Food is essential for human life, and freedom from hunger and starvation is a fundamental human right. Food protection exists where all individuals, at all times, have physical and economic access to adequate, clean, and nutritious food to fulfill their nutritional needs and food preferences for an active and balanced lifestyle, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). four (4) This concept is founded on three food security pillars: affordability, accessibility, and efficiency. Health availability entails providing the means to obtain adequate foods that suit preferred nutritional requirements. Food supply refers to having enough food on a daily basis. Affordability concerns the distribution of food at affordable prices
Food security plays an important role in social stability and economic development. In addition to that, it is an essential prerequisite for world peace and national independence. Food security occurs when people have access to adequate food that meets certain dietary need, is healthy and safe, culturally acceptable, is generated in socially just and environmentally sound ways and farmers can earn reasonable returns for their inputs.
Why Food Security Matters
The first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to cut by 50% the number of the people experiencing hunger by 2015 failed in that the proportion of people who were undernourished had decreased from 823 million in 1995 to 820 million in 820 (POSTnote 1). In addition to that, many developing countries have failed to achieve their MDG targets. Of the one billion people considered to suffer undernourishment, 239 million live in Sub Sahara Africa (POSTnote 2). The region has one of the highest proportions of food insecure people. Though some African countries have achieved the first MDG target, others are not yet, as disparities exist, especially between urban and rural areas, and between women and men (Mwaniki 2006).
Food security crisis threatens physical well being and health of people. Hunger, malnutrition and starvation are features of food insecurity. The crisis is aggravated by high food prices that limit economic access to affordable and safe food. High food prices deny people access to sufficient food leading to hunger crisis.
Hunger remains the leading threat for human health and wellbeing and hunger is more widespread in developing world. According to the World Food Program (WFP 3), the number of people suffering from hunger increased from 823 million in 1995 to over a billion today. Disease, hunger and poverty are interrelated, with each component causing the occurrence of the others. Hunger weakens natural body defenses against disease. In fact, hunger is the major risk factor most diseases. Poverty reduces the ability to buy or produce sufficient food for consumption and so persons living in poverty are more vulnerable to diseases. Illness prevents individual from producing food or working. To this end, food security is vital for achieving MDGs associated with poverty alleviation, disease eradication and improving maternal and child health.
Hunger constrains the developing world from achieving short term and ling term political, social and economic development. Furthermore, food security is considered a prerequisite to achieving economic development. Low productivity because of hunger causes per capital gross domestic product to decrease.
Causes of Food insecurity in developing countries
Causes of food insecurity include climate change, use of agricultural land for industrial and residential development, and population growth. Thus one of the causes of food insecurity in the developing world is lack of access to food. The availability of sufficient food does not imply that everyone is food secure. Lack of safe drinking water, low incomes; lack of infrastructure and primary healthcare all influence peoples food consumption. For example, although India produces sufficient food, the country has a high proportion of underweight and malnourished children, perhaps due to imbalances in food distribution and low incomes.
In addition to that, poor infrastructure and lack of roads are constraints to food security. Limited rural development in the developing world has suffered from poor infrastructure and lack of financial credits for famers. Lack of roads contributes to high food prices by increasing the cost of moving inputs and outputs (Mwaniki 2006). Poor road networks in the developing countries makes markets less efficient to adequately respond to food situations (Melito, 2008).
The agricultural sector is underdeveloped in Sub Sahara African and other developing countries as characterized by overdependence on primary agriculture, environmental degradation, reduced soil fertility, significant crop loss, insufficient food storage and minimal value addition (Mwainiki 2006 ). The source of revenue for many developing countries is agriculture. Low prices for agricultural produce makes it difficult for farmers from developing world to penetrate international market. Trade barriers, tariffs and subsidies distort international trade patterns and slow down market prices and farmers are hit the most.
Climate variability and natural disasters also contribute to food insecurity. They impact those countries that primarily rely on rain-fed agriculture. Poor farmers are less capable of coping with natural disasters and climate variability. Effects of climate variability and shocks often lead to enormous crop losses and consequent escalation in food prices.
