Merida, Mexico, 10 to 14 April 2000


Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Food insecurity and vulnerability: A conceptual framework

III. Guidelines for Food Security Policy in Latin America and the Caribbean

IV. Food insecurity and vulnerability in Latin America and the Caribbean

V. Conclusions and policy implications


APPENDIX II:  Food security regional initiatives

APPENDIX III:  The FAO Special Programme for Food Security in Latin America and the Caribbean

I. Introduction

1. The 1996 World Food Summit (WFS) focused world attention on food insecurity and the need for policies to improve food access by the poor. In the Rome Declaration on World Food Security, summit participants agreed to a set of commitments for eradicating food insecurity through national action and complementary international efforts. This paper examines how Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) nations have proceeded in addressing the issues of food insecurity and vulnerability. While the LAC region has not recently experienced widespread hunger on the scale of parts of Africa and Asia, food insecurity is still a problem for millions of people across the region.

2. Before discussing the state of food insecurity in LAC, a conceptual framework for food insecurity and vulnerability is presented. This is done to highlight the multiple dimensions of food insecurity and the multiple levels of policy intervention from the regional and national levels to the household and individual levels. Based on the conceptual framework a number of measures of food insecurity are discussed and data from LAC on food insecurity and vulnerability are presented. Finally, conclusions and policy implications are presented.

II. Food insecurity and vulnerability: A conceptual framework

3. The concept of food security has evolved significantly since the 1974 World Food Conference. At that time, discussions of food security focused on the supply of food at the global and national level and more specifically on the ability of specific countries to obtain - through production, imports or stocks - an adequate supply of food to feed the country's population. The focus on national food self-sufficiency neglected the fact that quite often countries did have adequate food supplies at the national level but still faced widespread hunger. It became increasingly clear that while an adequate national food supply is a necessary condition for food security, it is not a sufficient condition. The coexistence of adequate aggregate food supplies and hunger led to a shift in emphasis from national supply to individual access to food. This shift is reflected in the definition of food security used in the 1996 Rome Declaration on World Food Security: "Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life". The definition reflects the emphasis on access and the individual nature of food security, rather than national or global supply.

4. Developing appropriate policies to address food security issues requires considering multiple levels of intervention from the national and sub-national level to the household and individual level. However, nutrition is fundamentally an individual matter and to begin any analysis requires understanding food security at this unit of analysis. In this section, three dimensions of food security are addressed: a) entitlements, b) timing and c) uncertainty and risk.

a) Entitlements

5. The entitlement approach to food insecurity focuses on the ability of individuals to command food through production, trade, labour power, transfer or other methods. A person lacks adequate nutrition if she does not have adequate entitlements to food or does not use those entitlements to avoid undernutrition. The entitlement approach concentrates on examining an individual's entitlement mapping and the existence of entitlement failure. This shifts the emphasis of food security to command over food, or food access, and away from food supply. The approach also concentrates on the individual and highlights the fact that she may experience hunger even though there is adequate food at the national, sub-national, community or even household level. At any level, including the household, even if adequate food is available there is no guarantee food will be distributed equitably1.

6. Understanding food insecurity then requires examining the various mechanisms that allow individuals to maintain command over food. Since entitlements vary across individuals it is not necessarily the case that a single event, such as a dramatic rise in the price of food or a reduction in the daily wage, will effect all individuals the same or to the same degree. Even neighbors within a community may have different entitlements. Furthermore, within households the entitlement may differ2. Across households, communities, provinces and countries, entitlements, and therefore the incidence of undernutrition, vary.

7. While entitlements do vary across individuals, similarities exist and are often closely related particularly among individuals in close geographic or social proximity. Thus, the effects of a change in social or economic conditions can affect individuals in similar ways. Community members with similar entitlements may also be affected by a shock in a comparable way3. As with the household, where intrahousehold relations matter, community interaction and institutions can be important in considering food security. Mutual assistance among community members has been well-documented and although the evidence suggests there is not full pooling of consumption risk within communities, such assistance may be directed at avoiding hunger. In the events where there is widespread entitlement failure, such institutions may not be adequate to cope with aggregate shocks4.

