Assessing Food Security with the Food Security Assessment Model

The food security assessment (FSA) model, developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS), assesses food security at the country level and within country by income groups in order to account for both physical access (food availability) and economic access to food (see USDA, ERS, 2003 for details). The commodity coverage in this analysis includes grains, root crops, and "other" crops. Together, these three commodity groups account for 100% of all calories consumed in the study countries. In the above study, food consumption and food access were projected for 70 lower-income developing countries — 37 in Sub-Saharan Africa, 4 in North Africa, 11 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 10 in Asia, and 8 former republics of the Soviet Union.

The FSA model evaluates the food security of a country based on the gap between projected domestic food consumption, which is equivalent to all domestically produced food plus commercially imported food minus nonfood use, and a consumption requirement. Food gaps are calculated using two consumption targets: (1) maintaining base per capita consumption or status quo, which is the amount of food needed to support 1999-2001 levels of per capita consumption, and (2) meeting nutritional requirements, which is the gap between available food and food needed to support a minimum per capita nutritional standard. The minimum standard is a daily caloric intake of about 2100 calories per capita per day — depending on the region — recommended by the FAO. The caloric requirements are necessary to sustain life with minimum food-gathering activities. The FSA allows for the activity level of a refugee, but not for play, work, or any activity other than food gathering.

In combination, the two measures indicate two different aspects of food security: consumption stability and meeting a nutritional standard. They do not, however, account for food insecurity due to food distribution difficulties within a country. ERS attempted to capture this component of food security by allocating the projected level of food availability among different income groups. This represented an estimate of "nutrition distribution gap," which measures the quantity of food needed to raise food consumption of each income quintile to the minimum nutritional requirement. ERS also estimated the number of people who could not meet their nutritional requirements.

The FSA model estimated food security levels for 2002 (then current), 2007 (5 years out), and 2012 (10 years out). The 2002 estimates were calculated using contemporary data. Projections for 2007 and 2012 were calculated using historical commodity supply and use data for 1980 through 2001. This approach implicitly assumed that the historical trend in these key variables would continue into the future. Food Security in 2002

An estimated 38% or roughly 1 billion people in 70 developing countries suffered from insufficient food intake in 2002 (Shapouri and Rosen, 2003). As indicated in Table 4.1, the nutrition gap for these study countries was nearly 18 Mt (million metric tons). Food insecurity occurred in 56 of the 70 countries evaluated. Sub-Saharan Africa, the most vulnerable region, was projected to account for almost 90% of the nutritional gap while accounting for only a quarter of the population. The distribution gap is estimated at 31 Mt.

Table 4.1 Food Availability and Food Gaps for 70 Low-Income Countries (thousands mt)


Root Production (Grain

Commercial Imports (Grain

Year Production Equivalent) Equivalent)

Food Aid Receipts (Grains)

Aggregate Availability of All Food

Year Production Equivalent) Equivalent)

—1000 tons—






















































452,265 573,491


74,880 88,713

72,073 99,336

Food Gap NR NDR

17,738 31,315 729,785 16,928 25,318 926,606

Notes: NDR = nutritional distribution requirements gap; NR = nutritional requirements.

Source: From U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. 2003. Food Security Assessment. Agriculture and Trade Report, GFA-14. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC.

Data in Figure 4.1A indicate the distribution gap for all these countries except Cape Verde, which had a distribution gap equal to zero. There were 32 food insecure countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Eight Sub-Saharan African countries had distribution gaps greater than 50 kg per person. Somalia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe had gaps greater than 100 kg per person. Zimbabwe's distribution gap was the largest at 176 kg per capita. Asia and Latin America each had ten food insecure countries. Only Afghanistan, however, had a distribution gap greater than 50 kg per person. Four countries among the former republics of the Soviet Union were food insecure.

For low-income countries, short-term production shocks intensify food security problems. The contribution of domestic production to consumption is large, often exceeding 90%, and imports are restricted because of the lack of foreign exchange. An examination of the degree of production instability of staple crops in these countries highlights the threat of production shocks. For example, annual grain production in 14 of the 70 countries was cut by more than half at least once during the last two decades. As shown in Figure 4.2, 53 of the 70 countries suffered production shortfalls of at least 20% at least once during the last 20 years, while 17 experienced such shortfalls more than five times. Successive years of drought caused grain production in Southern Africa to drop 20% in 2001 and 14% in 2002.