In many developing countries, conflict is the cause of food insecurity. This is because armed conflict forces migrations, causes food emergencies and slows down economic growth. Of the countries that failed to research MDGs, a number of them are emerging from or are in armed conflict (UN Millennium Project 4). Conflict can also be an outcome of food security. Hunger can result to conflict and tear apart social cohesion.
HIV pandemic has also exacerbated food security in the developing world. The HIV epidemic is widespread in Asian and Sub Sahara Africa countries, with two-thirds of those infected with HIV/AIDS living in Africa (Melito 2008). HIV and food insecurity have two-way relationship that functions through malnourished people engaging in risky activities like selling sex for money, migrating and engaging in risky work. This HIV tragedy has left many children orphaned, led to malnourishment and poverty cycling. HIV plague has reduced workforce, population, as well as agricultural production of the developing countries.
High food prices are another underlying cause of food insecurity in developing countries. Since the end of 2008 economic downtown food prices have been falling in developed countries while increasing in developing world. This has caused an increase in proportional of people facing hunger crisis. Poverty stricken people are using most of their income and resources in food for survive and food is no longer affordable. High food prices that limit economic access to affordable and safe food. High food prices deny people access to sufficient food leading to hunger crisis.
The conversion of agricultural lands for residential, industrial and infrastructural development has decreased food productivity. Industrial and residential development reduces food production by converting arable land to non-agricultural uses. Loss of arable land serves to undermine food security in developing countries. Urbanization also has caused people to move to urban areas depriving of rural areas of labor.
Achieving Food Security
Food security is vital for achieving political and economic development, poverty and hunger alleviation. Achieving food security requires increasing social safety nets, creating enabling environment, increased political action, improving nutrition for vulnerable populations, increasing agricultural productivity, use of modern technologies and making markets more efficient.
The use of food safety nets can help expand food access to the hungry people. countries whose population s are food insecure should use social protection to fulfill their responsibility to feed their people., food safety net programs involve constant transfers of food or cash to households/ the goal of social protection is to safeguard households against hunger and shocks and assure some level of wellbeing. When effectively used, food safety nets can support markets by decreasing vulnerability to hunger, increasing demand and improving ability of people to invest in assets.
Improving agricultural productivity can guarantee food security by reducing food prices, increasing income and promoting economic development. While agricultural productivity is essential to boosting food safety and reducing hunger, no developing nation has eradicated poverty through agriculture without involving industrial and institutional development. Therefore, improved agricultural productivity should be accompanied by industrial development.
Use of science and technology can also play a significant role in improving food security. The use of new crop varieties can help increase food production. Technology can also reduce the cost of production and improve the quality of stored food. Additionally, technologies are vital to processing and marketing food in todays world. Biotechnology has made it possible to develop better crop varieties for the purposes of achieving higher yields, improving nutritional content and developing disease and drought resistant crops. Investment should be made in these technologies to help expand food production to areas formerly considered unproductive.
Achieving food security is critical for economic growth, poverty disease and hunger alleviation. While food production has increased in recent decades, a high proportion of people continue experience hunger and starvation in developing world. Causes of food security crisis include conversion of arable land to residential and industrial activities, conflict, high food prices, poverty and diseases, lack of access to food and climate shock. Improved agricultural production, social safety nets, use of science and technology are some of the solutions to improving food security in developing world.
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Melito, Thomas. Food Insecurity Persists in Sub-Saharan Africa Despite Efforts to Halve Hunger by 2015. Washington, D.C: United States Government Accountability Office, 2008. Print.
Mwaniki, Angela. (2006). Achieving food security in Africa. United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa. New York: United Nations. Retrieved on April 29, 2017 http://www.un.org/africa/osaa/reports.html
POSTnote. Food security in developing countries. 2006. Retrieved on April 29, 2017 http://www.parliament.uk/documents/post/postpn274.pdf
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