8. The focus thus far has been on the role of entitlements in food access and thus food security and little emphasis has been placed on the source of entitlements. Entitlements are based on the assets of the individual and the household. The term assets here is defined broadly to include not just physical assets such as land and machinery, but also human capital assets (eg. education, training), institutional assets (eg. credit access, technical assistance), social capital assets (eg. mutual assistance groups, migrant networks) and public assets (eg. infrastructure, government support)5. It is therefore not only necessary to understand the source of entitlement but also the basis, in terms of asset position, of the entitlement.

9. Assets are often held at the household rather than the individual level or, such as individual education, are not held by the household but can be used by the household to achieve food objectives. Therefore, the household is an extremely important institution for analysis of food security. Improving the overall asset position of the household can have important food security implications for all members.

b) Timing

10. Food insecurity is usually categorized as chronic, which implies an individual is consistently unable to obtain sufficient quantities of nutrients, and transitory, which is a temporary reduction in sufficient nutrient intake. Even those that are chronically food insecure are likely to experience fluctuations in the degree of insecurity across time. The source of these fluctuations is seasonality and uncertainty. Although uncertainty plays an important role (see below), much of the seasonality of food access is predictable6. Previous experience with seasonal fluctuations provides individuals with insights into the trends in food production and prices, real wages, etc. These factors create a situation where periodic food insecurity, often called a lean season, may occur. This season is normally related to the crop production cycle and is predictable. Individuals, and the households to which they belong, can take actions in response to mitigate negative effects. Thus, the food insecure may face a tradeoff between saving in this season to avoid later hunger and hunger in the present. Informed food security policy then requires understanding behavioral dynamics - that is, individual decision-making over time.

c) Uncertainty and risk

11. At any given point in time, due to multiple sources of uncertainty7, individuals face a probability of becoming food insecure. This is often refered to as the vulnerability of the individual. The individual's vulnerability depends on her entitlements, and hence her asset position8, and forces of nature. When an undesirable outcome, such as low wages or low production, occurs then the individual may become food insecure. This type of food insecurity is also transitory but its source is different from periodic food insecurity in that it is the result of risk. It can be labelled sporadic, as opposed to periodic, because it occurs repeatedly but not necessarily at certain intervals and is associated with risk exposure not seasons. Of course, individuals are unlikely to face the same distribution of food outcomes in a given year or even from year to year - timing and uncertainty are inextricably related.

12. Given this risky environment, individuals are likely to take actions to avoid or minimize undesirable outcomes. Both ex post actions for coping with food risk and ex ante management strategies may be employed. If insurance or credit markets function properly then individuals could insure against the probability of food insecurity (at some cost). However, market imperfections often limit the ability to cope with risk through formal markets. Hence, informal insurance mechanisms exist within households, communities or kinship groups in many developing countries9. In addition to these coping strategies, individuals and household may also try to manage risk10. These actions may limit risk but often at a cost to average food intake and are generally imperfect mechanisms.

13. The ability of an individual to cope with and manage risk is referred to as resilience. The resilience of an individual is largely dependent on assets11. An individual with substantial assets and/or a diversified asset portfolio is generally more able to manage and cope with risk and is thus more resilient than an individual with limited assets.

III. Guidelines for Food Security Policy in Latin America and the Caribbean

14. Although the focus of the conceptual framework is on the individual, there are numerous implications for the different levels of intervention in LAC (regional, national, sub-national, community, household and individual). In this section, a policy matrix (Table 1) is developed which considers at each level of intervention the relevant issues to consider, the information that is necessary to inform policy, and potential and actual policy interventions within LAC.

a) Individual

15. The ultimate objective of food security policy is to insure that all individuals have sufficient food at all times for an active and healthy life. To achieve this they must get access to food through their entitlements. Entitlements are often household-based and the distribution of food depends on intrahousehold relations. Intrahousehold allocation of resources depends on the asset position of each individual in the household and the individual labour activities as well as other factors such as gender. Understanding these issues is key to determining whether individuals are able to maintain sufficient food intake, thus information gathering on intrahousehold relations and individual assets is essential for developing policies.

