The Global Food Security Index – A needed tool that integrates nutrition as a key parameter

According to the UNs, the world will need at least 50% more food to feed a growing population by 2030, (expected to swell from 7 billion to 9 billion people by 2050). Another important deadline is the millennium development goal – to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger between 1990 and 2015. Unfortunately, the progresses for this specific goal are so far really disappointed.

In this context, global food security is more and more a top concern of many governments as illustrated by the recent G8 and G20 summits. The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, announced at the Camp David G8 Summit in May, highlights the shared commitment among G8 and African leaders, private business and non-governmental organizations to achieve global food security.

Consequently, a food security index is becoming increasingly important given the growing world population and the potential limits on our ability to provide food in coming years. So any additional and long-term measures than can give an overall picture of food security are seemingly useful.

Why improving food security (and indirectly nutrition) so important?

The truth is that food security is a prerequisite to economic growth and job creation. You cannot educate a hungry child, and you cannot hope for productive employment if citizens are going without food. Moreover, according to the latest analyses that focused on child and maternal health, there is a critical window of opportunity for improving child nutrition; it goes from pregnancy through the first 24 months of life. The deficits acquired by this age are difficult to reverse later and can affect dramatically the possibility for each child to achieve his or her full potential.

As claimed by the World Bank a few years ago, it is time to reposition nutrition as central to development and part of an global food security strategy (http://siteresources.worldbank.org/NUTRITION/Resources/281846-1131636806329/NutritionStrategy.pdf).

Who takes the lead on this new set of indicators?

DuPont, a developer of genetically altered crops, commissioned the Global Food Security Index to measure hunger worldwide, and identify areas for improvement and where reforms are most urgently needed. This new index was launched by the Economist Intelligence Unit, an advisory and forecasting research firm (http://www.multivu.com/players/English/56895-eiu-global-food-security-index-dupont/) a few days ago.

As highlighted by DuPont in their press released: “We share a common goal of food security; we do not share a common language. To truly address the root cause of hunger, we must have a common path forward to tackle such pressing issues as food affordability, availability, nutritional quality and safety. Literally billions are being invested to address food security, but until today, we had no comprehensive, global way to measure food security and the impact of investments and collaborations at the local level.”

Accordingly, the Global Food Security Index addresses the underlying factors of food insecurity in 105 countries and points to areas for improvement and reforms. We hope that the Global Food Security Index will be used appropriately to promote collaboration, make better informed decisions and stimulate action necessary to feed our growing population and impact positively the growing epidemic of malnutrition, i.e hunger and obesity.

What does this new index measure?

The Global Food Security Index measures levels of food security by answering a central question: “How can consumers in each country easily access sufficient amounts of safe, high-quality and affordable food?” said Leo Abruzzese, Economist Intelligence Unit Global Forecasting Director.

This new index seems to a comprehensive tool that will help to move from rhetoric to results. It is based on 25 global indicators that measure specific aspects of food affordability, accessibility, availability, nutritional value and safety. Because food security is a politically sensitive issue, the project tries to keep these indices are independent, credible and transparent that it is possible.

What we find really important is the fact that this index uses a multidisciplinary approach and measures at different levels (micro to macro) affordability, availability as well as quality and safety (see above).  Another aspect that we really like it is the big emphasis on the quality of the diet consumes by people in the different countries. Some aspects that resonate positively to us are diet diversification, micronutrient availability and not the last, protein quality (see below the result for Ghana).

This panel of indexes will not only measure affordability and availability but it will position nutrition as a vibrant and essential component of the overall food security strategy.    

Go and explore the Global Food Security Index website at http://foodsecurityindex.eiu.com/, it is part of the public domain.

You will be amazed by the large range of graphical representations that presents the data generated for the 105 countries. It is user friendly and you will be able to create your own representation using the Food Security Index data tool (see below).

When you click on a circle that represents one country, you get of course the name of the country but also some key information on food security for this country.    In the example above, the overall score for this new index is represented in function of the overall food consumption as a share of the household expenditure. France is in orange, the other European countries are in purple and the rest of the world in Grey.

What we see? France has one of the higher overall score and food consumption represented more than 20% of the household expenditure (which is significantly superior to USA that got the highest overall score). We all know that food or “le bien manger” is really important in France.  We also can see that there is a big difference among the European countries, that includes also East Europe and Central Asia countries.

What are the first results?

• The results show that the U.S., Denmark, Norway, France and the Netherlands are the most food-secure countries in the world. • The five most impoverished nations at the bottom of the Index, indicating they are have extensive food security problems, are Madagascar, Haiti, Burundi, Chad, and Congo.

• The good news is that several of the countries at the very bottom of the index, notably Mozambique, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Nigeria, are also ones with strong economic growth, suggesting that their food situation may improve as living standards rise and as sound policies are hopefully put in place.

• The index also indicated that China experienced the least volatility of agricultural production during the last 20 years (explained by generous subsidies that create a floor for food commodity prices), while the North African countries of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria had some of the most variance.

• The landlocked countries show only a modest increase in food insecurity, on average seven points lower on a scale to 100.

• Residents of wealthy nations have 55% more food available than people in poorer countries:  3,400 calories a person per day compared with the daily intake of 2,300 calories recommended by the United Nations to live a healthy and active life.

• People in the United States and other advanced nations consume an average of 1,200 calories per day more than those in low-income countries, but even in these wealthy nations food supplies lack enough micro-nutrients. In fact, an abundant food supply doesn’t guarantee that a nation will have the healthiest or safest diet. This is an interesting result – quantity doesn’t mean quality at all!

• Another interesting result is a strong correlation between women’s economic opportunity and access to affordable, safe food. The Global Food Security Index shows a hefty 0.93 correlation with the EIU’s Women’s Economic Opportunity Index, which measures female economic participation. “The FAO estimates that if women had access to the same productive resources as men—better seeds, fertilizers and fungicides—they could increase their yield by 20% to 30%. As women make up 43% of the world’s farmers, this would increase total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5% to 4%, and reduce hunger globally by 12% to 17%, according to the FAO.”

• Interestingly, the correlation between food security and EIU’s Democracy Index was only 0.77, a much weaker link than with women’s labor equality. This result may suggest that what happens in the political sphere is a bit less important than what happens on the social sphere, in terms of food and nutrition security.

Great job! They validate some important evidences.

Stay in contact with us …..

Resources:

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dupont-calls-for-common-food-security-metrics-2012-07-10

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/10/us-food-report-idUSBRE8690KR20120710

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jul/10/food-security-index#data

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-07-10/nations-with-most-food-may-lack-best-diets-study-finds

http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/07/global-food-security

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25 responses to “The Global Food Security Index – A needed tool that integrates nutrition as a key parameter

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