For the past decade, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its
partners throughout the international development community considered food security
Too often, however, strategies to reduce food insecurity have been operationalized that
considered only the first three components of the food security definition. In emergency
or relief interventions, there is an obvious priority on getting food to those with
immediate need. The challenge, however, is to address the needs of households that
may be food secure today but are using coping strategies that may compromise their
food security tomorrow. Emergency and relief actors operate within timeframes and
institutional settings that constrain them from considering the long-term impact of
emergency interventions on development activities. On the other hand, development
actors do not always consider the ability of households to manage future risk, especially
in shock-prone areas.
- a wide variety of food was available in local markets or fields (availability);
- people had enough money to purchase a variety of foods (access);
- food was eaten in an environment that supplied appropriate care, clean water, and good sanitation and health services (utilization); and
- the risk of losing these levels of availability, access, and utilization was low.
The perspective that both emergency and development actors are missing is
vulnerability. Vulnerability is defined here as the ability to manage risk. Vulnerability
can be lessened by 1) reducing exposure to risks from shocks that affect many (e.g.,
drought) or shocks that affect individuals, households, or communities (e.g., the death of
the household head); 2) increasing the ability to manage such risks; or 3) both.
This paper concludes that the food assistance community can and should do the
- Develop a new conceptual framework to integrate relief and development
interventions to accelerate reductions in food insecurity. Vulnerability concepts
should be at the core of this framework. In addition, the framework should be
flexible enough to allow adaptation to different contexts such as urban areas and
areas heavily affected by HIV/AIDS.
- Play a more active role in the broader development and poverty debate. Safety net
transfers are not just residual to the growth processвЂ”they should be an integral part
of a growth strategy.
- Form partnerships with applied research organizations that work in these areas to
update the food aid community on concepts such as vulnerability, targeting,
livelihoods, governance, rights, and social capital. Research organizations will also
benefit from the operational experiences of development organizations.
- Support rigorous evaluations of key programming issues.
- Contribute to improving and widely disseminating good data on global food insecurity
levels and changes over time.