Food Security and Disaster

Authored by: Ian Christoplos

The Routledge Handbook of Hazards and Disaster Risk Reduction

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415590655
eBook ISBN: 9780203844236
Adobe ISBN: 9781136918698


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Food security has four main dimensions: food availability, access to food, stability of supply and safe and healthy use of food. The situation is deteriorating in all four dimensions. These dimensions demonstrate that risks are multiplying due to commercial speculation, population increase, climate change and other factors:

Availability of food is decreasing due to scarcity arising from land degradation and decreasing yields, increasing cost of agricultural inputs, population pressure, worsening climatic conditions, demands for meat and dairy products (which increases use of basic grain for animal feed rather than human food) and shifts from food to biofuel production.

Poor people’s access (entitlement) to food is declining due to worsening terms of trade between wages and food costs. Speculation is driving these declining terms of trade and also (perhaps) reducing the access of the rural poor to land for subsistence farming.

Stability is threatened due to increasing prevalence of disasters, erratic climate conditions, uncertainty regarding food prices and national protectionism.

Safe and healthy use of food is deteriorating as particularly the landless rural poor switch to more monotonous diets, which lack essential micronutrients, and as both flooding and scarcity of potable water increase the prevalence of diarrhoeal diseases and malaria, which in turn affect assimilation and metabolism of food.

Success or failure in maintaining food security along these various dimensions is a fundamental indicator of whether or not the most basic aspects of risk are being effectively managed. Hunger is the bottom line for those who are chronically vulnerable due to poverty or acutely vulnerable to disasters. People affected by disasters, their politicians and the organisations that claim to protect them generally agree on the centrality of food security, but they do not always agree on what this implies for humanitarian and development action. This chapter aims to unpack why this is so and suggests where a new, more ‘coherent’ agenda on food security might emerge.

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