October 23, 2012
By Simon Chambers
Former PWRDF Youth Council member Melissa Green asked me several months ago (sorry for the delay in answering!) about the phrase “food security”. I thought it would make a good entry for the Recipe for Development blog series, then promptly got busy with other work and it slipped towards the bottom of the “to-do” list.
But, given how often the term has come up recently: in the west Africa drought response, in meetings with the Canadian International Development Agency, and in PWRDF’s preparation for a food security campaign, I thought it was time to finally answer Melissa’s question.
Put simply, food security means having enough healthy food for yourself and your family for the long term. You’re not wondering where your next meal is coming from. You have either enough food that you grow yourself, or enough money to buy food without having to give up other necessities.
The term food security gets complicated by two other pieces of jargon we use in development: food aid and food sovereignty. I won’t try to tackle food sovereignty today (I still need to read through a 16 page primer on the subject that I got sent recently), but I will talk a bit about the difference between food aid and food security.
Food aid is about giving starving people something to eat. Food banks are a food aid project. So is a lot of the immediate response in a disaster: get food to people right now so they will live to see tomorrow.
Food aid is incredibly important in such situations. But it’s a bandaid.
The goal of PWRDF and other development agencies is to move beyond bandaids. Use them when necessary, absolutely! But let’s look at what can be done to address the root causes of hunger.
This is where food security comes in. This can take many forms:
- education for farmers to help them increase the yield of their crops.
- Helping farmers to produce organic fertilizers and pesticides to remove the costs (both money and health) of buying and using chemical pesticides or fertilizers.
- Micro-credit projects to allow people to build their small businesses so they can afford to feed their families every day.
- And many more
I hope this helps to answer Melissa’s question. As always, if there are terms that you’ve run across in PWRDF articles, or other sources, that you don’t understand (and have something to do with development) please let me know and I’ll try to explain them in plain English here!