16. If inequities in household allocation are detected, then focusing on key members of the household is crucial. This can be done through improving the position of individual household members through programs that, for example, empower women by improving their asset holdings and their legal title to such holding and actively considering the gender implications of development policies.

b) Household

17. Household assets12 determine its capacity to generate income, obtain food and manage risk. Along with asset position the timing of entitlements and the sources of uncertainty determine the vulnerability and resilience of the household.

18. Identifying the household's asset position, understanding the dynamics of food access and examining household strategies for coping and managing risk are therefore key to understanding food security. Household-level interventions must focus on facilitating asset accumulation, promoting alternative income-generating activities and facilitating risk management. Ultimately, the objective of interventions at this level is to combat both income and asset poverty in order to reduce household food insecurity and vulnerability.

c) Community

19. Addressing food security issues at the community level requires understanding how community characteristics affect the food security of individual community members13. Community resource access and management of common property may assist or hinder members' food security. Market integration and access to public services, which is dependent on how remote a community is or its political connections, also influence members's food security.

20. Intervention at the community level requires understanding community characteristics and requires obtaining information about community assets, heterogeneity and members' economic activities. Policies must be based on specific community needs. This requires facilitating channels of communication between the community and public sector and adopting a participatory approach to intervention.

d) Sub-national

21. At the sub-national level, the relationship and differences between the urban and rural sectors need to be considered. There are number of distinct characteristics of urban life that have implications for food security14 and,together with the high levels of urbanization in LAC, call for policy makers to directly address urban food security. Some policies, such as food price policies, may affect vulnerable rural and urban dwellers differently and certain policies may even have opposite effects on each group.

22. A second consideration in sub-national food security policy is aggregate risk which has the potential to hurt a number of people by affecting their entitlements in similar ways and can also lead to multiple entitlement failures. Determining the sources of risk for parts of a country is important in preparing for possible problem15.

23. A third sub-national consideration is the food distribution network. Even if national supplies are adequate to provide food for all people at all times, it may be the case that certain parts of the country do not receive adequate supplies or the cost of transportation are such that the price of food is high. Examining the market structure and establishing adequate supply channels are extremely important. Resolving such problems may require investing in transportation networks that allow adequate food distribution to remote regions.

24. Finally, to guide policy it is important to identify certain areas of the country where widespread food insecurity is a problem or could potentially be a problem. Vulnerability maps highlight where national disasters and other risks, isolation and areas of low entitlement may lead to food security problems.

e) National

25. Historically, policy interventions for food security have focused on maintaining food supplies at the national level. While this is not sufficient to ensure food security for all people at all times, it remains an important consideration. Maintaining a stable and secure supply of food through production, imports and storage can avoid widespread problems. This can be done through identifying and responding to bottlenecks in supply and distribution including employing policies that facilitate food imports when required. In order to maintain domestic supplies, agricultural policies should ensure that agricultural productivity is consistently increasing.

26. The overall macroeconomic environment and state of the economy are extremely important for food security. A growing economy is much more likely to lead to poverty reduction and certain growth paths are more conducive to poverty reduction than others. Policies that promote such growth create an environment conducive to food security and limits vulnerability. Finally, a major cause of food insecurity is social instability. Civil war and crime can cause regional isolation and divert important resources causing entitlement failure. A socially stable and secure environment is necessary for food security.

f) Regional

27. Governments have the primary responsibility for creating an economic and political environment conducive to assuring food security of their citizens. However, in an increasingly integrated region, regional initiatives can make an important contribution to the goal of food security. The international community supports regional initiatives and thus plays a role in achieving the commitments of the World Food Summit Plan of Action to overcome food insecurity and poverty.

28. There exists a number of regional issues and concerns that can have direct or indirect effects on the evolution of food security and poverty in the region, and for which it might prove advantageous for governments and the international community to cooperate. Among others, the following issues are especially relevant:

These issues are explored further in Appendix II with particular emphasis on recent initiatives.

