Food security

From Academic Kids

Food security is a term used in development and humanitarian aid. It does not have one agreed definition; but is often used broadly to mean a situation in which people have continuity of food supply, or the methods by which this aim is achieved. Around 828 million men, women and children are chronically hungry while 2 billion people lack food security because of poverty (source: FAO, 1998).

The term — in the development context — grew out of a reaction to the problems associated with food aid. Food aid is one development paradigm, in which the solution to hunger is seen as being the donation of surplus food commodities, usually by rich developed nations. The focus of food security interventions is usually contrasting: the development of indigenous mechanisms to fight hunger and malnutrition.

A commonly-used definition is that a community enjoys food security, when all people, at all times, have access to enough (quantity), nutritious (quality), safe, personally acceptable and culturally appropriate foods, produced in ways that are environmentally sound and socially just, or in other words by sustainable development.


World Food Production

Today 370 kg of cereals (carbohydrate sources) per person are harvested versus 275 kg in the mid-20th century, which is a per capita gain of more than a 33%. Other crops (protein and vitamin sources) gained 20% since the early 1960s. Globally there is enough food (in the form of cereals) to take up 3500 kcal/day/per person. A famous quote in this respect is therefore: "The true source of world hunger is not scarcity but policy; not inevitability but politics.” (Peter Rosset, Executive Director of Food First). The four most important reasons of food scarcity are stated as (Singer, 1997):

  • National deficit, political and social instability resulting in deteriorating terms of trade
  • More cash crops are harvested than food crops due to agricultural globalisation. In this case, cash crops are crops planted in the (sub)tropics for sale in the North. Cash crops require more surface, and thus more fertilizer and pesticides, and the general effect of this is that smaller farmers have to fight for every square kilometer.
  • Population increase. Farmer families tend to have more children to work on the field. Children are an investment (sexual contraception methods are not even considered). The problem arises when those children move to the cities to leave their poor lives behind. In general, they meet even more poverty.
  • Subsidies and food donations (giving away excess food) generally undermine local economy. Prices of the same or comparable local crops will drop, giving local farmers less money.

World Food Summit

The World Food Summit was held in Rome in 1996, with the aim of renewing global commitment to the fight against hunger. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) called the summit in response to widespread undernutrition and growing concern about the capacity of agriculture to meet future food needs. The conference produced two key documents, the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action.

The Rome Declaration calls for the members of the United Nations to work to halve the number of chronically undernourished people on the Earth by the year 2015. The Plan of Action sets a number of targets for government and non-governmental organizations for achieving food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels.

Achieving food security

From The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2003 [1] (

'In general the countries that suceeded in reducing hunger were characterised by more rapid economic growth and specifically more rapid growth in their agricultural sectors. They also exhibited slower population growth, lower levels of HIV and higher ranking in the Human Development Index'.

USAID [2] ( proposes several key steps to increasing agricultural productivity which is in turn key to increasing rural income and reducing food insecurity. They include:

  • Boosting agricultural science and technology. Current agricultural yields are insufficient to feed the growing populations. Eventually, the rising agricultural productivity drives economic growth.
  • Securing property rights and access to finance.
  • Enhancing human capital through education and improved health.
  • Conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms and democracy and governance based on principles of accountability and transparency in public institutions and the rule of law are basic to reducing vunerable members of society.

It should be noted that these priorities were formulated in function of America's view on the world.

Biotechnology for smallholders in the (sub)tropics

Genetically enhanced crops are not that widespread in the third world as they are in the North. In 2001, the $2.5 billion genetically manipulated seed market was dominated by five corporations that sell GM seeds for four major crops (soybeans, maize, cotton and canola) in three countries (the United States, Canada and Argentina). The GM seed market share of these corporations are as follows: Monsanto (80%), Aventis (7%), Syngenta (5%), BASF (5%), and DuPont (3%). At this moment, there are some institutes and research groups that have projects where knowledge about biotechnology is shared with contact persons in the South. It's the difference between open source and closed source. These institutes make use of soft biothechnological methods, such as conservation and multiplication of germplasm and phytosanitation.

See also


  • Singer, H. W. (1997). A global view of food security. Agriculture + Rural Development, 4: 3-6. Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CTA).

External link

The World Food Summit ( CTA (écurité alimentaire


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