Assignment on Food Security Concepts and Issues

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The term food security originated in international development literature in the1960s and 1970s.Public interest in global and domestic food security grew rapidly following the world oil crisis and related food crisis of 1972-74, with the African famine of 1984-85, the increase in numbers of people looking for food assistance in developed nations, as reported by churches, community centers and soup kitchens, and the growing numbers of food banks in the United States (U.S.) and Canada.

The concept of food security has evolved and expanded over time to integrate a wide range of food-related issues and to more completely reflect the complexity of the role of food in human society. Early definitions focused almost exclusively on the ability of a region or nation to assure an adequate food supply for its current and projected population. The emphasis was on secure access to food for a population, with a singular focus on the role of food as a vehicle for nutrition, by under estimated the symbolic, cultural, social and political role of food with in the society.

1: Food security is defined as access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life and includes at a minimum:

a) The ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and

b) The assured ability to acquire acceptable food in socially acceptable ways (LSRO, 1990).

2: "Food security" means that food is available at all times; that all persons have means of access to it; that it is nutritionally adequate in terms of quantity, quality and variety; and that it is acceptable within the given culture. Only when all these conditions are in place can a population be considered "food secure" (FAO, 1996).

3: Community food security exists when all citizens obtain a safe, personally acceptable, nutritious diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes healthy choices, community self reliance and equal access for everyone (Public Health Association of British Columbia, 2004).

4: "When all people at all times have access to sufficient food to meet their dietary needs for a productive and healthy life" (USAID Bureau for Africa, 1986).

There are different concepts and definition was given to "food security" by different individuals, this is due to they try to understand and explain in different ways. For example, an individual tries to conceptualization the common components of food security in different circumstances;

Universality - equal access for every one

Stability - secure access at all times

Dignity - provides in a manner that promotes human dignity, in socially acceptable way

With out the need to restore to emergency food providers (Toronto Food


Quantity - enough to meet the dietary needs for an active life

Quality; -safe nutritional/adequate nutritionally

-culturally appropriate and meeting food preference of the community

- produced in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way

- produced in the way that promote communities socio-economic development

The concept of food security also has a spatial and temporal dimension. When we say food security has a spatial context, the geographic extent to which it will be considered (global, national, regional and community level), Where as, the temporal dimension refers to the time frame, over which food security is going to be considered. Food security in a wider case can be seen in to two wider categories; chronic food insecurity (the inability of the individual or community to meet their food need for a long period/ongoing basis) and transitory food insecurity (the inability to satisfy the food demand for a temporary base) (Maxwell and Frankenberger, 1992). Transitory food insecurity also some times can be divided in to two subcategories: cyclical; this form of food insecurity has a regular pattern, especially occur at the period in which late after the harvest of the pervious season and immediately before the harvest of the next season crop.

Food security is not necessarily static; there are likely to be normal fluctuations in the year in terms of food availability, access and utilization. It is important to assess which changes are normal and which are due to a hazard or a chronic crisis.

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 requirements and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Food insecurity exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life. It may be caused by the unavailability of food, insufficient purchasing power, inappropriate distribution, or inadequate use of food at the household level (Webb and Rodgers, Addressing the "In" in Food Insecurity, pg. 5 and 7, February 2003).

Generally, the definition of food security is based on three important pillars:

Food availability;

Food access; and

Food utilization.

Food availability in a country, region or local area means that food is physically present because it has been grown, manufactured, imported and/or transported there. For example: food is available because it can be found on markets, because it is produced on local farms, land or home gardens, or because it arrives as part of food aid, etc. This is food that is visible and in the area.

Food access is the way different people can obtain the available food. Normally we access food through a combination of home production, stocks, purchase, barter, gifts, borrowing or food aid. Food access is ensured when communities and households and all individuals within them have adequate resources, such as money, to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet. Access depends on income available to the household, on the distribution of income within the household and on the price of food. It also depends on market, social and institutional entitlement/rights to which individuals have access.

