Conference Paper 1 - October 1997
The Status of Food Security: Draft Paper Prepared for a Conference on Rural Food Security
K. A. S. Murshid


A lot of energy is expended on what it is that is meant by food security. A recent review of the literature has identified almost 200 definitions. Doubtless, many more will emerge in the future. The phrase is frequently used inter-changeably with poverty alleviation or as an adjunct to it, suggesting that for most purposes the two go hand-in-hand. One difference between the two is emphasis. Food security focuses principally on access to food and ensuring adequate consumption levels, usually of the main staple. Poverty alleviation, on the other hand, while certainly encompassing the food element of the equation, is additionally concerned with non-food basic needs or with "quality of life" aspects.

Our focus in this paper is on consumption, in particular consumption of rice and food-grains, as the most direct indicator of well-being and as the basis of poverty measures. In Section 2 we examine the status of rice and food consumption across villages, class categories and seasons, while Section 3 looks at the relative importance of own production to market purchases in meeting food needs. Section 4 asks what is meant by food calorie-adequacy and Section 5 looks at non-food consumption. Section 6 provides the alternative dimension of nutrition based on anthropometric measures of children under five, while Section 7 discusses issues relating to poverty status and estimates of poverty. Additional indicators of consumption and nutritional status are presented in Section 8. Section 9 concludes with a summary of principal findings.

(excluding appendices and bibliographies)