Re: What is the role of social relations and networks in household food security and nutrition?

UG Agricultural Economics Focus 2014 University of Guyana, Guyana
UG Agricultural Economics

What is your understanding of social relations and networks in food and nutritional security, and do you have examples of the role they play in the attainment of food and nutritional security?

As a result of the progress of regressive globalization and the increasing concentration of wealth in a few hands, the economic gap has widened between the rich and the poor which has often affected the survival of social groups. This inequality is one of the core elements of failure in the eradication of hunger and poverty.

Social relations are relationships between two or more people. In general, it involves the actions of a person or people, which solicits a reaction from the other person or people, and is the underpinning of a society and its social structure. Networking on the other hand, is the interaction with others to exchange information with a view to developing professional or social contacts.

Nutrition security goes beyond food security because it considers a community’s access to essential nutrients, not just calories. Fertilizers play a significant role in foods security by helping farmers in a given country, produce enough food domestically to meet the caloric needs of that country’s population. Yet, fertilizers also play an important role in nutrition security by facilitating access to a balanced diet that includes all of the essential nutrients that is primary, secondary and micronutrients. According to the International Fertilizer Industry Association, micronutrients fertilization programs should target Zinc, selenium and boron to ensure sufficient quantities of these nutrients in human diets. This is known as “farming for health”. The World Health Organization (WHO) attributes 800,000 deaths each year to zinc deficiency. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, also found that close to 50% of the soils in the world where cereal grains are grown are deficient in zinc. Fertilizers help increase the level of zinc found in food crops, and it is also key to fighting malnutrition and under-nutrition in human and animals.

Social relations and networking plays a pivotal role in rural communities across Guyana. Ideally the distance and lack of transportation, you find people willing to exchange with neighboring villages. Cattle farmers and poultry farmers give manure to agriculture farmers who in exchange give some of their produce (cash crops).This occurs when good relationships exist between neighbours and even villages. These are the types of relationships that can develop through social relation and networking because the need of each person is known before the exchange takes place.

It is through social relations and networking that many multilateral organizations such as the World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and many regional associations  such as Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) and the Caribbean and the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) have made recommendations to governments to reduce the internal gap and dedicate more resources for human development. According to these organizations government should address basic food production systems with job creation, increase low salaries and subsidies for the marginalized and promote cheap prices of basic food for the urban poor. These recommendations are directly linked food security to the wider concept of human security.

Growing up everyone knows everyone. After migrating to Region four, an urban area. I was now engulfed in a community where everyone fights to survive.  In this community people are not willing to help each other; instead it is a matter of survival of the fittestAccording to the WHO there are three pillars that determine food security: food availability, food access, and food use. The FAO adds a fourth pillar: the stability of the first three dimensions of food security over time. In 2009, the World Summit on Food Security stated that the “four pillars of food security are availability, access, utilization, and stability. Just to give a brief idea as to what the different pillars of food security are. Food availability relates to the food supplied through production, distribution, and exchange. Food access refers to the affordability and allocation of food, as well as the preferences of individuals and households The UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights noted that the causes of hunger and malnutrition are often not a scarcity of food but an inability to access available food, usually due to poverty. Poverty can limit access to food, and can also increase how vulnerable an individual or household is to food price spikes. Access depends on whether the household has enough income to purchase food at prevailing prices or has sufficient land and other resources to grow its own food. Households with enough resources can overcome unstable harvests and  shortages and maintain their access to food. Food stability refers to the ability to obtain food over time. The final pillar of food security is food utilization, which refers to the metabolism of food by individuals.