Cover Image
close this bookCARE Food Manual (CARE , 1998, 355 p.)
close this folderChapter 1 - Programming Food Resources
close this folderI. Hunger, Poverty, and Food Security*
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentA. Food Security
View the documentB. Coping Strategies


* This Chapter introduces food and logistics managers to basic information on hunger, food insecurity, and household coping strategies, and the role that food plays in programming.

Approximately 800 million people in the world today do not have access to sufficient food to meet the needs for a healthy and productive life, according to FAO estimates. They are food-insecure. They often go hungry and are not sure when they will have their next meal. Between 10 and 12 million preschool children died last year from hunger and diseases related to malnutrition. Although there is enough food in the world today to feed everyone if it were distributed evenly, 25 developing countries (including about half of the African nations) could not insure sufficient calories per capita even if all food available nationally were redistributed. Even in areas where there is food available in the aggregate, access to food by households and individuals is affected by poverty - the poor often lack adequate resources to secure consistent and reliable access to food. (1994 World Food Day Report. The President's Report to the US Congress, October 16, 1995)

Large-scale poverty persists in the world today because of a number of interrelated economic, political, social, and environmental changes taking place globally and within developing countries. Economic crises experienced in the last two decades have forced many developing countries to cut back social services which provide safety nets for their poor populations. Jobs have not been created as fast as the population has grown, and there are greater inequities in the distribution of income, resources, and opportunities. Political changes in the 1980s and 1990s resulted in instability and military insecurity, contributing to increased global poverty. Political and natural emergencies are on the rise, such that 59 million people have been directly affected. In addition, population growth rates have outstripped the environmental carrying capacity in most parts of the world, leading to tremendous environmental degradation. This is manifested in the destruction of tropical forests, the loss of biodiversity, and water and air pollution. Finally, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has reached crisis proportions. By the year 2000, 90% of the infections (estimated to be over 90 million cases) will occur in the developing world.

Poor people's basic livelihoods are being threatened the world over. In 1992, 1.3 billion people (more than 20% of the world's population) lived in absolute poverty and were not able to meet their basic needs for food, clean water, shelter, education, and basic health care. Nearly two-thirds of these people live in South Asia or Africa. By the year 2010 these numbers could reach 1.8 billion.

A. Food Security

To address the problem of food security, policymakers and project planners have continually looked for ways to get at the root causes of poverty and world hunger, and permit households to have "access. . .at all times to sufficient food and nutrition for a healthy and productive life" (US Agriculture Trade and Development Act, 1990).

Factors that Influence Household Food Security



Food consumption

· Number of people in household
· Age, sex, working status of individuals
· Health status of individuals
· Childbearing status (pregnant, lactating)

Food production

· Access to land
· Access to technology
· Access to investment capital
· Education of the farmer
· Government policies (tariffs, price controls, export taxes, input subsidies)

Price of food

· Quantity produced
· Costs of marketing
· Size of population
· Income of population
· Government policies (tariffs, price controls, export taxes, input subsidies)

Income and assets

· Education of members of households
· Capital position of household
· Land position
· Employment opportunities
· Transportation costs to and from work
· Health

B. Coping Strategies

Food security is not static. The key to sustained food security is a household's adaptability to change and resiliency to bounce back from shocks that affect household members' abilities to earn income to produce or purchase sufficient food to meet household needs.

Types of Coping Strategies




· Crop and livestock adjustments
· Diet changes
· Increased consumption of wild foods
· Grain loans from family
· Labor sales (migration)

Liquidation of assets

· Sale of animals
· Cash/cereal loans from merchants
· Productive asset sales
· Farm land pledging
· Farm land sale

General out-migration

· To urban centers (temporary and permanent)
· To other countries