Frequent short-term events that negatively impact on domestic agricultural production and the lack of effective food safety net programs amplify the problem in Sub-Saharan Africa, thereby increasing the likelihood of famine. About half of the countries in the region had annual grain production shortfalls of more than a third during the last two decades. Thirteen of these countries experienced shortfalls of more than 20% once every 4 years, and per capita grain production growth was negative in 7 of these 13 countries between 1980 and 2001.

Policies that are not related to these frequent economic shocks also may affect food security. For example, in the early 1980s, Zimbabwe was a model of success in Sub-Saharan

Figure 4.1 Food distribution gap in various low-income countries (kilograms of grain per capita). 1A. Estimates for 2002. 1B. Projections for 2012.

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Figure 4.2 Frequency of production shortfalls from trend, 1980-2000. (From U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. 2003. Food Security Assessment. Agriculture and Trade Report, GFA-14. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC.)

Africa because of the way it responded to the 1983-1984 drought, which reduced food production by half. However, two decades later, inappropriate policies and internal political problems led to a collapse of Zimbabwe's agricultural production, leaving the country with few resources to respond to the 2001-2002 drought. As a result, much of the population is food insecure and in some areas are in danger of experiencing famine. Projections of Food Security in 2012

The number of food-insecure people is projected to decline to about 708 million by 2012 (Shapouri and Rosen, 2003). As shown in Table 4.1, the food gap to meet average nutritional requirements is projected to be 16.9 Mt, while the distribution gap is projected to be about 25.3 Mt. Estimated projections for 2012 by country are depicted in Figure 4.1B. The number of food-insecure countries is projected to decline from 56 in 2002 to 40 in 2012. Twenty-nine of these countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Somalia is projected to be the most food-insecure country with a distribution gap of about 100 kg per capita.

□ # of shortfalls > 20 %


North Africa Sub-Saharan Asia Latin New

Africa America and Independent

Caribbean States

North Africa Sub-Saharan Asia Latin New

Africa America and Independent

Caribbean States

Chronic hunger in low—income countries is expected to grow at 1.5% per year, a rate lower than the population growth rate. Growth in agricultural productivity is necessary in order to improve food security in many developing countries. It means larger food supplies and lower prices for consumers as well as higher incomes for rural populations.

Food security in 37 nations of the Sub-Saharan Africa region is not expected to improve much during the next decade without a significant effort to address economic policies and to establish political stability. Based on all available indicators, the region will remain vulnerable to food insecurity unless a major commitment is made to improve the performance of the agricultural sector.

In general, food security is expected to improve over the next decade in Asia, Latin America, North Africa, and the former republics of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, food security in several specific countries is not expected to improve much during the next decade. North Korea, Afghanistan, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Tajikstan will continue to be chronically food insecure, both in terms of food availability and access to food by lower income groups. Even countries that are expected to become food secure by 2012 — based on our estimates — could face short-term problems because of production volatility. Countries such as Bangladesh and Cameroon are expected to barely pass the threshold of food security by 2012, but domestic production continues to contribute to more than 90% of their consumption. In this circumstance, any production shock can alter the situation significantly.

These projections are broadly consistent with projections of the number of malnourished children in 2020 (Rosegrant et al., 2001) and the incidence of undernourishment in 2015 and 2030 (FAO, 2003c). Rosegrant et al. (2001) estimates that the number of malnourished children will rise in Sub-Saharan Africa but fall in Western Asia/North Africa, Latin America, China, South Asia, and Southeastern Asia by 2020. The FAO (2003c) estimates that the incidence of undernourishment will rise in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Near East/North Africa, but fall in the Latin American/Caribbean, South Asia, and East Asia regions by 2015. The FAO also projects further declines in the incidence of malnourishment in the Latin American/Caribbean, South Asia, and East Asia regions as well as a decline (relative to 1997/1999) in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030. The FAO estimates that the incidence of malnour-ishment in the Near East/North Africa will still be higher than 1997/1999 levels in 2030.

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