Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
right, at the national and international scale is tenuous and can be highly dependent on the
geopolitical status and relationships of the nation to the donor community (Barrett and
Maxwell, 2005).
Characterizing food access can be difficult because of the breadth of sources of both more
nutritious and less nutritious foods and the complexity with which consumers make choices
about where to shop, what to eat and how much time to devote to these and other food-
related activities. Developing a quantitative assessment of food consumption involves estimat-
ing the number of eating occasions, documenting dietary diversity and estimating the
percentage of households consuming minimum daily caloric requirements (Swindale and
Ohri-Vachaspati, 2005). Connecting consumption to access instead of to overall food avail-
ability can also be challenging.
Diagnosing problems of access is often done with the price of food in a particular market
or region. Early warning organizations monitor food access at the market system level instead
of the household level, using information from retailers, wholesalers, transporters, infrastruc-
ture and financial services. The influence of the local policy environment is also assessed,
describing the government's role in responding to the price and availability of food in the
region. Some examples of important market characteristics that are monitored are commodity
market networks, assessments of market integration, the geographic and economic distribu-
tion of food commodities, capacity of storage facilities, seasonal road conditions, national and
import/export policies and cross-border trade.
Many food security indicators seek to incorporate measures of food access and nutrition as
well as availability. The Global Hunger Index (GHI), for example, combines three equally
weighted indicators: (1) the proportion of the undernourished as a percentage of the popu-
lation (as measured by the FAO food balance sheet); (2) the prevalence of underweight chil-
dren under the age of five; and (3) the mortality rate of children under the age of five (IFPRI
and Welthungerhilfe, 2006). The focus is on the nutrition of children under five instead of a
comprehensive sampling of society because all children should grow at the same rate before
the age of five despite their genetic disposition to be taller or shorter, larger or smaller. Defi-
cits of food and nutrients in children are thus more easily detected before this age and the
long-term effects of these deficits last a lifetime (Darnton-Hill and Cogill, 2009). The weak-
ness of the GHI is its lack of an adequate conceptual framework that allows policy and eco-
nomic drivers to affect outcomes based on nutrition of children. In the context of climate
variability, identifying policies that provide for effective response to extreme events is
Food security analysis is becoming more focused on nutrition outcomes instead of solely
on food availability, linking observations of the well-being of children from household surveys
to the more traditional food balance approach. The challenge of these indices is that although
food balance sheets can be calculated annually shortly after the main harvest, collection and
analysis of nutrition information for children must be done household by household in a
survey setting. Thus the information usually is not available until a year or more after the data
has been collected. Moreover, the process requires a large and coordinated effort to conduct
surveys in all countries, ensure data quality and obtain comparable data (Macro, 2013). Thus
the GHI and other similar indices can be created only every five years or more and represent
an assessment of the consequences of long-term food security problems, not acute emergen-
cies. It cannot be used for early warning of increasing food security problems or to ensure
timely humanitarian aid during times of crisis (Hillier and Dempsey, 2012).
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