A model that quantitatively connects drought severity to changes in local food prices will
enable a better understanding of which regions require intervention and which have adequate
food supplies due to private market traders.
The food price shocks of 2008 showed the enormous vulnerability and exposure that
many food insecure communities have to price volatility and level increases. The value of
knowing whether food markets are working and the degree to which pre-existing vulner-
ability to food insecurity is affected by rising prices is of fundamental value. As our knowledge
of the response of food markets to weather shocks at a variety of scales grows, we will increase
our ability to identify, measure and understand the presence and impacts of significant changes
in food access for the most vulnerable populations. Fundamental research will lead to new
food security analysis tools that will support improved decision making.
Seasonal changes in food prices are also particularly difficult for households to cope with
during periods of high price levels. Seasonality in food prices suggests that there is inadequate
storage, insufficient production, low trade levels and/or high transport costs to move food
from other regions (Handa and Mlay, 2006; Jones et al ., 2011; Alderman and Shively, 1996).
Seasonality in the price of staple foods is a clear signal that the markets do not work well and
that supply may not meet demand, causing much higher food prices during times of drought.
A spatially explicit understanding of where weather shocks will be most important to food
prices would greatly improve the ability of early warning organizations to respond to crises.
Long-term planning and improved investment in infrastructure and other measures to improve
market functioning may be critical for reducing vulnerability to future climate variability.
Assessing food security and nutrition outcomes
Over the past five decades, food security analysis has focused on understanding the measurable
components of food supply at the national level (USDA, 2013). In developing countries, a
large part of the population lives in poverty. Countries with extremely poor populations may
have inadequate food supplies at the national level, leaving portions of the population without
enough food, even if the food available was distributed evenly among all citizens. This is a
problem of food availability. For decades, food balance sheets have been used to estimate how
much of each food commodity a country produces, imports and withdraws from stocks for
other non-food purposes. The analyst then divides the energy equivalent of all the food avail-
able for human consumption by the total population to calculate average daily energy con-
sumption (FAO, 2012a). The problem with this type of country-level assessment is that it
assumes that food availability is the primary cause of hunger and ignores the complex interac-
tions between economics, food prices and entitlements that were described by Amartya Sen
in his landmark publications (Sen, 1990, 1981).
Food security is often a problem in households that have insufficient income to purchase
enough food for all members every day, even when there is more than enough food supply
to feed everyone in a country if distributed evenly. This is a problem of access, where incomes
do not meet required outlay. A variety of concepts and methods have been used to measure
access to affordable and nutritious food, but these are part of a much broader assessment of the
complex food system present in any country (Ploeg et al ., 2012). Figure 1.4 shows a typical
national food security analysis operational framework, with the sectoral elements, thematic
analyses and activities leading to various assessments and outlooks (Haan and Rutachokozi-
bwa, 2009). The connection between the analysis and the decision making, shown at the