IV. Food insecurity and vulnerability in Latin America and the Caribbean

29. The Food Security Policy Matrix (Table 1) emphasizes the importance of information gathering to inform food security policy at each level of intervention. The definition of food security presents a dilemma in this regard since it is difficult to quantify. How can "sufficient food" be measured? Determining the presence of food insecurity and vulnerability necessarily requires using indirect measures. The evolution of the concept of food security from concerns about aggregate level of food supply to the current inclusion of access to proper nutrition by vulnerable individuals has been closely followed by practitioners' attempts to measure food security at all relevant levels16. This has led to the development of a great diversity and number of indicators. The underlying purpose of all indicators has generally included one or more of the following aspects:

30. Table 3 summarizes the most commonly used indicators. The various indicators and measures of food insecurity represent different ways to answer the question of who is food insecure and vulnerable. By using a variety of methods and measures, it is possible to get a picture of food insecurity in a country or region.

31. The objective of this section is to examine indicators of food insecurity and vulnerability in LAC using currently available data.

a) Aggregate picture

32. Table 4 presents the latest available information on aggregate undernourishment for LAC countries. The region as a whole has experienced a modest decrease in the overall number of its citizens suffering from undernourishment in recent years (1990/92 to 1995/97), from 58.6 to 53.4 million, after experiencing a substantial rise in the previous decade. The rise in the 1980s corresponds to the debt crisis, which led to a general economic downturn in much of LAC. The regional trend masks important differences between sub-regions and countries. In fact, the only sub-region that has experienced a decline in the number of undernourished in recent years has been South America. Central America has seen its number of undernourished increase, while its proportion has remained constant, and the Caribbean sub-region has seen a marked increase in the number and proportion of its population suffering from undernourishment.

33. Table 5 summarizes the changes in the number and proportion of the population affected by undernourishment in the LAC region from 1990-92 to 1995-97.

34. With the exception of Bolivia and Venezuela, all South American countries have been successful in reducing the absolute number of undernourished people in recent years. Impressive achievements have been made by Peru, which has almost halved the number of its undernourished, from 8.9 to 4.6 million; by Colombia, which has reduced the number of undernourished from 6.1 to 4.9 million; and by Brazil, which has reduced the number of undernourished from 19.4 to 16.2 million. South America's achievements in reducing its absolute number of undernourished in the current decade, as impressive as they are, however are just sufficient to make up for lost ground in the previous decade, where the sub-region saw the number of undernourished climb from 33.8 million in 1980 to 42.1 million in 1990. South America's future aggregate improvements are largely dependent on Brazil's situation, where nearly half of the sub-continent's undernourished live.

35. Central America witnessed a moderate reduction of the proportion of undernourished in the previous decade, however from the 1990/92 period to 1995/97 there has been no change. In fact, the absolute number of undernourished has increased by over 15% in the current decade. No Central American country has seen its absolute number of undernourished decrease, and except for Honduras and El Salvador, they have all had the proportion of undernourished go up. The lack of improvement in the sub-region can largely be attributed to the marked increase in Guatemala, where about one third of the Central American undernourished still live. Guatemala is just emerging from decades of civil conflict, which undoubtedly was a contributing factor in the lack of progress. Although Honduras has made remarkable progress since 1980, the proportion of undernourished people is still quite large, at 21 percent. Nicaragua is by far the Central American country with the largest proportion of undernourished, almost one third of its population and the situation continues to worsen.

36. The Caribbean sub-region has experienced an alarming increase in the number and proportion of undernourished people. In recent years, the number of undernourished in the Caribbean has increased by 2 million, while the proportion has gone from 25 to 31 percent. This is in addition to a 2.7 million (6 percent) increase in the undernourished population in the previous decade. With nearly two thirds of its population undernourished, Haiti's food insecurity situation is so acute it's comparable to some African countries. However, the large increase in the number of undernourished in the Caribbean sub-region can mainly be attributed to the sharp deterioration of the food security situation of Cuba. Cuba's loss of it's most important trading partner, the former USSR, and the continued trade embargo imposed by the United States are the primary factors behind a steep decline in food imports and the corresponding sharp increase in its number of undernourished, 1.8 million. Other Caribbean countries have managed to make modest improvements in the proportion of the affected population, but none has seen its absolute numbers decrease.

b) Screening and identification: Aggregate measures

37. As noted earlier, one important reason for obtaining information on food insecurity is to identify vulnerable units for intervention and examine some of the causes of food insecurity. In this section, the characteristics of the food insecure in LAC are examined using aggregate data.