Food access can be negatively influenced by physical insecurity such as conflict, loss of coping options, such as border closure preventing seasonal job migration, or the collapse of safety net institutions that once protected people with low incomes.

Food utilization is the way people use the food and is dependent on the quality of the food, its preparation and storage method, nutritional knowledge, as well as on the health status of the individual consuming the food. Certain diseases do not allow for the maximum absorption of nutrients and growth requires increased intake of certain nutrients.

Food utilization is often reduced by endemic disease, poor sanitation, lack of appropriate nutrition knowledge or culturally prescribed taboos that affect access to nutritious food by certain groups or family members according to age or gender.

2: Assessment and Monitoring of Food Security

Assessment means judgment, appraisal, estimation or evaluation. It is a process that is used to understand a situation in order to make decisions on whether there is a need to respond to a hazard or to a situation that can lead to a disaster if nothing is done. The assessment must collect information that will allow a good analysis of the situation and the threats to life, human dignity, health and livelihoods of the population. The principle of an assessment is that the affected community and local authorities are consulted.

An assessment is part of a bigger process that serves a greater purpose than just looking at understanding the situation and the needs. During each assessment the question will be raised whether the National Society should respond or not with the ultimate objective to save lives and to reduce vulnerability of the community.

Food security assessments are no different from general assessments in their aim, but look more specifically at how people try to maintain a secure food environment for themselves, and whether they succeed. The general objective of a food security assessment is to understand how severe the food insecurity is, and why this is the case. Then the objective is to determine if there is a need to intervene to return people to a normal food security situation in the short term and/or long term. The focus of a food security assessment will be on evaluating the food security situation for various groups of people. In addition, food security assessments can help to predict upcoming food insecurity or can predict the duration of an insecure food period.

We need to understand how people make their living, whether through food production, or working for a salary or a mixture of both. More specifically we need to know how they meet their food needs. We need to understand what resources they have available for themselves such as land, animals, fishing areas, pasture for grazing, number of livestock, and labor force. We need to understand who can access these resources and whether this access changes over time. For example it may be that water sources for animals are restricted in the dry season and only those who can pay access them. The assessment will need to compare the normal situation and the current situation. Comparisons between the two allow you to decide how and why the situation has deteriorated. This is the first step towards understanding the needs that arise due to a hazard or chronic crisis and determining the best response.

Food security is not necessarily static; there are likely to be normal fluctuations in the year in terms of food availability, access and utilization. It is important to assess which changes are normal and which are due to a hazard or a chronic crisis. An assessment of the effects of a flood during the hunger gap will need to consider that food stocks were low and prices probably high at the time of the flood but that this is not the "normal" situation for the whole year. A hunger gap is the period before the main harvest, when food stores are often low and people sometimes need to lower their food intake in order to survive to the next harvest.

Step 1: Preparation phase of food security assessment

In this step, the analyst tries to define the objective of the assessment, select the assessment team and draft their responsibility of data collection, analysis and write final report, define the area based on the initial information you may have an idea where you need to go to do the assessment. In addition to this there are things to which the experts should take in to account that;

Find out other organizations that are doing in the same field, so as to build up a framework of sharing information, idea, experience and material;

Establishing budget schedule and arrange if needed;

Inform the government authority of your plan in order to get technical assistance and personal security;

Prepare and secure the field equipments (transport, stationary, etc.);

Identify and decide methodologies and tools that can be used in the over all process and including a female interviewer.

Step 2: secondary information collection

Obtaining secondary information means accessing existing information (secondary data). The information has already been collected prior to the food security assessment for other purposes. It is collected by others and it will be gathered.

Secondary information is important in a way that helps the researcher to have a better clarity about all the context of the whole area, to guide the researcher to give more emphasis in the collection of primary data (it could provide a base line information, that help us to compare all your primary information) and to save time and cost, even though the validity of the information some times puts under question.

