrient deficiencies, affects about 2 billion people. Each year more than 3 million children die of undernutrition before their fifth birthday.

Since the World Food Conference in Rome in 1974, the concept of food security has evolved, developed, multiplied, and diversified (Maxwell, 1996). Some 200 definitions of the term have been proposed, indicating a breadth of perspectives. However, the definition that has invariably been accepted now is that agreed at the World Food Summit (WFS) in November 1996, and this meaning is that endorsed in the current book, namely "Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life".

Conversely, the FAO definition of food insecurity is A situation that exists where people lack secure access for sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life. Food security, and its converse food insecurity, has rightly become a multidimensional index (Smith et al., 1993). The term food insecurity is not merely about the concepts of hunger and undernutrition, but the experience of these by those affected by or vulnerable to it, and the anguish of being unsure when one can next provide food for one’s family. Food insecurity also inflames the passion of humanitarian and development partners who engage with it around the clock.

In the 1970s, food insecurity was understood (by those who did not have to bear its burden on their backs) as simply a measure of availability of food, evidenced in the various food crises and famines of the times. The Green Revolution, which significantly impacted developing countries in South America and Asia by the 1960s, certainly increased the food supply, yet hunger continued in much of the world. The realization dawned that many of those affected were unable to access the supply of food. Amartya Sen epitomized this in the statement Starvation is the characteristic of some people not having enough food to eat. It is not the characteristic of there being not enough food to eat (Sen, 1981).

1.1.2 The Multiple Dimensions of Food Security

The prevalence of undernourishment is a measure of dietary energy deprivation (hunger), though as a stand-alone indicator cannot capture the complexity and many dimensions of food security. The joint publication The State of Food Insecurity in the World in 2013¹ presented and analyzed a suite of indicators that address the four dimensions of food security: food availability, economic and physical access to food, food consumption/utilization and stability over time.

Food security is a term referring to the ability of a community, family or individual to be able to eat sufficiently, in terms of both quantity and quality, as prescribed by international standards of calorie, protein and vitamin intake. As indicated above, the term comprises several interrelated components (food availability, access and also quality/safety/consumption-utilization), all of which must be simultaneously achieved, to avoid the onset of food insecurity. More recently the important component of stability of food supply over time has also been stressed, related to managing the risks to all of the above components due to abrupt shocks of an economic, conflict or climatic nature.

Food needs to be available in order to be accessed, from the family farm, the granary, the kitchen, and the local store or market. As a whole, over the 20 years up to 2014, food supplies have grown faster than population in the developing world, resulting in rising food availability per person (FAO Statistics Division, 2014). This is in spite of global food supplies exhibiting larger-than-normal variability in recent years, reflecting the increased frequency of extreme events such as droughts and floods (see Section 5.5.1).

Yet, availability alone is not enough to confer food security, for sufficient access to available food is often denied. This may come about as a result of economic constraints (poverty), and therefore the inability of an individual to purchase the food needed (if not receiving humanitarian aid). Improvements in economic access to food are reflected by reduction in poverty rates, which fell from 47% to 24% between 1990 and 2008 in the developing world as a whole. However, economic access to food, based on food prices and people’s purchasing power, has fluctuated more recently.

Access to food may also be denied due to physical constraints, such as a road network which floods or gets washed away in the monsoon, cutting access to markets and raising the prices of food which can get through, or simply by living in a remote location. Also, the separation wall between Israel and Palestine, as a result of which people may be unable to access their resources (arable land to plant or harvest their crops, or the water for irrigation or livestock), so that both food self-sufficiency and agricultural income generation are hopelessly compromised. The separation wall, by restricting personal movement, keeps many would-be workers away from employment opportunities, so they cannot earn enough to enable them to buy the food they need for themselves and the family.

In many parts of the world, there is a social or political barrier, such as that which prevents access to jobs (through class or partisan conflict, lack of opportunity for a good education, cultural norms), this keeping a person and her/his family poor and hungry.

