Edward Carr, Open the Echo Chamber
Food Security and Conflict Done Badly…September 16, 2011 By Wilson Center Stafforiginal version of this article, by Edward Carr, appeared on Open the Echo Chamber.
Over at the Guardian, Damian Carrington has a blog post arguing that “Food is the ultimate security need.” He bases this argument on a map produced by risk analysts Maplecroft, which sounds quite rigorous:
The Maplecroft index [represented on the map], reviewed last year by the World Food Programme, uses 12 types of data to derive a measure of food risk that is based on the UN FAO’s concept. That covers the availability, access and stability of food supplies, as well as the nutritional and health status of populations.I’m going to leave aside the question of whether we can or should be linking food security to conflict – Marc Bellemare is covering this issue in his research and has a nice short post up that you should be reading. He also has a link to a longer technical paper where he interrogates this relationship…I am still wading through it, as it involves a somewhat frightening amount of math, but if you are statistically inclined, check it out.
Instead, I would like to quickly raise some questions about this index and the map that results. First, the construction of the index itself is opaque (I assume because it is seen as a proprietary product), so I have no idea what is actually in there. Given the character of the map, though, it looks like it was constructed from national-level data. If it was, it is not particularly useful – food insecurity is not only about the amount of food, but access to that food and entitlement to get access to the food, and these are things that tend to be determined locally. You cannot aggregate entitlement at the national level and get a meaningful understanding of food insecurity – and certainly not actionable information.
Continue reading on Open the Echo Chamber.
Image Credit: “Estimated food security conditions, 3rd Quarter 2011 (August-September 2011),” courtesy of the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) and USAID.