The main sources of secondary information were key informants interviews (the government, local officials, experts, aged and experienced persons) and from different written documents, such as; magazines, news paper, reports and CD libraries.

There are different types of information that might need to be obtaining from secondary source. It is used as, a base line information and/or a check list for the next step of gathering the primary data. Among them;

The demographic profile

The various social group

Social and political structures and power

The infrastructural base

Livelihood profile/ food economic zone (waged, labor, agricultural production, trade, etc...)

Existing disaster preparedness or contingency plan and response mechanisms

Community asset base and its distribution ( physical, financial, human, natural, social and political capital)

Market analysis (its location, access and price of the major food and cash crops).

Undertaking an assessment is not a rigid process. The collection of secondary data does not have to be 100 per cent complete before you start collecting primary data. The most important fact is that you have all the necessary information before you begin analyzing information and before you draw your conclusions.

In general, the collection of secondary data should be reviewed for its relevance to the assessment objectives. Some information may be easily available and accessible, while other information might require more effort to be collected. The quality of the information will vary. Secondary information will often be found at national capital, provincial and district town levels.

An important information source to consult during secondary information collection is your colleagues; National Society staff and volunteers. Institutional memory is valuable, and asking for information from colleagues who were involved in previous emergencies and assessments can give good and reliable information. All or some of this information will give you a first impression on the area, communities and potential impact of different kinds of crises. Also, with this information, it should be possible to identify the information that is missing, that needs to be collected through primary data collection.

Step 3: primary information collection

Obtaining primary information means collecting new information (primary data) using various methods in which the community and other key people actively participate. The information is collected for the specific purpose of the food security assessment and will be acquired.

This step is crucial to the over all effectiveness of the assessment result (the level of food insecurity and vulnerability condition) and decision that we made, as a result, we provide a great care and attention. It is not a complicated process but it requires a various techniques and methodologies. The experts should aware to each techniques may produce different out comes and they able to integrate it in to the secondary data that enables to analysis the situation and reaches to the final recommendation and conclusion.

In this step the focus is on the actual situation. The data will be collected directly from the affected or targeted community. We will need to collect a lot of primary information by using various techniques that is appropriate, cost effective and able us to search out detail information. Among them; observation, interviews with individuals or groups, transit walk with key informants and questionnaires were commonly used.

How ever, questionnaires is being now debatable and controversial, because it requires a lot of experienced experts to set up a constructible questionnaires, the question also influence the respondents focuses on providing a response in one directional and limited on question; in other words the interviewer can not able to brain storm a lot of information from the wider context. Also the analysis and interpretation of questionnaires is not simple and need some training to use them.


Observation is one type of techniques among others in which the interviewer uses to get an enormous amount of information. Observations mostly before, during and after the interview can help us to cross-check what the people will be forwarded during the interview or group discussion. Things that we observed before the interview can be clarified during interviewing people and in other cases, observation during the interviewing helps to take notes in the exact manner, even if we only jot down some key words. How ever, not all observations will reflect the exact effect of an acute crisis, because the time and the situation of observations matters and it is more of subjective in nature.


Interviewing during the assessment, meaning having a face to face meeting and discussion with peoples, most of these are; semi structured interviews. This means the interviewer prepare some open ended questions or discussion subjects in advance and check-lists of many topics we want to discuses that pose them to think and raise all issues. The interviewer should encourage bringing things we want to talk about and the whole processes should be conversational.

We are always strives in the all processes of the interview is to find out the necessary information on the asset base of the households, the demographic profile and in general, the over all life situations of the society. We should identify in detail about, the political situations (including the government policy, subsidies, transport bans, fuel price, and restriction of movement, groups prone to social discrimination by the local government and social groups, empowering individuals, women's especially), their physical asset (infrastructures; health facilities, schools, telecommunication, road, water harvesting structures, pure water supply etc…), financial capital (including micro finance and credit institution that is available for them), human, natural and social capital of the community.

