Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
Dimensions and indicators for analyzing vulnerability to food security
Research in the 1980s by a number of authors led to vulnerability assessments that describe
the dimensions and indicators of vulnerability to famine and food security crises (Downing,
1991). Table 8.1 , derived from Downing (1991) describes how these indicators are used to
assess crises and to identify an appropriate response. Although most food security assessment
is done at the household and community scale, famine occurs at the regional and national
level. For decades, the national food balance sheet was the primary means by which a deficit
in production and import capability could be used to diagnose an impending food security
crisis. A food balance sheet presents a comprehensive picture of the pattern of a country's
food supply during a specified reference period. The food balance sheet shows the sources of
supply and its utilization for each food item or primary commodity and a number of processed
commodities potentially available for human consumption.
The groundbreaking work of Amartya Sen showed that an understanding of food availa-
bility or supply must be coupled with that of food access, or ability to purchase food when
necessary (Sen, 1981). Stable access, through a household's production of food, exchange,
entitlements, gifts, loans, purchase or other means all contribute to its ability to access enough
food. These may be independent, but are often highly related to overall supply of food at the
regional and national level (Frankenberger, 1992). Each household has its own unique vul-
nerability to shocks. Aggregating over all households in a community or region gives you the
food security of a region ( Table 8.1 ).
These vulnerability factors can be used to develop indicators that link environmental and
market conditions to outcome - nutrition and health impacts of poor food security situations.
Conceptual models of food security implicitly or explicitly determine indicators of household
food security. Understanding the process that causes the food crisis is critical for diagnosing
and quantifying the impact of a particular shock on food security outcomes. FEWS NET and
GIEWS both produce documents with extensive text that describe the shock and its likely
impact on a wide variety of different populations and economic groups.
The household economy approach of food security assessments provides an understanding
of these resources, including geography, agro-ecology, ownership of productive assets and
inter-household relationships. The agro-ecology of an area determines what people are able
to produce or grow while access to productive assets and inter-household relationships dictate
the extent to which people are capable of meeting their food and cash needs. The degree to
which households are able to maintain access depends on their capacity to withstand and recover
from hazards that hinder regular access to food and income (FEWS NET, 2012).
In 2011, FEWS NET and the World Food Programme adopted the Food Insecurity
Severity Scale, which is part of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). The
IPC is a tool for food security analysis and decision support that allows for standardized tests
and comparisons across multiple regions and populations. The IPC integrates food security,
nutrition and livelihood information into a common classification of the severity of acute
food insecurity outcomes, and can be used to highlight priority areas and populations in need
of emergency response that have been identified based on food security analysis (IPC,
The IPC is a set of protocols (tools and procedures) to classify the severity of food insecur-
ity and provide actionable knowledge for decision support. The IPC (2012) consolidates
The groundbreaking work of Amartya Sen showed that an understanding of food availa-
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