Food security exists when all people, at all times, have
physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious
food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an
active and healthy lifestyle. (World Food Summit 1996).
TO BE FOOD SECURE MEANS THAT FOOD IS AVAILABLE: The
amount and quality of food available globally, nationally and
locally can be affected temporarily or long-term by many
factors including: climate, disasters, war, civil unrest,
population size and growth, agricultural practices,
environment, social status and trade.
Affordable Age, status, gender, income, geographic location and
ethnicity all affect a person's ability to access and afford
sufficient food. When there is a shortage of food the rich are
unlikely to go hungry but their demand for food increases the
price and makes it harder for poor people to obtain food unless
there are humanitarian considerations.
UTILIZED: At the household level, sufficient and varied
food needs to be prepared safely for people to grow and
develop, meet their energy needs and to prevent disease.
WHY IS THERE FOOD INSECURITY?
POVERTY: Poor people lack access to sufficient resources
to produce or buy quality food. Poor farmers may have very
small farms, use less effective farming techniques, and/or be
unable to afford fertilizers and labour-saving equipment, all
of which limit food production.
Often they cannot grow enough food for themselves and are even
less able to generate income by selling excess to others.
Without economic resources and a political voice, poor farmers
They may be forced onto less productive land which is prone to
further environmental deterioration. Addressing poverty is
important to ensure all people can afford sufficient food.
HEALTH: Without sufficient calories and nutrients, the
body slows down making it difficult to undertake the work
needed to produce food. Without good health, the body is less
able to make use of the food that is available. A hungry mother
gives birth to an underweight baby, who then faces a future of
stunted growth, frequent illness, learning disabilities, and
reduced resistance to disease. Contaminated water and food can
causes illness, nutrient loss and often death in children.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic has reduced food production in
many affected countries as productive adults become ill or die.
Lacking the labour, resources and know-how to grow staples and
commercial crops, many households have shifted to cultivating
survival foods or even leaving their fields, further reducing
the food available. Addressing health issues will improve
utilization and availability of food.
WATER AND THE ENVIRONMENT: Food production requires
massive amounts of water. It takes one cubic meter (1000
liters) of water to produce one kilogram of wheat and 5,000
liters of water for one kilogram of rice. Producing sufficient
food is directly related to having sufficient water.
Irrigation can ensure an adequate and reliable supply of water
which increases yields of most crops by 100% to 400%. Although
only 17% of global cropland is irrigated, that 17% produces 40%
of the world's food.
Increasing irrigation efficiency and limiting environment
damage through salinisation or reduced soil fertility is
important for ongoing food availability.
Where water is scarce and the environment fragile, achieving
food security may depend on what has been called "virtual
water", foods imported from countries with an abundance of
water. This may be a more efficient use of scarce
GENDER EQUITY: Women play a vital role in providing food
and nutrition for their families through their roles as food
producers, processors, traders and income earners. Yet their
lower social and economic status limits their access to
education, training, land ownership, decision making and credit
and consequently their ability to improve their access to and
use of food. Food utilisation can be enhanced by improving
women's knowledge of nutrition and food safety and the
prevention of illnesses.
Through improved women's involvement in decision making, access
to land and credit, will increase food security as women invest
in fertiliser and better seeds, energy saving tools, irrigation
and land care.
DISASTERS AND CONFLICTS: Droughts, floods, cyclones and
pests can quickly wipe out large quantities of food as it grows
or is stored for later use or planting.
Conflict can also reduce or destroy food in production or
storage. Farmers flee their fields for safety or become
involved in the fighting. Previously productive land may be
contaminated with explosive debris and need to be cleared
before it can be used for food production again.
Stored food, seeds and breeding LIVESTOCK may be eaten
or destroyed by soldiers or opposing groups leading to
long-term food shortages. Government spending needs to
prioritize food security in the recovery phase.
POPULATION AND URBANIZATION: Population growth increases
the demand for food. With most productive land already in use
there is pressure for this land to become increasingly
Poor harvests and increased costs lead many poor farmers
migrate to the city looking for work. Expanding cities spread
out across productive land, pushing food production further and
further away from consumers.
This increases the cost of all activities associated with
producing and transporting food, and decreases the food
security of the poor in cities.
TRADE: Many poor countries can produce staples more cheaply
than rich nations but barriers to trade, such as distance from
markets, quarantine regulations and tariffs make it difficult
for them to compete in export markets against highly subsidised
farmers in rich countries.
This deprives poor farmers of income and entire countries of
the agricultural base they need to develop other sectors of the
economy. In addition, trade imbalances prevent poor countries
from importing agricultural products that could enhance their
WHAT IS BEING DONE?
IMPROVING FOOD PRODUCTION: Increasing the amount of food
available is necessary to feed the increasing population. The
Green Revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, produced huge
improvements in output largely due to the cultivation of
high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat, the expansion of
land under production and irrigation, increased use of
fertilizers and pesticides and greater availability of
In many countries these gains have reached their limit and
there are social and environmental issues to be addressed.
Further increases in food production depends on: better
integration of traditional knowledge with research; improving
farming practices, through training and use of appropriate
technology to increase outputs from current land without
further loss of productive land; land reform to provide secure
access to land for more people; and provision of low-cost
finance to assist farmers invest in improved seeds, fertilizers
and small irrigation pumps.
Genetically modified seeds are being hailed as a means of
improving crop outputs but there are also concerns about the
ownership of seeds, adequate compensation for traditional
knowledge and possible side effects.
ECONOMIC GROWTH AND TRADE LIBERALIZATION: Increasing
food production leads to greater availability of food and
economic growth in the domestic and /or overseas markets.
Generating income can provide access to more and varied foods,
as well as providing cash for use in other areas of the
economy, such as small enterprise and manufacturing, which in
turn can lead to poverty reduction.
Trade liberalization is opening up markets slowly but there are
costly barriers to overcome.
Work is underway through the Doha Round of multilateral trading
negotiations in the World Trade Organization to make trade
rules fair, encourage trade liberalization and assist
developing countries to participate in the global trade
DISTRIBUTION: While there are sufficient resources in
the world to provide food security for all, policy and
behavioral changes are necessary to guarantee a fair share for
all people, especially the poor.
Building on a series of global conferences, especially the 1992
International Conference on Nutrition, the 1996 World Food
Summit and the 2002 World Food Summit: five years later,
countries have developed national nutrition plans and policies
in nine major strategic action areas that:
-- mainstream nutrition goals into development policies and
-- improve household food and nutrition security;
-- protect consumers through improved food quality and
-- prevent and manage infectious diseases;
-- promote breast-feeding;
-- care for the socio-economically deprived and nutritionally
-- prevent and control specific micronutrient deficiencies;
-- promote appropriate diets and healthy lifestyles, and
-- assess, analyse and monitor nutrition situations.
However, progress so far, has been a long way short of what was
RECOGNIZING THE ROLE OF WOMEN: Gender equality is a
prerequisite for the eradication of poverty and hunger. Many
programs recognize the need for change in access to food, land,
credit, education, health and nutrition training and decision
making in order to make effective use of women's roles in
agricultural production and food preparation.
FOOD AID: The immediate needs for food during drought,
disaster, population displacement and conflict are addressed by
the distribution of basic food supplies and fuel.
Early warning systems can predict problem areas and action can
be taken to keep people in their homes and assist them back to
food self sufficiency as quickly as possible.
Food sourced locally rather than internationally minimizes cost
and disruption to local markets. In severe situations feeding
may be necessary but often food aid is linked with work, health
or education to avoid dependency and address the long-term
causes of food insecurity.
more info at www.foodsec.org