Selecting a focus group

Selecting the people you want to interview depends on the information you need. Firstly, you want some general information directly and indirectly related to food security. For this, a heterogeneous focus group discussion with people of different backgrounds and opinions is the best choice. There are two ways to do this: either you select the people for the group, or you begin the focus group with the first group you meet upon arrival in the area. You select the people for the focus group: For example, you include local health workers, farmers, government administrators, traders and teachers, and if appropriate with a good balance between men and women. In order to do this you ask community leaders to nominate the people or you select people at random, on the basis of their features.

Ideally, following a few focus group discussions, you walk through the area to observe the situation and cross-check the information obtained in the focus groups. This is also a good moment to do some household visits, with or without a more detailed interview. You select them randomly and not all clustered next to each other. Sometimes the participants of the focus group will want to show you around the area and take you to their homes. After this visit you can select another home and ask to visit this household.

Step 4: Analysis

Now that we have already collected the information, we need to analyze our findings. Before you begin the analysis you need to:

Re-read all your notes and score, compare the areas, the communities, prioritize what we think are important problems; and

Have a team meeting in which we discuss everybody's impressions, findings and compare areas and communities.

The crucial part is whether you are able to answer the questions you set out to reach in the objectives of your food security assessment. Do you understand the food security situation of the people and do they need assistance from the National Society? If so, we try to decide what kind of assistance they need and how ewe will be provided to the most food insecure households and individuals to reach our objectives.

we should now be able to draw conclusions on the food availability for communities; who has access and does not, and on the utilization of food at household level and how this has changed over time and why. We should also be able to indicate who the potentially vulnerable groups are with are regard to food insecurity.

Generally, we should try to return back in order to looking, internalizing and cross-checking the information that we get before with the questions and the objectives. And especial attention is being given to in drawing conclusions or generalizations, if the area we assessed were very heterogeneous in terms of demography, livelihood strategies and ethnicity or if we had many constraints in visiting areas (for political reasons, physical access problems)

3: key leverage points

Food insecurity has been described as "a condition in which people lack basic food intake to provide them with the energy and nutrients for fully productive lives" (Hunger Task Force). It is mainly caused by a complex and a variety of inter related factors. The immediate and direct factor of food insecurity is due to in adequacy of all the basic pillars of food security. This is mainly due to low agricultural productivity and "low adequate income or other resources to purchase or barter to obtain level of appropriate food needed by a person to maintain consumption for an adequate diet and nutritional level" (CRS, 1999).

Generally, poverty become the root cause of food insecurity and the relationship is dynamic and "inextricably linked" (CRS, 1999). Poverty can have a significant influence on the 'production capacity' of the community. The commutative effect can lead people to in the state of low purchasing power. In addition, disaster can distract the existing limited capacities and it becomes the bottleneck problem and puts individuals and the community at large within the vicious cycle of food insecurity.

There are many different situations where people face increased vulnerability to food insecurity and not every household will be affected in the same way. Some people may lose many assets abruptly (as in a rapid or acute crisis) and suddenly find they have little means to survive. Some people lose their assets slowly over time (as in a slow onset or chronic crisis). The next figure shows how food security can be affected over time, through different kinds of crises.

Communities will use different coping mechanisms in order to maintain their level of food security. Early warning signs for food insecurity vary and might include: reduction in the number of meals; taking out loans; selling clothes; unusual increases in food prices; selling productive tools or farm land; unusual population movements; and increased prostitution. Different assistance programmes at different moments in time will have a different impact on food security. But they all aim at restoring, directly or indirectly, the food security level to the pre-crisis level.