38. The UN estimates that by the year 2000, three quarters of the population of LAC will be living in urban areas. Many analysts believe that globally the locus of poverty and undernutrition is gradually shifting from rural to urban areas. The latest available regional figures corroborate this insight as far as poverty is concerned. The number of urban poor far outweigh the rural poor, 126 million to 78 million, and while the number of rural poor has remained relatively constant since 1990, the number of urban poor has increased by over 4 million from 1990 to 1997. This rise in urban poverty will undoubtedly be related with an increase in food insecurity in urban areas.

39. Table 6 presents the prevalence of children suffering form undernutrition in rural and urban areas for several countries of the region and survey years. For nearly all countries presented in the table, the prevalence of underweight, stunted and wasting children is greater in rural areas. However, for many countries the difference between urban and rural prevalence of undernutrition in children is not large. For the countries for which data availability allows comparison over time, all have managed to reduce the prevalence of urban undernutrition in children except for Nicaragua. The prevalence of undernutrition in rural children has increased in Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. Another interesting finding is that by looking at the ratios of rural to urban prevalence over time, there seems to be a clear bias in favour of the urban undernourished among the countries for which intertemporal comparison is possible. In other words, the prevalence of undernourished children in urban areas is decreasing (increasing) faster (slower) than the prevalence in rural children.

40. The information available shows that undernutrition in children is more widespread in rural areas. However, the problem is also present, and importantly so for many countries, in urban zones. For some countries, due to the demographic distribution of the population, the percentage of all underweight children in urban areas may actually be greater than the percentage in rural areas. Table 7 shows estimates of the absolute number of stunted (low height-for-age) children, as well as the percentage of all stunted children, in urban and rural areas for selected countries. For Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil the percentage of all stunted children living in urban areas is greater than 40%. For Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil, the majority of stunted children live in urban areas.

41. Table 8 summarises the changes over time in urban prevalence of stunted children for some countries in the region.

42. Except for Guatemala and Peru, the share of undernourished children living in urban areas is on the increase, which points to a shift in the locus of undernourishment from the rural to the urban for these countries. However, the Dominican Republic and Colombia have been successful in combating this shift as evidenced by the decrease in the absolute number of urban undernourished children. Given that in absolute numbers the population, and the poor in particular, in urban areas are rapidly increasing, the food security situation in urban areas merits special attention. Particularly since food security and malnutrition have not appeared as major items on the urban research or policy agenda in the past or present.

43. Considerable attention has been given to the possible existence of a nutritional gender gap, particularly in the African continent. In Table 9, this issue is addressed in the LAC context using national anthropometric measures for girls and boys to detect any significant differences in nutritional status. As evidenced by the female to male ratios of prevalence of the different measures, there appears to be little or no nutritional gender bias among children in the region as a whole. However, as with aggregate nutritional status, caution should be exercised since the aggregate information presented here might mask some important differences in gender nutritional status at a more micro level, or even at the rural versus urban level. The data does suggest that in some cases girls are more likely to suffer from undernutrition than boys are and in other cases the opposite is found.

44. In general, poverty has been considered the key cause of food insecurity. Table 10 presents changes in poverty estimates for several LAC countries. Given the different sources of the data, inter-country comparisons are not reliable. However, poverty trends within each country are, and these can be used for comparison with trends in undernourishment prevalence. A summary for countries for which the data allow a reasonable time comparison of both poverty and undernourishment is presented in Table 11.

45. Table 11 makes a strong case for the correlation between poverty and undernourishment at the aggregate national level. Countries, such as Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Panama have achieved a significant decrease in the prevalence of poverty and undernourishment. On the other hand, Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela have witnessed an increase in the prevalence of both poverty and undernourishment.

46. Another possible link worth exploring is between the evolution of public social expenditure and undernourishment prevalence. Table 12 presents the evolution of social public expenditure as a percentage of GDP and as a percentage of total public expenditure for 12 countries in the region between 1990-91 and 1994-96. Except for Ecuador and El Salvador, all countries show an increase in public social expenditure as a percentage of GDP. Colombia particularly shows an impressive increase, nearly doubling social expenditure as percentage of GDP. Except for Costa Rica and Nicaragua, all countries that show an increase in public social expenditure as percentage of GDP also show an increase in social expenditure as percentage of total public expenditure. Table 13 summarises the evolution of prevalence of undernourishment and social expenditure (as percentage of public expenditure).

