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Food Security and Scarcity

Food Security and Scarcity: Why Ending Hunger Is So Hard

C. Peter Timmer
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Food Security and Scarcity
    Book Description:

    In countries that have managed to confront and cope with the challenges of food insecurity over the past two centuries, markets have done the heavy lifting. Markets serve as the arena for allocating society's scarce resources to meet the virtually unlimited needs and desires of consumers: no other mechanism can efficiently signal fluctuations in scarcity and abundance, the cost of labor, or the value of commodities. But markets fail at tasks that society regards as important; thus, governments have had to intervene to stabilize the economic environment and provide essential public goods, such as transportation and communications networks, agricultural research and development, and access to quality health and educational facilities. Ending hunger requires that each society find the right balance of market forces and government interventions to drive a process of economic growth that reaches the poor and ensures that food supplies are readily, and reliably, available and accessible to even the poorest households. But locating that balance has been a major challenge for many countries, and seems to be getting more difficult as the global economy becomes more integrated and less stable.

    Food Security and Scarcityexplains what forms those challenges take in the long run and short term and at global, national, and household levels. C. Peter Timmer, best known for his work on the definitive textFood Policy Analysis, draws on decades of food security research and analysis to produce the most comprehensive and up-to-date assessment of what makes a productive, sustainable, and stable food systemand why so many countries have fallen short. Poverty and hunger are different in every country, so the manner of coping with the challenges of ending hunger and keeping it at bay will depend on equally country-specific analysis, governance, and solutions. Timmer shows that for all their problems and failures, markets and food prices are ultimately central to solving the problem of hunger, and that any coherent strategy to improve food security will depend on an in-depth understanding of how food markets operate.

    Published in association with the Center for Global Development.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9051-6
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Setting the Stage: Food Scarcity and Food Prices
    (pp. 1-29)

    Modern analyses of food security list five essential components:availabilityof food on farms and in markets; access to that food by all house holds; effectiveutilizationof the food within the house hold (a function of food safety, nutritional status, and health); thesustainabilityof the food system that delivers these components; and itsstability(Timmer 2012a). This definition stresses the elements that individuals and house holds require to be food secure, but food security is also an important objective at thenationallevel, where political leaders can be held responsible for failures and successes in maintaining accessible supplies...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Learning to Manage Food Security: A Policy Perspective
    (pp. 30-51)

    From a policy perspective, food security as a global issue presents an enormous paradox. At one level, steady progress has been made since the middle of the twentieth century in bringing hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and hunger. Measured by the key determinants of food security—improved availability, access, utilization, and stability—food security has been improving. Large pockets of food-insecure populations remain, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, but because of rapid economic growth, aggressive efforts to stabilize food prices, and/or safety net programs that deliver food to the poor, the rest of Asia and...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Understanding Food Security Dynamics: Models and Numbers
    (pp. 52-74)

    From a macro perspective, the two main drivers of food security in a country (and globally) are house hold incomes and food prices. To understand the dynamics of food security, it is necessary to understand the dynamics of these two drivers. That, of course, is no small task. Still, the development profession has learned a lot about the causes and determinants of rapid economic growth that reaches the poor (pro-poor growth) and the reasons for high and volatile prices for food. The agricultural economy, it turns out, is central to both.

    Achieving food security through a macro strategic approach involves...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Structural Transformation as the Pathway to Food Security
    (pp. 75-113)

    All successful developing countries undergo a structural transformation, which involves four main features:

    a falling share of agriculture in economic output and employment,

    a rising share of urban economic activity in industry and modern services,

    migration of rural workers to urban settings, and

    a demographic transition in birth and death rates that always leads to a spurt in population growth before a new equilibrium is reached.

    These four dimensions of structural transformation are seen by all developing economies experiencing rising living standards; diversity appears in the various approaches governments have tried in order to cope with the political pressures generated...

  8. CHAPTER 5 When Pro-poor Growth and Structural Transformation Fail
    (pp. 114-137)

    It is no secret that sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia remain the epicenter of concerns about ending hunger in the reasonably near future. Even rapid economic growth in India since 1990 has brought only modest reductions in hunger and malnutrition. Rapid growth in a number of countries in Africa since the commodity booms of the early 2000s have brought riches to some but little reduction in hunger and poverty on that continent. In view of the rapid reductions in hunger and poverty experienced in East and Southeast Asia, and earlier reductions in Western Europe and North America, the question has...

  9. CHAPTER 6 The Political Economy of Food Security: Food Price Volatility and Policy Responses
    (pp. 138-160)

    The basic premise of this book is that an early escape from hunger—achieving food security at the societal level—is not just the result of one-way causation from economic growth generated by private decisions in response to market forces. Improved food security stems directly from a set of government policies that integrate the food economy into a development strategy that seeks rapid economic growth with improved income distribution, as explained in Chapter 3. With such policies, economic growth and food security mutually reinforce each other. Countries in East and Southeast Asia offer evidence that poor countries using this strategy...

  10. CHAPTER 7 The Way Forward: The Time Horizon Matters
    (pp. 161-178)

    There is no shortage of proposals to improve food security and reduce poverty. The most useful ones are regional or even country-specific, although important global issues need to be solved as well. To have a significant and sustainable impact on food security, particularly in Asia, the main arenas in which changes are needed are these:

    higher productivity for smallholder farmers;

    a dynamic rural economy with rising real wages, stabilized by a concern for volatile food prices;

    design and funding of safety nets that protect the vulnerable from chronic poverty and a volatile economic environment; and

    support for the regional (and...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 179-186)
    (pp. 187-206)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 207-210)
    (pp. 211-213)