Introductions (Conceptual frameworks)

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Introductions (Conceptual frameworks)
Hildebrand, Peter E.
Yntiso, Gebre
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
Peter E. Hildebrand and Gebre Yntiso


Subjects / Keywords:
Food security ( jstor )
Food ( jstor )
Famine ( jstor )

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Introductions (Conceptual Frameworks) /

By Peter Hildebrand and Gebre Yntiso (

2.1 The definition of food security k

Many agencies have defined food security bailey in a similar way. World Bank (1986) defines food
security as access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. For FAO (1983;

1996) food security is ensuring that all people at all times have both physical and economic access

to the basic food they need. According to UNICEF (1990), food security means the assurance of

foods to meet the needs of all its members throughout each season of the year. These definitions go

in line with the major components of food security, namely, availability of adequate food, annual

stabilization of food supply, improved entitlement to food, and nutritional adequacy of food intake.

Food security has also been perceived from different perspectives. A position statement by the

American Anthropological Association (AAA) states that attaining food security and preventing

famine in Africa require development programs aimed at achieving (1) sustainable economic growth

to build buffers against bad years and (2) social/political systems in which vulnerable groups have

resources and access to food (Anthropology Newsletter 1993). This approach stresses the

importance of development programs. According to the Winter 1996 Web Edition of 'Why

Magazine "food security means first and for most the income to buy food but also access to safe

food that is culturally appropriate." The focus here is market involvement and the capacity to

generate cash income. A more sustainability oriented definition of food security reads: "all people at

all times having both physical and economic access to sufficient food to meet their dietary needs for

a productive and healthy life today without sacrificing investments in future consumption and

livelihood security"(source missing).

2.2 Conceptual frameworks associated with food security

The conceptual frameworks developed to understand famine have been used to explain food security

as well. Webb and von Braun (1994:14) developed a conceptual framework for understanding famine

and food security. This model assumes that food security can be attained by improving the condition

of five interrelated elements, namely, resource base, production, income, consumption, and nutrition.

The model also predicts that drastic decline in these five elements would lead to various adverse

situations that combine to produce famine. In terms of their underlying causes, famines are not

fundamentally different from most other disasters facing vulnerable groups. Thus, the question of

food security should be seen in a broader perspective. What are the processes that produce food

insecurity and famine? Why do some people starve while others do not? ---

For analytical purposes, we can divide the various approaches to famine and other disasters into three

categories. Until 1960s famine causation was associated with violent forces of nature, such as

drought. It was believed that natural events operated to reduce the aggregate amount of food

available thereby making people food insecure. Famine was simply explained in terms of there not

being enough food in the area food availability decline or FAD (Kumar 1990; Blaike et al 1994).

It was assumed that food security can be attained by increasing production and using modem

technology. The weaknesses of FAD is that (1) it only deals with the supply factors while ignoring

the issue of access, (2) it cannot deal with disaggregated population to explain why some starve while

others do not, and (3) it fails to account for the social causes of vulnerability and poverty ibidd).

In the 1970s and 1980s the explanation of famine shifted from natural causation to human factors.

This view may be represented by the food entitlement decline (FED) approach developed by Amartya

Sen (1981). According to this theory, famine is the result of social, political, and/or economic

processes that deny or reduce people's entitlement to food. Sen defined entitlement as "the set of

alternative commodity bundles that a person can command in a society using the totality of rights and

opportunities that he or she faces." And he also identified five categories of entitlements: production-

based (the right to own what one produces with ones own resources), trade-based (what individuals

can buy with commodities and cash they own), own labor (the sale of one's labor, and the resulting

trade-based entitlements), inheritance and transfer (the right to own what is given by others (e.g.,

gifts) and transfers from the state (e.g., pension), and extended entitlements (entitlements that exist

outside the legal rights). The strength of Sen's approach is that it acknowledges the importance of

change in purchasing power. Moreover, it disaggregates regional food production and availability

to understand inter- and intra-household food security/insecurity. The criticism against the FED

approach is that many famines have been preceded by food availability decline. For example, writers

such as Culter (1984), Devereux and Hay (1986), Diriba (1991), and Kumar (1990) indicated that

the famines of Wollo and Tigray regions (Ethiopia) were caused by drastic decline in food availability.

Sen argued that in Wollo the prices of food did not increase during the famine period. He also stated

that transportation was not a big problem. However, later studies revealed that the prices of food

did increases and logistic problems were serious (Kumar 1990).