47. Countries such as Colombia and Brazil, who show significant increases in social expenditure, also experienced strong gains in reducing undernourishment. Countries such as Costa Rica and especially Nicaragua, who show a decrease in the importance of social expenditure compared to other public expenditure, show a marked increase in the prevalence of undernourishment.

c) Screening and identification: Case studies

48. Aggregate measures provide broad insights into food insecurity but do not examine the individual and household level factors that influence food insecurity in LAC. For this, case studies conducted throughout the region are reviewed. The case studies presented explore the relationship between food insecurity (measured as undernourishment and undernutrition using anthropometric indicators) and household or individual characteristics.

49. A result that comes through in numerous studies is the strong positive relationship between income level and food security. Studies from Mexico, Nicaragua, Jamaica and Brazil highlight the importance of household income on food security. Correspondingly, some studies note the importance of household wealth, such as animal ownership, home value and land ownership, on food security. Poverty is therefore strongly related to food insecurity and relieving food insecurity requires poverty alleviation. An important path out of poverty is improving the asset position of poor households. In addition to the amount of income earned, evidence suggests that how households generate incomes also influences nutrition17.

50. Within the household, allocation of resources is partly dependent on the percent of household income earned by the adult female in the household. This is shown in studies from Guatemala, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, where an increasing share of female earnings out of total household income increased the nutritional status of children in the household. Furthermore in a study from Brazil, women's non-labour income was found to help daughters health but not the son's health suggesting some bias in the allocation of resources by gender. Other factors such as the mother's schooling are positively related to child nutrition even when income and other considerations are controlled for. This is shown consistently across the region. A study in Bolivia finds that the children of urban women of rural origin are more likely to suffer from undernutrition than the children of urban women born in an urban area. This is partially related to the lower schooling levels of women of rural origin. Finally, some studies note a negative relationship between the age of the mother and child nutrition. Overall, this evidence suggests that intrahousehold allocation of resources in LAC and thus individual nutrition levels are largely dependent on household dynamics and the characteristics of the adult female in the household.

51. A number of characteristics of the children themselves may make them more or less vulnerable to undernutrition. While some studies show there is gender bias in food allocation to children, most find that there is no gender bias or that the evidence is inconclusive. This evidence corresponds to the aggregate measures on gender presented previously. However, there is evidence that the number of children in the household and the position in the household in terms of birth order are important factors with children in larger households and the youngest children being more likely to experience undernutrition. Finally, the adequacy of care a child receives is related to nutrition, with inadequate care (eg., being left with another child or brought to work with the mother) associated with lower nutrition.

52. The health and nutrition of children is also influenced indirectly and directly by community and other external factors. A study in Brazil notes that community factors such as availability of modern sewage, piped water and electricity are positively related to child height, that higher prices for dairy products and sugar are negatively associated with child height and that urban children tend to be taller than rural children, particularly if their mothers have minimal education.

V. Conclusions and policy implications

53. In confronting food insecurity and vulnerability in LAC, it is important to understand the basic causes of the problem. The entitlements, or asset position, of the individual and the ability to command access to food are key to understanding and developing policies to mitigate food insecurity and vulnerability. Additionally, the uncertainty faced by an individual and the ability to cope with and manage risk is another important consideration. Given these considerations, food insecurity and vulnerability can be addressed at multiple levels, from the individual and household level to the national and regional levels, and policies should be co-ordinated to deal with the full spectrum of food security.

54. While LAC has made important gains in recent years in improving food insecurity and vulnerability, over 50 million people are still estimated to be food insecure and a substantially larger number are likely to be vulnerable to food insecurity at any given point in time. Certain sub-regions, countries and sectors within countries continue experiencing alarming levels of food insecurity and are not in pace to meet the goal set by the WFS of reducing the total number of hungry people by half by the year 2015. Gains will only continue to be made in LAC if these countries develop comprehensive policies to address food insecurity and vulnerability. Poverty reduction through direct interventions, such as social investment, and through equitable economic growth are key in this endeavour. Additionally, actions must be taken to avoid widespread problems such as those associated with natural disasters. While a number of initiatives have been undertaken in the wake of Hurricane Mitch in Central America, these activities need to continue and expand to other parts of the region.