In addition to availability and access, a third component of food security is consumption/utilization. Food may be both available and accessible in a community, but if an individual does not properly use or consume it, then that person is food-insecure, unable to benefit properly from either its availability or having access to it. Reasons underlying this could be compliance with societal social/religious norms, ill health, inability to cook it or store it safely (so it does not rot or become attacked by pests), the food being nutritionally inadequate, or the person unable to absorb its nourishment sufficiently (due to diarrhea or intestinal worms caused by poor hygiene or contaminated water).

Outcome indicators of food utilization convey the impact of inadequate food intake and poor health. Wasting, for instance, is the result of short-term inadequacy of food intake, an illness or an infection, whereas stunting is often caused by prolonged inadequacy of food intake, repeated episodes of infections and/or repeated episodes of acute undernutrition. Prevalence rates for stunting and underweight (a weight 15–20% below the norm for the age and height group) in children under 5 years of age have declined in all regions of the developing world since 1990, indicating improved nutrition resulting from enhanced access to and availability of food, although progress has varied across regions.

The fourth component of food security is stability over time of the food source, which relates to availability, access and predictability. Food price spikes can result from local, regional or international events, over which a given community has little or no control (see Case Study 9 on the book’s companion website, http://booksite.elsevier.com/9780128015940) and clearly influence the stability of affordable food supply. Another cause of supply instability is cyclic seasonal events (such as alternating seasons of bumper and poor olive harvests in the West Bank of Palestine).

Where and when food insecurity is in evidence, at the levels of region, nation, community, households and/or individuals, not only is there an immediate human and social cost of incipient hunger and undernutrition but also detrimental long-term economics comes into play. A population can be seriously damaged through being ill-fed, in terms of irreversible loss of cognitive function in children, a discouraged and unemployed youth, vulnerability to disease and the cost of this to the health service and productive sectors. Causality is bidirectional—the food-insecure get sick, and the sick get food-insecure as they have not the energy to work, or look for work, to relieve that food insecurity. A nation’s human health is a strong predictor of the health of its economy. It follows that there is a huge macroeconomic cost to taking no action to relieve food insecurity in a sustainable manner—we, the world community, cannot afford to do nothing about it.

It may be seen from the above discussion that the term nutrition frequently occurs in the narrative. The concept of nutrition security is closely related to food security, the former being partly dependent on the latter. Without food security, it is impossible to have sustained nutrition security (see Section 2.1.3). Undernutrition of children under 5 years of age is especially concerning, particularly of children under 2 years of age, who are so completely dependent for their well-being on the mother (or caregiver in the absence of the mother). The United Nations Children’s Fund stresses that the most irreversible damage caused by undernutrition globally happens during gestation and in the first 24 months of life (the first 1000 days), and this is the focus window addressed by many development partners (UNICEF, 2009). Beyond that, the period from 2 until 5 years is also regarded as a crucial window. As expressed to the current author in northern Nigeria Once a child is five, he can beg, steal, scavenge and use a catapult (to achieve a degree of food and nutrition security).

One in every five children in the developing world is undernourished, and poor nutrition is associated with half of all child deaths worldwide. Undernutrition in early childhood can lead to cognitive and physical deficits, and may cause similar deficits in future generations as undernourished mothers give birth to low birthweight babies. Undernutrition, through weakening the body, also increases susceptibility to and incidence of infections, and diminished response to vaccines. Undernutrition and infectious diseases are bi-causal and synergistic—undernutrition reduces immunological resistance and diseases deplete the body of essential nutrients.

One aspect of food insecurity which is taking hold in both developed and developing countries, for individuals and communities where food and wealth are readily available, is that of obesity. Such individuals are consuming more than sufficiently (as per the definition above) and are malnourished in the sense that their health is at risk from conditions such as heart and vascular disease, and diabetes. The frequent inactive and sedentary life style of such people means that excess calories are not burnt off, through laboring or

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