What is driving food insecurity in 2012?

Approximately one billion people in the world are hungry. The World Bank estimates that global food price spikes in 2008 pushed 44 million people below the poverty line, most of them in poor countries. It is often argued that we do produce enough food to feed the world. According to FAO statistics, world agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase.  However, due to physical, political and economic barriers, the food we produce does not reach those who need it most.

Last week, a new tool was launched that measures food security levels in 105 different countries. The Global Food Security Index 2012, produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit and commissioned by DuPont, uses 25 unique indicators to measure the risk and factors that drive food security across both developed and developing countries.

The indicators were split into three categories:

  1. Affordability (such as food consumption as a share of household expenditure, proportion of population under the global poverty line, the presence of food safety net programmes and access to financing for farmers).
  2. Availability (such as sufficiency of supply, public expenditure on agricultural research and development, infrastructure and political stability risk).
  3. Food safety and quality (such as diet diversification, national nutrition plan or strategy and micronutrient availability).

The resulting index can be used to analyse food security challenges in several ways. Countries most at risk can be identified by using the ranking function. Data can be filtered by region, to allow comparisons among economically similar countries. Country profiles use a “traffic-light” approach to display findings, showing clearly where countries do well and where they struggle, and suggesting where interventions are most needed.

Some key findings of the report include:

  • Several of the sub-Saharan African countries that finished in the bottom third of the index, including Mozambique, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Niger, will be among the world’s fastest growing economies over the next two years. Although still poor in absolute terms, rising incomes suggest that these countries may be in a position to address food insecurity more forcefully in coming years.
  • Several policy and nutrition related indicators including access to financing for farmers, the presence of food safety net programmes, protein quality and diet diversification, are highly correlated with overall food security. This suggests they would be a good recommendation for governments in countries that scored poorly in the index.
  • The Global Food Security Index (GFSI) shows a very strong (0.93) correlation with the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Women’s Economic Opportunity Index, a measure of the global environment for female economic participation. This implies that the more inclusive a country’s economy is for women, the more likely it is that it will be food secure.

In a recent interview with Farming First, Director of Sustainability at DuPont, Dawn Rittenhouse, explained how she hopes the tool will be used to identify the drivers of food security, so they can be solved. She said:

There were so many factors that actually impact how food secure a country is, so we brought together an expert group (…) to help figure out what are the kind of things that could be measured. Hopefully it will help to drive a better understanding of  the real challenges and what we need to focus on solving, and then allow people to work together to help solve those problems.

A food price adjustment factor will also soon be rolled out, allowing the food security scores to be modified following changes in global food prices.

Download the full report here.

Explore food security initiatives around the world with Farming First’s interactive map here.

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