CFS 2005/INF/7


Thirty-first Session

Rome, 23-26 May 2005


Table of Contents


1. Halving the number of hungry by 2015 is a key goal of the World Food Summit (WFS) and now forms an important target in the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) – that of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.

2. The FAO estimate of the number of persons undernourished is the chosen indicator for monitoring the WFS goal of halving, between 1990 and 2015, the number of people who suffer from hunger and the MDG target of halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015. Differences in the measurement of the number of hungry globally have been noted when using different data sources and approaches.

3. In June, 2002, FAO held an International Scientific Symposium (ISS) on the measurement and assessment of food deprivation and undernutrition, funded by the Government of the Netherlands. The Symposium was a forum for the review of five principal methods to measure hunger to monitor progress towards the WFS goal – i) the FAO method for measuring undernourishment which combines information from food balance sheets on food availability with information from household income and expenditure surveys on food distribution; ii) household income and expenditure survey data for measuring food insecurity; iii) individual food intake surveys for measuring adequacy of dietary intake; iv) anthropometric surveys for measuring nutritional status of children and adults; and v) qualitative methods for measuring people’s perception of food insecurity and hunger. The ISS represented the beginning of a global partnership contributing to the improvement of current methods of measurement of undernourishment to monitor progress towards the WFS goals. As no single measure suffices to capture all aspects of food insecurity, the ISS identified the need for a suite of indicators to measure hunger for furthering our understanding of the complexities of food insecurity and vulnerabilities and for helping to fulfil FAO’s mandate to monitor progress in hunger reduction.

4. On January 24-25, 2005, FAO held a workshop to review progress since the 2002 ISS and to assess the current status of indicators being used to monitor progress towards these international goals, while also touching upon national-level activities related to food security and vulnerability monitoring and intervention. The task of the workshop was to make recommendations for improvements or refinements needed to carry forward the work on monitoring hunger reduction and to ensure and strengthen partnerships and collaborations for improved monitoring of food insecurity at the global and national level. This workshop was supported by the Department for International Development (DfID) of the United Kingdom.

5. At the country level, the inter-agency FIVIMS Initiative supports networks of information system activities that gather and analyze relevant national and sub-national data that measure food insecurity and vulnerability. There are four dimensions of food security according to the FIVIMS conceptual framework – food availability, food access, food utilisation, and stability of access to food. Indicators that measure the ‘stability’ dimension of food security are closely associated with understanding vulnerability to food insecurity. FIVIMS provides a comprehensive list of indicators addressing these dimensions for individual nations to utilise for monitoring food security in their country.

6. There is a strong role for direct hunger reduction in policies to achieve poverty reduction. From the WFS Plan of Action, it is noted that poverty eradication is essential to improve access to food, as referred to in the 1st and 2nd WFS commitments. However, hunger is both an effect and a cause of poverty. Therefore, in addition to longer-term measures to reduce poverty, action must also be taken to meet the needs of the hungry directly and immediately. Without such a twin-track approach, progress on the eradication of poverty will be limited (CFS: 2000/Inf.6. “Fostering the political will to fight hunger”). The Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRS) are a process whereby countries outline comprehensive country-based strategies for poverty reduction, with outcomes designed to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals centred on halving poverty by 2015. There are no international imperatives for countries to include reduction of hunger and improvement of food security as policies for reducing poverty in their PRS (CFS: 2000/Inf.6 “Fostering the political will to fight hunger”). This may be perceived as an opportunity for starting to assist countries to link poverty reduction with food security as they prepare their Poverty Reduction Strategies.


7. It was stressed that all three child anthropometric indices (underweight, stunting and wasting) should be used to monitor undernutrition, as each one reflects different dimensions of undernutrition. Underweight was the only anthropometric indicator chosen for the first MDG for the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger.

8. The workshop participants noted that differences in various indicators were due to a combination of differences in their data sources, methodologies and parameters employed. It was therefore recommended that studies reporting on similar indicators need to be very explicit in presenting not only the differences in outputs but also the differences in their inputs. To address differences in the percent of undernourishment obtained when using different parameters and data sources such as Household Income and Expenditure Survey data or Food Balance Sheet data, experts from FAO and the International Food Policy Research Institute met subsequent to the workshop, to prepare a report on proposals for working together on these issues.

9. The workshop agreed that there are no recommendations to be made towards revising the standard FIVIMS conceptual framework developed some years ago by the FIVIMS Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG). However, it was stated that more work is needed to adequately address vulnerability to food insecurity, most particularly at the national and sub-national levels for improved policy and programme formulation and the design of interventions that reduce people’s propensity to becoming food insecure. This includes an understanding of the meaning of vulnerability, associated risk factors, and identification of appropriate indicators for its measurement. It was recommended that further work on vulnerability indicators, as appropriate, be included in the FIVIMS business plan under development.

10. It was agreed that there has been inadequate attention paid to the link between reducing hunger and poverty reduction, both on the international and on the national level. Based on recent studies, including one supported by the FIVIMS Secretariat, the need for food security concerns to be better reflected in PRS has been well recognised. Future FIVIMS support to individual countries may address the need for improved understanding of linkages between food insecurity and poverty indicators.

11. The workshop reviewed some of the expanding repertoire of newer methods to measure hunger. Several of these methods may be able to contribute towards global and national monitoring of food security and food deprivation. As a follow-up to a recommendation from the 2002 ISS, the workshop recognized the need for a clearing-house for developments of new measures, methods and indicators and the need to engage in a dialogue with users to resolve the issue of appropriate terminology of measurement methods and outcomes. The workshop recommends that this item be included in the FIVIMS business plan for future support by the Inter-Agency Working Group on FIVIMS.


12. The deliberations and recommendations of the workshop provide an opportunity for global partnerships and collaborations with FAO and other UN and International agencies to work together constructively to monitor progress towards the reduction of hunger and poverty and thus work together to achieve the WFS goal and the related MDG targets. The workshop provided valuable inputs to the proposed business plan for FIVIMS and a central role to it in contributing to a better understanding and measurement of food insecurity and vulnerability in order to enable appropriate action at both national and regional levels. The workshop provided an opportunity to link work on indicators with the Poverty Reduction Strategies drawn up by member countries and also provided a template for donor participation to promote and support future work in this important area of measurement and monitoring of undernourishment at global and national levels.