55. To ensure the effectiveness of policies, monitoring of the food insecurity situation in LAC at every level of intervention must continue. This allows appropriate targeting as well as a mechanism for evaluating policies. Efforts must also be geared to improving the measurement and understanding of food insecurity. Micro-level studies in LAC are limited, particularly broad-based studies, and this prevents much analysis of the causes of food insecurity. Studies should be stratified in a manner that allows the examination of the number of different situation that exist in LAC. Studies should focus on the urban versus rural population, different sectors of the country, different potentially vulnerable groups, etc. Furthermore, more effort should be made to improve aggregate measure of food insecurity and vulnerability. When household or individual level data is available this may be used to develop more accurate measures of food insecurity.

1. For example, if a household has just enough food to meet each household member's nutritional requirement then if one member takes more food than necessary then at least one other person will receive insufficient food. It is individual access, not supply, that is key to understanding food insecurity

2. Empirical evidence suggests that food allocation within a household varies with certain members (males or females, adults or children, etc.) given priority over other members in food access.

3. For example, drought may affect all members of an agricultural community if their entitlements are primarily production-based. An urban community where most individuals are wage earners will all be affected in a similar manner by a drop in real wages.

4. There are a number of circumstances where multiple entitlement failures may occur. Hurricane Mitch, which caused major problems in Central America and particularly in Honduras and Nicaragua, provides one example. Mitch caused widespread crop failure leading to potential food security problems for those with production-based entitlements. But in addition to this, the hurricane-damaged infrastructure affecting trade-based entitlements, had a negative impact on wage-earning opportunities and real wages affecting own-labor entitlements, etc. The multiple entitlement failures of natural disasters or economic downturns can lead to widespread problems with hunger and even famine

5. For example, two individuals may have the same type of entitlement in that they sell their labor and obtain food through trade. However, if one has a university degree (strong own-labor entitlement) and the other no schooling (weak own-labor entitlement) then the strength of the entitlement differs and the effect of an economic downturn on food security is likley to be different for each individual. Similarly, two urban dwellers may both live in slums and have similar entitlements but only one may have direct access to government services - that is, the strength of their public assets differ.

6. For example, in agricultural based economies the crop cycle dictates the timing of food availability and influences agricultural wages and food prices. It also influences what is available in terms of stocks and the current state of the food market.

7. Food prices, real wages, food production and supply, food import supply and prices and household income are all uncertain.

8. For example, an individual with an entirely production-based entitlement is particularly susceptible to crop production uncertainty caused by pest outbreaks or inclement weather. An individual who obtains income through wages is dependent on fluctuations in the labor market.

9. For example, communities often develop informal systems of insurance whereby if a member of the community faces a food shortfall then other community members provide assistance with the understanding that they too would receive assistance if required in a future crisis.

10. For example, maintaining a portfolio of income generating activities, keeping a minimal amount of land in basic staple food crops production, maintaining food stocks and other ex ante actions

11. For example, an individual with substantial physical assets can use these to cope with risk (by selling off assets in time of need). An individual with social capital assets such as migrant networks may temporarily migrate to diversify activities and be less susceptible to agricultural risk.

12. Including physical, human, institutional, social and public capital.

13. For example, social institutions such as informal insurance arrangements may differ by community and the presence or absence of such institutions affects the ability of community members to cope with risk

14. Among others: 1) greater dependence on cash income; 2) weaker informal safety nets; 3) greater female labor force participation; 4) lifestyle differences; 5) greater availability of social services but questionable access by the poor; 6) greater exposure to environmental contamination; 7) governance by a different, and possibly non-existent, set of property rights.

15. For example, if a region is particularly susceptible to hurricanes then the potential consequences of such an event should be determined as well as strategies for managing and coping with such events.

16. That is, at the individual, household, community, sub-national, national, and even regional/global level.

17. For example, one study shows if migrant remittances are an important component of income then households tend to spend less of a proportion of their income on food compared with households that earn income through cash cropping. The reason is that remittance income is often sporadic and lumpy (coming in large quantities) and households tend to indulge in the short-run and economize in the long-run as they wait for additional remittances.


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