3. SHOCKS/VULNERABILITY TO LIVELIHOODS/FOOD
3.1 Concept of Food Insecurity Other Related Terms
• Loosely defined, “food insecurity” describes a
lack of access, at times, to enough food for an
active, healthy life for individuals within a
household: limited or uncertain availability of
nutritionally adequate foods.
• FAO defines food insecurity as a situation where
some people do not have access to sufficient
quantities of safe and nutritious food and hence
do not consume the food that they need to grow
normally and conduct an active and healthy life.
• Food insecurity may be due to:
- lack of food: no availability
- lack of resources: no access
- improper use: no proper utilization
- Changes in time: no stability
• Food insecurity can be indicated by hunger,
malnutrition, or poverty.
• It is the recurrent and involuntary lack of access to
• Hunger is usually understood as an uncomfortable
or painful sensation caused by insufficient food
• Scientifically, hunger is referred to as food
deprivation. Simply put, all hungry people are food
insecure, but not all food insecure people are
hungry, as there are other causes of food insecurity,
including those due to poor intake of micro-
• Undernourishment exists when caloric intake is
below the minimum dietary energy requirement
(MDER) which is 2200 Kilo Calories per day.
• The MDER is the amount of energy needed for light
activity and to maintain a minimum acceptable
weight for attained height.
• It varies by country and from year to year depending
on the gender and age structure of the population.
• Malnutrition results from deficiencies, excesses or
imbalances in the consumption of macro- and/or
• Malnutrition may be an outcome of food
insecurity, or it may relate to non-food factors,
such as inadequate care practices for children,
insufficient health services; and an unhealthy
• A current and widely used definition of poverty is:
“Poverty encompasses different dimensions of
deprivation that relate to human capabilities
including consumption and food security, health,
education, rights, voice, security, dignity and
3.2 Forms/Types of Food Insecurity
• Food security analysts have defined two general types of
3.2.1 Chronic Food Insecurity
• Chronic food insecurity is a type of food insecurity in
which individuals or groups are in a continuous diet
inadequacy caused by the inability to acquire food.
• In other words, an individual or group of people are said
to be chronically food insecure if they do not have access
to food on a day to day basis, regardless of the season or
time of the year.
• It is a situation, where countries, regions or households
have insufficient food to meet their needs on a year to
• It affects households that persistently lack the ability
either to buy adequate food or to acquire it.
• Chronic food insecurity is almost always closely
associated with poverty, and responses to the
problem will usually require an injection of external
• When a whole country appears to be food insecure,
this can be seen as a reflection of the country’s
economic assets relative to its population, and the
distribution of those assets amongst the population
or the overall governance of the economy.
• It is unduly pessimistic to assume that a poor asset
base dooms a country to food insecurity.
• Japan, one of the world’s most successful economies
has a poor natural resource base, but has developed
largely on the basis of its skilled labour force.
• The problem is more likely to stem from poor
policy, both in the food sector and more
generally, sometimes compounded by civil war.
• In these cases, a successful attack on chronic
food insecurity may require a change in both
political priorities and overall economic policy.
3.2.3 Transitory Food Insecurity
• Transitory food insecurity is a temporary decline in a
household’s access to adequate food.
• It is caused by a short-term fluctuation in production or
prices of food.
• Sometimes, it may lead to chronic food insecurity
depending on how severe it is and how frequently it
• In most cases, it takes a form of famine and requires an
urgent and coordinated effort to withstand the shock.
• Transitory food insecurity can be further divided into
temporary and cyclical or seasonal food insecurity.
• Temporary food insecurity occurs when sudden
and unpredictable shocks, such as drought,
flooding, pest attack, asset loss, war, theft, civil
conflict and HIV/AIDS, affect household’s
entitlements. For urban households, sudden
unemployment or illness of a wage earner may also
be a cause of temporary food insecurity.
• Seasonal food insecurity occurs when there is a
regular pattern of inadequate access to food.
• It is the outcome of regular pattern usually in
weather related phenomena.
• The most obvious is the crop production cycle,
which affects levels of output, market prices for the
output and agricultural employment opportunities.
• Often in agricultural households, this may be
compounded by problems of indebtedness.
• It is common for agricultural households to
build up debts during the growing season which
have to be repaid immediately after harvest,
when output prices are at their lowest.
3.3 Vulnerability to Livelihoods and Food Insecurity
• Vulnerability to food insecurity refers to the full
range of factors that place people at risk of
• FAO defines vulnerability as the presence of factors
that place people at risk of becoming food insecure
or malnourished including those factors that affect
their ability to cope.
• While WFP retains the following definition: “The
vulnerability to food insecurity is made of all the
factors that constitute a risk for people to become
food insecure including factors that affect their
capacity to face the difficulty they meet.
• In other words vulnerability to food insecurity
relates to situations where there is a risk – in
certain circumstances or following some events
or shocks (drought, disease, civil disturbance,
etc.) – that future food intake will be
inadequate” but also the following definition
more simple: “Conditions that increase a
household’s susceptibility to the effects of
• It is a function of a household’s exposure to a
hazard and its coping capacity to mitigate the
effect of that hazard”.
• The dynamic nature of food security is implicit
when we talk about people who are vulnerable to
experiencing food insecurity in the future.
• Vulnerability is defined in terms of the following
three critical dimensions:
1. Vulnerability to an outcome;
2. from a variety of risk factors;
3. because of an inability to manage those risks.
• The degree of vulnerability of individuals,
households or groups of people is determined by
their exposure to the risk factors and their ability to
cope with or withstand stressful situations.
• Food security as well as poverty is used to
describe people’s welfare at the present time.
• Vulnerability complements this static picture
with a dynamic, “forward looking” perspective
that is used to predict how the welfare of
individuals and households may change in the
future as a consequence of not being able to
face adverse events that may happen to them.
• Vulnerability can be expanded to capture a more
complex relationship between risks, ability to
cope (actions taken before, during and after
shocks) that affect food security.
• When viewed in relation to the probability of
experiencing welfare loss caused by uncertain
events, it also depends on the ability to reduce
risks before a shock occurs (proactive) and
respond effectively during and after they occur
• The vulnerability, which is a risk, hence a
probability, may be measured, but in relative
• As there are no unique indicators to measure the
three food security dimensions: availability,
access and utilization, there is no unique
indicator to measure vulnerability.
• Indeed, a person can be vulnerable to hunger
even if he or she is not actually hungry at a
given point in time.
• Vulnerability analysis suggests two main
1. Reduce the degree of exposure to the hazard;
2. Increase the ability to cope.
• By accounting for vulnerability, food security
policies and programs broaden their efforts
from addressing current constraints to food
consumption, to include actions that also
address future threats to food security
3.4 Causes of Livelihoods and Food Insecurity
3.4.3 Disaster Risks
3.4.4 Anthropogenic Causes
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