What is food
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
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.
UTILISED: 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 fertilisers 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 become marginalised.
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
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 utilisation and availability of food.
WATER AND THE ENVIRONMENT: Food production requires
massive amounts of water. It takes one cubic metre (1000
litres) of water to produce one kilogram of wheat and 5,000
litres of water for one kilogram of rice. Producing
sufficient food is directly related to having sufficient
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 resources.
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
prioritise food security in the recovery phase.
POPULATION AND URBANISATION: Population growth
increases the demand for food. With most productive land
already in use there is pressure for this land to become
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 food security.
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 fertilisers and pesticides and greater
availability of credit.
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, fertilisers 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 LIBERALISATION: 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 liberalisation 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 Organisation to make
trade rules fair, encourage trade liberalisation 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
behavioural 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
-- 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
RECOGNISING THE ROLE OF WOMEN: Gender equality is a
prerequisite for the eradication of poverty and hunger. Many
programs recognise 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
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 minimises
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.