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Monitoring food security

Jun 03, 2009

UNESCAP report – Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security in Asia and the Pacific – examines different kind of challenges to food security of the region, springing from the ongoing economic recession. The study suggests a regional framework of action and advocates strengthening of social protection programmes to tackle the crisis.

Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security in Asia and the Pacific

Publisher: UNESCAP, 2009

The impact of food insecurity on the Asia-Pacific region and how to deal with it is the focus of the United Nation Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) study.

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It examines the environmental, economic and social challenges that are the roots of the region’s food insecurity and suggests a regional framework of action to be taken by governments and the international community in order to create greater food security.

Food security is being threatened from many directions, not least from unsustainable forms of agriculture that are degrading the soil, water and biological diversity – problems that will be exacerbated by climate change. Access to food and not the supply of food is central to food security.

Climate change holds the potential to radically alter agro-ecosystems in the coming decades and there is already evidence of devastating crop failures. Predictions concerning food production vary. However, even if overall production were to remain high, declines in certain parts of the Asia-Pacific region may be expected.

The simplest way of monitoring food security is to look at outcomes – to count how many people are hungry. For this, there are three principal measures:

  • The first addresses consumption, typically by estimating the proportion of the population whose food intake falls below the minimum dietary energy requirement of 1,800 calories per day.
  • The second principal way of monitoring food security is by weighing a sample of children to arrive at the proportion who are underweight for their age.
  • Another way of tracking food insecurity is through the ‘global hunger index’ principally based on three indicators: the percentage of the population undernourished; the percentage of under-five children underweight; and the under-five mortality rate.

In future, farmers will find things steadily more difficult – faced with environmental degradation, climate change, and a series of other threats. Unless they can produce food not just efficiently, but also in ways that respects the environment.

Sustainable agriculture integrates the goals of environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. The overriding principle is to meet current food needs without compromising the rights of future generations.

To prevent downward spiralling due to idiosyncratic shocks, governments need to consider strengthening systems of social protection. These will include new forms of insurance, as well as more traditional forms of transfer, such as food- or cash-for work.

Source : UNESCAP
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