If this is the case, different intervention should be under taken to address food insecurity in the short, medium and long term base. Such as;

Short- term

Strengthening the logistics capacity and improving the provision of food aid of the humanitarian agencies and the government;

Assure the multi-year commitment of food assistance;

Institutionalized safety net program; for the growing numbers of chronically food insecure Ethiopians, who are unable to meet their subsistence needs even in good rainfall years, an institutionalized safety net, linked to a realistic exit strategy, is urgently needed. The concern with national food availability risks neglecting household access to food. Targeting of food aid must be sharpened to improve a locative efficiency and minimize dependency and disincentives;

To stimulate market development and provide choice to recipients, local purchases must be preferred than food imports;

Improving early warning system

Designing economic tillage

Improve traditional irrigation


Especially in drought-affected areas, recapitalization is essential. This might include support to livestock restocking in the pastoralist regions, and restoring access to productive assets - notably land and draught power - to asset less households in crop farming regions. (Note that access does not necessarily imply individual ownership.)

Given Ethiopia's extreme climatic variability, stabilizing agricultural production is as important as raising yields. Policy focus should shift away from yield-enhancing technological inputs packages, towards interventions such as investing in indigenous, small-scale irrigation technologies to stabilize crop yields in drought years.

Developing credit institution; the rural credit institution should be set up to assist the farmers engaged in off-farm activities and investing on agriculture such as usage of fertilizer and improved seeds to enhance productivity, this has makes the community become food secure. It is also essential that similar facilities are available to investors that will also create further employment opportunities.

Establish better market condition

Utilizing underground water

Diversifying agricultural production


Food insecurity in Ethiopia is exacerbated by disincentives and barriers that prevent people from pursuing sustainable livelihoods. A policy dialogue should be initiated around policies and practices that (1) constrain agricultural productivity (e.g. rigid land tenure systems and insecurity caused by repeated land redistribution); (2) undermine alternative economic activities (e.g. regulations that inhibit investment).

Support to diversification away from precarious livelihood systems (agriculture and pastoralist) towards sustainable alternatives whose returns are not correlated with rainfall - possibly agro-industry, or services such as community-based tourism. While growth in agricultural production remains a key to the attainment of food security, in the drought prone area, this has to be supplemented by other economic activities. The Chinese food security report indicates that more than 200 million people of rural origins are engaged in off-farm activities that they call as township enterprise. The people engaged are originally farmers and objective realities have required their transfer to the industrial activity. In Ethiopia the potential for such an alternative employment may not be as large as it is in china, but efforts have to make in this direction;

Extensive training will be given to the farmers on the proper use of water, poultry farming, honey production, livestock and forestry development, soil and water conservation, pest control, better farming methods etc. to this effect, building the necessary institutional capacity is essential.

Empowering women; improvements in the household food security and nutrition are associated with women's access to income and their role in household decisions on expenditure. This is because women tend to spend a significantly higher proportion of their income than men on food for the family. The low status of women in society is a major impediment to the effort to attain food security. Women play significant role in family and childcare and related activities. Their control and decision making power on family income and property and on matters of borrowing and lending is, however, limited. This has contributed to the economic problem and decline which many families faces, and hence the society at large

Improve agricultural technology

Overseeing environmental speculation

Creating good employment opportunity

Infrastructure development, such as road, schools, health center, irrigation structures, electricity and communication net workers.

Institutional set up or development; building the existing capacities and expansion of institutions, which can directly support the efforts made to attain food security, will be given a serious attention. Some of the major focus will be on; strengthening and creating technological centers; implementing agencies (Agricultural offices should be strengthened with the provision of training, equipment, inputs for the existing nurseries and means of transport for the extension services. The water development offices should as well be improved through the provision of drilling equipment, pumps and pipes), cooperatives and mass organizations will also an important thing to attain the desired goal.

The government should be enough committed to the society in mobilizing and assisting the over all efforts to achieve food security. The government has been supporting farmers through the cheap supply of agricultural inputs, the creation of access to market, building the capacity of the community through education and training, developing policies and strategies to improve environment