Food Security

A person, household or community, region or nation is food secure when all members have physical and economic access at all times to buy, produce, obtain or consume sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for a healthy and active life. 

Food insecurity can be one of the primary stressors or causes of vulnerability leading to disaster risk. Environmental factors like disease, climate change, environmental degradation, conflict and social factors like overcrowding and debt can have a significant adverse impact on livelihoods which under the wrong conditions can restricting people’s ability to access sufficient food. Coping strategies used in such situation can often further contribute to the erosion of livelihoods. [IFRC]


Small-holder farmers, especially in disaster-prone areas, are at particular risk. Climate change can affect livelihoods and sustainability of vulnerable households which are largely self-sufficient.  



Value-chain analysis is important to incorporate private sector participation in issues around climate change. Private sector entities or industries reliant on inputs from the agriculture-based sector will benefit from investments in resiliency of their suppliers/markets.


Community Organization

Community-based organizations working in the rural sector can tailor programming to agricultural communities, applying best practices from both climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation models.

To understand and evaluate the food security situation of various groups of people within a community perform a food security assesmentIn addition, food security assessments
can help to predict future food insecurity or the duration of an insecure food period. A food security assessment may become necessary when conditions in a country, region, or local areach ange, leading to increased vulnerability within communities. As a result, people may no longer be able to meet their nutritional needs. This can be due to either a sudden onset hazard, or a slow but consistent deterioration in the local situation. A number of factors may trigger food insecurity, such as drought, floods, landslides, locust infestations, outbreaks of conflict, influx of refugees or internally displaced people (IDPs), and the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Questions to raise during a food security assessment:
  • How do people make their living?
  • How do people meet their food needs?
  • What resources do they have?
  • Who accesses these resources over time?
  • How does a normal situation compare to the crisis situation?
  • Who appears to be most food insecure?
  • Who is most at risk of becoming food insecure?
  • Are people receiving assistance?
  • Can people manage without assistance from the National Society?
  • If not, how can the National Society support coping strategies?

[Source: IFRC, “Global food security assessment guidelines. A step-by-step guide for National Societies“]


Local and National Government

For economies largely dependent on agricultural production, policymaking around climate change mitigation and adaptation will be top of the list. Lessons learned from regional neighbors will be especially relevant to inform policies and programming.

The definition of food security is based on three important pillars:
  • food availability,
  • food access, and
  • food utilization.
Food availability in a country, region or local area meansthat food is physically present because it has been grown, processed, manufactured, and/or imported. For example, food is available because it can be found in markets and shops; it has been produced on local farms or in home gardens; or it has arrived as part of food aid. This refers to all available food in the area, and includes fresh, as well as packaged, food.
Food availability can be affected by disruptions to the food transport and production systems, due to blocked roads, failed crops or changes in import and export tariffs, amongst other factors. Such occurrences can influence the amount of food coming into an area. In addition, food availability is dependent upon seasonal patterns in food production and trading.
Food access refers to the way in which different people obtain available food. Normally, we access food through a combination of means. This may include: home production, use of left-over stocks, purchase, barter, borrowing, sharing, gifts from relatives, and provisions by welfare systems or food aid. Food access is ensured when everyone within a community has adequate financial or other resources to obtain the food necessary for a nutritious diet. Access depends on a household’s available income and its distribution within the household, as well as on the price of food. It also depends on markets, and on the social and institutional entitlements/rights of individuals. 
Food access can be negatively influenced by unemployment, physical insecurity (e.g. during conflicts), loss of coping options (e.g. border closures preventing seasonal job migration), or the collapse of safety-net institutions which once protected people on low incomes.
Food utilization is the way in which people use food. It is dependent upon a number of interrelated factors: the quality of the food and its method of preparation, storage facilities, and the
nutritional knowledge and health status of the individual consuming the food. For example, some diseases do not allow for optimal absorption of nutrients, whereas growth requires increased intake of certain nutrients. 
Food utilization is often reduced by factors such as endemic disease, poor sanitation, lack of appropriate nutritional knowledge, or culturally-prescribed taboos (often related to age or gender) that affect a certain group’s or family member’s access to nutritious food. Food utilization may also be adversely affected if people have limited resources for preparing food, for example due to a lack of fuel or cooking utensils.
Any imbalance in the above-mentioned factors can lead to food insecurity.

[Source: IFRC, “Global food security assessment guidelines. A step-by-step guide for National Societies“]