PART I

MEASURING FOOD INSECURITY AND ASSESSING THE SUSTAINABILITY OF GLOBAL FOOD SYSTEMS

INTRODUCTION

The February 2011 workshop was originally conceived during the 2007-2008 food price crises, when more than one billion people around the world were deemed food insecure. As global food prices rose, many people were unable to purchase enough food to meet dietary needs. Agricultural producers were not able to quickly adjust production patterns or increase overall productivity. Despite substantial price declines in the following year, published data on the number of people who were food insecure fell only slightly, calling into question the data and methodology used to estimate global hunger and its relation to changing global food prices (FAO, 2010b). Furthermore, global food prices are often not indicative of the prices paid locally or their impact on vulnerable populations. That is, the effect of global food price changes on domestic prices depends on commodity and country specific variables, such as the extent to which the country relies on imported foods. It was clear to many participants that a better system of indicators is needed to monitor changes—including rapid changes—so that interventions can be triggered more quickly and efficiently.

Similar concerns were raised about global poverty numbers, as new numbers suggested dramatic increases in the numbers of poor people living in India and China, which seemed inconsistent with the economic expansion occurring in these countries in the last decade.

At the same time, it was not clear whether indicators for natural resources and agricultural productivity were valid and reliable. It was clear, however, that many natural resources were being overused for agricultural production, agricultural markets were not competitive and able to adjust quickly to changes in supply and demand, and significant populations remain unable to produce or buy the food they need.

As the first step in mapping out possible transitions from the current situation to a sustainable food secure future, the workshop planning committee decided to look at the quality and quantity of the data that are available, the evidence that is currently available to support action, and knowledge gaps.

Projections of the number of hungry and food insecure people drive both policy and practice, especially in the planning and delivery of humanitarian assistance or the provision of social safety nets to vulnerable populations. However, the quality and coverage of data on hunger and food security are not as precise as they could be to provide a clear view of the problem or as comprehensive as they need to be to formulate potential global solutions. Recent analysis indicates that past trends of the global number of undernourished people of around 800 million are highly dependent on key assumptions in the methodology used, and that the methodology is less robust than it could be. Furthermore, recent estimates have increased the number of hungry



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PART I MEASURING FOOD INSECURITY AND ASSESSING THE SUSTAINABILITY OF GLOBAL FOOD SYSTEMS INTRODUCTION The February 2011 workshop was originally conceived during the 2007-2008 food price crises, when more than one billion people around the world were deemed food insecure. As global food prices rose, many people were unable to purchase enough food to meet dietary needs. Agricultural producers were not able to quickly adjust production patterns or increase overall productivity. Despite substantial price declines in the following year, published data on the number of people who were food insecure fell only slightly, calling into question the data and methodology used to estimate global hunger and its relation to changing global food prices (FAO, 2010b). Furthermore, global food prices are often not indicative of the prices paid locally or their impact on vulnerable populations. That is, the effect of global food price changes on domestic prices depends on commodity and country specific variables, such as the extent to which the country relies on imported foods. It was clear to many participants that a better system of indicators is needed to monitor changes—including rapid changes—so that interventions can be triggered more quickly and efficiently. Similar concerns were raised about global poverty numbers, as new numbers suggested dramatic increases in the numbers of poor people living in India and China, which seemed inconsistent with the economic expansion occurring in these countries in the last decade. At the same time, it was not clear whether indicators for natural resources and agricultural productivity were valid and reliable. It was clear, however, that many natural resources were being overused for agricultural production, agricultural markets were not competitive and able to adjust quickly to changes in supply and demand, and significant populations remain unable to produce or buy the food they need. As the first step in mapping out possible transitions from the current situation to a sustainable food secure future, the workshop planning committee decided to look at the quality and quantity of the data that are available, the evidence that is currently available to support action, and knowledge gaps. Projections of the number of hungry and food insecure people drive both policy and practice, especially in the planning and delivery of humanitarian assistance or the provision of social safety nets to vulnerable populations. However, the quality and coverage of data on hunger and food security are not as precise as they could be to provide a clear view of the problem or as comprehensive as they need to be to formulate potential global solutions. Recent analysis indicates that past trends of the global number of undernourished people of around 800 million are highly dependent on key assumptions in the methodology used, and that the methodology is less robust than it could be. Furthermore, recent estimates have increased the number of hungry 7

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8 A SUSTAINABILITY CHALLENGE: FOOD SECURITY FOR ALL people to more than one billion. Ostensibly linked to the impact of food price fluctuations, these estimates are based on very weak evidence of purchasing power and food choices over very large populations. Poor urban consumers tend to receive more attention than rural consumers, even though it is increasingly recognized that differences in food and nutritional status among rural populations are large. Further, the fact that agencies reporting these estimates receive financial support on the basis of the projected severity of the problem introduces an element of moral hazard into their estimating processes. Estimates of the availability and consumption of food products are also questionable on other grounds. For example, recent measurements by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi indicated actual yield levels for cooking and brewing bananas at twice the widely published estimates. Long-used methodologies for reporting annual yields are based upon very small samples and assumptions linking rainfall to output. Similarly, assessments of the trends and implications of changes in dietary patterns, particularly in Asia, are not well documented but are increasingly seen as likely to be of great importance for the protection of natural resources and future food security. Increased consumption of fish, for example, may imply depletion of ocean and freshwater fish resources. Recent initiatives by several Asian nations1 to purchase or lease land for agricultural production in Africa have raised additional questions about the evolution of food and agricultural policies in Asia. The relationships between intensification of agricultural production (including the production of non- food crops), changes in both climate and the environment, and food security remain poorly understood. The workshop planning committee brought together a diverse group of experts, including those responsible for key indicators of food security, malnutrition, and poverty; key critics of those metrics; and global agricultural experts. The workshop was structured to broadly reflect the dimensions of sustainable food security―availability, access, and utilization. The first chapter in Part I addresses issues associated with indicators for measuring food insecurity and malnutrition. It includes a summary of the background paper prepared by Hartwig de Haen, Stephan Klasen, and Matin Qaim. It also includes summaries of presentations on food consumption indicators and malnutrition indicators. The chapter concludes with a summary of the general discussion. Chapter 2 includes a summary of the presentations by Martin Ravallion on the World Bank’s poverty measure and James Foster on the new Oxford Multidimensional Poverty Index, followed by notes from the general discussion. Chapter 3 focuses on natural resources and agricultural productivity and includes summaries of on measuring productivity and natural assets; on composite indicators for sustainable production; and on food security and the environment. Summaries of the general discussions are also included. Chapter 4 includes a summary of a proposal made by Prabhu Pingali of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to establish a peer review process for ensuring the reliability, transparency, and quality of the data and methodologies that are used to generate indicators of global food insecurity, hunger, and poverty. The chapter concludes with sample suggestions from participants for strengthening existing indicators and metrics and for making them more accessible. The organizers of the workshop recognize that the content of the workshop and this summary report leave out many important and relevant metrics associated with food security, 1 Many others are also involved in leasing or purchasing agricultural land in Africa, including Gulf oil-producing countries and multinational corporations.

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9 poverty, and agricultural production. However, the time constraints of a two day workshop forced the planning committee to limit the number of metrics that could usefully be examined. Hopefully, some of these important metrics including the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale and various measures of dietary diversity developed by the World Food Program, as well others, can be reviewed in other workshops or future meetings.

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