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Methodological Considerations for Food Security and Sustainability Analysis

A lot of work on food security in the long term (2050) at the global level focuses on the availability of food, the global production potential and the food-population balance. Such analysis requires building complex simulation models of the global food system where scenario analysis is used to forecast long-term trends in food demand, supply and trade, as the IFPRI model (see Nelson et al. 2010). The IFPRI model is the only global model that analyses simultaneously the impact of population growth, income growth in developing countries and climate change within an economic behavioural environment. It provides an appropriate and consistent framework for policy analysis and assessment of the effectiveness of alternative public policy measures either at global or national level. With the computing capacity expanding rapidly, we expect that the use of such complex models will be of great help in providing policy solutions to current economic challenges (Rosegrant 2013).

The main drivers of change of the food equation in the IFPRI model are on the demand-side population growth and the change in the composition of food demand due to income growth, whilst on the supply side, are resource constraints, productivity and technology. With 50 per cent more people to feed in 2050 at the global level, with almost all of the increase taking place in developing countries, and more demand for high-valued food (meat, dairy products, fish, vegetables and fruits) the food security challenges at global level are unprecedented. However, on the supply side another important factor has been added recently, that of climate change. Climate change is considered as a threat multiplier, being responsible for reduced productivity of existing varieties and cropping systems and resource degradation (See Nelson et al. 2010) leading to innovations for climate-smart agriculture (Branca et al. 2011, Neufeldt et al. 2013 and van Wijk 2014).

The building of such models requires an enormous amount of effort and information, contribution from various scientific disciplines and assumptions based on expert judgement about long-term developments in the macro-economic environment, technology developments and institutions. Partial analysis, although useful in highlighting aspects of the global food security situation, may not be considered adequate to answer questions about the global food supply—demand balance. Similarly, biological models that are based mainly on the continuation of past trends and on expert judgement about technological developments are not appropriate for an accurate representation of the future because they lack the behavioural dimension of economics (see Godfray et al. 2010). If we have learned anything from the experience of the past 50 years and the scientific debate outlined previously, it is the importance of human ingenuity and the innovation capacity, responding to economic factors such as prices, inducing both technical and institutional innovations to address the problems society is facing. Hence, assuming that humanity will in the next 50 years be able to advance new technologies that respond to current challenges, such as climate change, generating new technology with the same pace as in the past 50 years, the future may not be as gloomy as portrayed in such global biological models.

Analysing food availability at the national or regional level is a similar exercise but much less complex and easier. A very simple indicator of food availability is the self-sufficiency ratio (SSR) of the various food items, bearing in mind caveats mentioned earlier. However, simple SSRs are not suitable to be used for making policy choices and a more sophisticated analytical framework is needed. Such frameworks are national models embedded within international agricultural projection models that can simulate the policy impact of various policy measures on food production, consumption and trade dynamics at national and regional level. There are a number of models that use comprehensive data and computer modelling systems to analyse the complex economic interrelationships of the food and agriculture sector at world level. An earlier one is the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI), a dual-university research programme with research centres at Iowa State University and the University of Missouri, Columbia, USA that has developed a world model of food and agriculture for projections and policy analysis. Another one is the OECD-FAO AGLINK-COSIMO modelling system, one of the most comprehensive partial equilibrium models for global agriculture used as a one of the tools to generate baseline projections underlying the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook. CAPRI and AGMEMOD are global food and agriculture models developed with European research funds and used by the European Commission to support decision making related to the Common Agricultural Policy on the basis of sound scientific quantitative analysis.

The analysis of food availability at national or regional levels is a necessary but not sufficient indicator of the food security situation in the country. Additional information about the household and individual levels is required to provide an accurate picture of food insecurity in the country or the region (Maxwell and Frankerberger 1992).

Although agricultural production, food demand and trade are at the centre of the food security picture of a country, price and income volatility, at national and household levels, as well as attitudes towards risk and household behaviour, are also important determinants of short-term food security (Timmer 2012). Furthermore, a rapid increase in food production and food self-sufficiency may be desirable for various reasons, but it does not necessarily result in an increase in food security. In addition, an important distinction should be made between chronic (long-term) and transitory (short-term) food security, as well as seasonal (recurrent) food insecurity at the household level. Portraying an accurate picture of the food security situation in a country requires the development of a set of indicators that capture information at the household level using dedicated surveys or general household budget surveys. Such a methodology has been developed by the FAO (FAO 2008 and FAO 2014).

This methodology provides evidence-based assessment of the current food and nutrition situation at the country level, identifies the principal drivers responsible for observed trends and highlights the main challenges and risks faced at the country level in relation to achieving sustainable food and nutrition security. The analytical framework that is usually used is based on the well-established four dimensions of food security (availability, stability, accessibility and utilisation) and is carried out at two levels: at the micro level, i.e. assessing how food-secure the household is, and nationally or at the macro level, i.e. assessing how food- secure the country or region is. Three types of indictors are usually used: (a) household level, (b) analytical level (drivers of change—middle layer) and (c) core indicators for strategy design (at country or regional level). The set of indicators can also form a monitoring system for evaluating food security policy targets. The macro-level indicators may use country-level data available at the country’s statistical information and at the

FAOSTAT data base. These detailed micro-level indicators are usually derived from dedicated surveys or from Household Budget Survey data at country or region level. These indicators illuminate various unobserved sides and angles of the issue and reveal poor and malnourished pockets in the population, as well as policy approaches to address the problem that may not be a priori obvious (FAO 2008).

The FAO uses information that combines country-level data on food supply-demand balances as well as information from household budget surveys for almost all countries of the world to make its annual assessment of the State of Food Insecurity in the world (SOFI). According to SOFI 2015, 72 developing countries out of 129 had achieved the 2015 Millennium Development Goal target of halving the population of hungry people, but hunger remains an everyday challenge for 800 million people worldwide (FAO 2015b).

 
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