The 1990s witnessed an integrative model that takes into account both natural and social factors

(Maskrey 1989; Blaike et al 1994; Webb and von Braun 1994). According to Blaike and his

associates, the FAD-FED approaches tend to view disaster as a departure from normal social

functioning, and recovery was meant to be a return to the normal. For the vulnerable people,

according to the writers, the so-called normal daily life is itself difficult to distinguish from disaster.

They noted, in their alternative model called Pressure and Release (PAR) that:

'underlying factors' and root causes embedded in every day life give rise to 'dynamic

pressures' affecting particular groups, leading to specifically 'unsafe conditions'. Being at

risk of disaster is shown to be the chance that the characteristics of people generated by these

political-economic conditions coincide in time and space with an extreme 'trigger event'

natural hazard to which they have been made vulnerable (Blaike et al 1994:12).

The idea is that if the 'underlying pressures' which create 'unsafe conditions' prevail (i.e. if people

are placed in a vulnerable situation due to political/economic processes), natural hazards such as

drought can easily trigger famine. This is why all droughts do not result in famine or all famines do

not fallow droughts. The natural factors cannot be considered as the root causes of the disaster,

although they are still responsible in terms of translating the vulnerability into crisis. An explanation

of famine should, therefore, link together both the root causes and the process that generate unsafe

conditions (e.g. FAD or FED) in a causal chain. The main point here is that in times of shock, people

who normally do not have sufficient capacity to command food (or those who survive at bare

minimum) become more food insecure and famine victims. These are the vulnerable groups. A

strategy for attaining food security should, therefore, aim at eliminating vulnerability and enhancing

resilience to shocks.

2.3 Food security strategies: the commercialization of smallholders

In their 1986 publication 'Commercialization of Subsistence Agriculture: income and nutritional

effects in developing countries,' von Braun and Kennedy concluded that there is no competition

between cash crop and food crop production. They assumed that foreign exchange earned from cash

crops can be used to import food. However, this view was questioned by critics who witnessed the

association between agricultural export booms and increasing food crises (Lappe & Collins 1977;

1986; De Melo 1987, in Maxwell and Fernando 1989). Concerning the household, Von Braun and

Kennedy concluded that cash cropping may or may not have a negative effect on nutrition. Other

writers (Dewey 1981; Biswas 1979; Madeley 1985, in Maxwell and Fernando 1989) are reported to

have found a negative association between cash crops and nutrition. Maxwell and Fernando indicated

that besides showing the negative impacts on food security, the opponents of commercialization

raised other drawbacks, such as unequal resource distribution, increased marginalization, and the

dependency of the South on the North.

The debate on commercialization of smallholder agriculture continued in the 1990s. Von Braun

(1994) stated that commercialization of agriculture is a reality in many developing countries and an

important part of their development strategies. According to him, case studies from different

developing countries indicate that there exist considerable potentials to address the food security

concerns of the small farmers participating in commercial agriculture. The writer noted that in nine

study areas, commercialization of agriculture resulted in income increase. Most study areas did not

experience a decline of subsistence food production due to the commercialization because

smallholderr producers make conscious effort to maintain subsistence food production alongside the

new cash crops. This reliance on food from own production under household control is a response

to market, employment, and production risks can be viewed as an insurance policy by farm

households in a risky income environment" (von Braun 1994). Chris Steven (cited in IDS 1997), who

predicts that Africa is facing a more food insecure future, argued that the continent should be

prepared to invest quickly in high value agricultural exports. His point is that Africa is heavily

dependent on wheat import and thus sensitive to external shocks. Therefore, it should focus on high

value commodities to generate foreign earnings.

The opponents of commercialization of small farms argue that food insecurity increases when the

poor become more dependent on market for their food. Stephen Devereux (1993) quoted Desai, an

economist, as having argued that "the farther away from direct food cultivation a group is, i.e., the

more market it has to go through to convert endowments into actual consumption, the more liable

to starvation it is...The direct producer ofgrain....and the worker who receives a grain wage are safer

than he who receives money rent or money wage." This is because markets are seen to be volatile

and vulnerable to external shocks. The risks of depending on markets for food, especially in times

of scarcity, are assumed to be worse than the risks of crop failure (Thomsen & Metz 1997). Anne

Thomson and Manfred Metz argued that increased market integration can offer either possibilities

of greater income, increasing entitlement and greater food security or greater risk. According to FAO

(on the Web site), boosting the rural economy, particularly through increased food and agricultural

production, is one of the chief means of alleviating poverty.