8.3 Causes of household food insecurity
If you think of food insecurity within your own community you might have become aware of a number of different causes. In Ethiopia natural and man-made disasters are the commonest causes of household food insecurity.
Drought and conflict are the main factors that increase problems of food production, distribution and access. High rates of population growth and poverty also play a part, within an already difficult environment of fragile ecosystems where it might be difficult to produce sufficient food. The fact that almost 80% of the population in Ethiopia depends almost exclusively on agriculture for its consumption and income needs means that measures to address the problems of poverty and food insecurity must mainly be found within the agricultural sector.
Other natural disasters such as pest infestations destroy area-specific production levels and the threat of locust swarms is often present. Currently there is an ineffective weather and pest early warning system in the country.
Depending only on rainwater for farming when there is variable rainfall in some of the arid areas is not reliable for producing sufficient food supply. Initiatives in Ethiopia, such as using irrigation systems, water harvest technology and drip irrigation, are encouraging steps that need to be strengthened further. Figures 8.1 and 8.2 illustrate the importance of adequate drinking water and grazing land for farming animals. Table 8.2 summarises the different causes of household insecurity.
|Causes of food insecurity||Mechanism (how it leads to food insecurity)|
|Rapid population growth|
A high rate of population growth calls for more food production and the need for ploughing more land. This leads to deforestation. Population may exceed the carrying capacity of the fragile environment in some areas
At the household level the food produced from the same plot of land that the household has may not be sufficient. It is also very difficult to purchase food for large numbers of family members
|Conflict/civil war/ trans-border war|
Interferes with production, marketing and distribution
Shunts the gross domestic product (GDP) towards purchase of war weapons
|Extreme production fluctuation||Decreases food supplies available for consumption|
|Limited employment other than farming||Leads to poor purchasing power of households|
|Lower level of saving||Leads to poor purchasing power of households|
|High rate of natural erosion||Poor soil fertility and decreased productivity leading to food supply shortages|
|High rate of illiteracy and school attendance||Poor income earning power and hence purchasing power due unemployment|
|Poor health and sanitation||Morbidity, mortality and reduced productivity due to illness|
|Deforestation||Leads to high top soil erosion and poor soil fertility. It will lead to decreased rainfall and dryness|
HIV/AIDS leads to ‘green famine’ which has far-reaching adverse implications. There are four ways in which HIV/AIDS is linked to famine:
Corruption and diversion of public resources to personal use
Poor distribution of resources
|High rates of chronic malnutrition||Decreased wellbeing leading to decreased intellectual and physical productivity of people|
|Natural resource constraints||The limitations of rainfall in the country place certain constraints on improving food security. The chances of drought occurring in parts of Ethiopia have increased the probability of food insecurity, especially in the arid and pastoralist areas (northern and eastern parts of Ethiopia)|
|Traditional rain-dependent farming systems||Lack of agricultural intensification and low agricultural productivity means that many of those in rural areas remain subsistence producers. Therefore, the large quantity of food at low prices which is essential for economic growth in urban areas is not available|
Stop reading for a while and think of the causes of food insecurity in your area. Are any of the above causes common in your community?