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Re: Coming to terms with terminology

Urban Jonsson THE OWLS, international consultancy company, Kenya

The revised Draft of 25 July 2012 is a significant improvement from the earlier Draft of 30 March 2012. However, the wrong conclusions and final recommendations have not changed. The term ‘food and nutrition security’ is promoted as the one “best reflecting the conceptual linkages between food security and nutrition security”. I have the following comments and recommendations:

1.    The term ‘food and nutrition security’ does not reflect the linkages between ‘food security’ and ‘nutrition security’. First of all the term ‘food and nutrition security’ does not necessarily mean ‘food security’ + ‘nutrition security’; neither linguistically nor conceptually. It may mean what it says – ‘food’ + ‘nutrition security’.

2.    Second, ‘nutrition security’ conceptually requires ‘food security’, ‘health security’ and adequate ‘caring practices’. Each of the three represents necessary conditions for ‘nutrition security’, while none of them alone is a sufficient condition for ‘nutrition security’.

3.    All this is a logical deduction from the Conceptual Framework of the Causality of Malnutrition launched by UNICEF in 1990 . It is quite remarkable that the Committee on World Food Security more than 20 years later suggests to define a concept that is not consistent with this framework that has been adopted by almost every organisation and scholar working in the field of nutrition. It is obviously no longer about science – it is about something else.

4.    This conceptual confusion is reflected in several statements in the current Draft. For example, the statement (p.4), “The relationship between food and nutrition is straightforward from a technical perspective”, is not at all correct! A review of the last 30 yeas of scientific papers and reports makes that very clear. For those of us who have participated in that long discussion, the statement from a scientific and philosophical point of view is non-sense.

5.    Conclusions and recommendations

  • It should not surprise anyone that such a complex issue like the relationships between food, nutrition and other irreducible linkages is likely to require and actually benefit from the use of several concepts. Out of the four concepts discussed in the Draft, three are correct and should be used when appropriate, while one, the proposed term ‘food and nutrition security’, should not be used at all. The following comments  reflect this conclusion.
  • Food security: A well-defined and appropriate concept since 1974
  • Food security and nutrition: This concept has a meaning, and may be useful in planning food-based nutrition approaches. ‘Health security and Nutrition’ is a similar concept.
  • Food and nutrition security: This concept has no meaning. Should never be used.
  • Nutrition security = Household food security + Health security + Adequate care. This is the UNICEF defined concept that is correct according to the authors of the Draft themselves