Food Security

Food Security indicates a safe situation in respect of food, its uninterrupted supply, and availability of adequate food materials throughout the year. Food security has primarily two aspects, namely family or household food security and national food security. Household food security depends on the ability of the household wage earners to secure enough food to ensure an adequate dietary intake of all of its members at all times for a healthy and active life. Similarly, national food security depends on the ability of the government to secure enough food for the whole nation. To achieve food security three things need to be highlighted; first, availability of adequate food for the family and the nation; second, reasonable stability in the supply of food spatially and seasonally; and third, physical, social and economic access of a household to sufficient, safe and good quality food.

In Bangladesh food security at the national level directly affects the social and political situation of the country. Economically, national food security is closely related to total food production, internal food procurement, food aid, importing capacity, and a host of national and international issues. Further, food security situation is also affected by a number of natural, unnatural, and man-made factors. The famines of 1943-44, 1954-56 and 1973-74 are examples. On the other hand, the growth of population creates additional pressure on the food security situation. Although food grain production in the country has been increasing steadily (table), the gap between demand and supply remains significantly wide, and is normally met by food aid from various sources or by imports.

It may be said that the national food security situation remains very fragile and vulnerable. Food security at the family level is affected by a number of socio-economic and socio-cultural factors such as family income, amount of cultivable land, family education and culture, family size, knowledge of food and nutrition, practice of public health and sanitation methods, etc. Family food security is also affected by the seasons. Seasonal food security results from food shortage and higher prices of food in lean periods of the year (October-November). Failure of livestock and crop production, loss of employment, lack of purchasing power and adverse circumstances can create transitory food insecurity. To put it somewhat differently poverty is the root cause of all forms of household food insecurity.

In Bangladesh population groups who are most vulnerable to household food insecurity include landless farmers, day labourers, households headed by destitute women, and people living in disaster prone areas like chars, islands, and refugee camps. From the review of the results obtained in the nutrition surveys so far done, it appears that almost 90% of the population of the country suffer from some from of nutritional deficiencies due to the lack of adequate food intake. [M Kabirullah]

See also food policy; grain storage; food preservation.