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Abstract

This paper has a threefold objective. First, it provides a comprehensive review of different approaches to analysing food security. Second, it highlights the added value provided by the capability approach and the human development paradigm. Third, it proposes a methodology to assess food security through this approach. Our proposal entails three basic steps: (1) analysis of food entitlements; (2) analysis of nutritional capabilities and (3) analysis of the capability to be food secure. In this way, we can move beyond income, entitlement or livelihood related frameworks, and identify the root causes of food insecurity. Food insecurity can be the result of a lack of education, health or other basic capabilities that constitute people’s wellbeing. This, therefore, allows situating the study within the broader area of wellbeing and development.
From food availability to nutritional capabilities: Advancing food
security analysis
Francesco Burchi
a,
, Pasquale De Muro
b,1
a
German Development Institute/Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Department ‘‘Sustainable Economic and Social Development’’, Tulpenfeld 6, 53113 Bonn, Germany
b
Roma Tre University, Department of Economics, Via Silvio D’Amico 77, 00145 Rome, Italy
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Article history:
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Keywords:
Food security
Capability approach
Human development
Livelihood
Entitlement
Low-income countries
abstract
This paper has a threefold objective. First, it provides a comprehensive review of different approaches to
analysing food security. Second, it highlights the added value provided by the capability approach and the
human development paradigm. Third, it proposes a methodology to assess food security through this
approach. Our proposal entails three basic steps: (1) analysis of food entitlements; (2) analysis of nutri-
tional capabilities and (3) analysis of the capability to be food secure. In this way, we can move beyond
income, entitlement or livelihood related frameworks, and identify the root causes of food insecurity.
Food insecurity can be the result of a lack of education, health or other basic capabilities that constitute
people’s wellbeing. This, therefore, allows situating the study within the broader area of wellbeing and
development.
Ó2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Introduction
This paper engages in the debate on the theory and policy of
food security, a crucial topic within the broader fields of develop-
ment economics and development studies. The way food security
is theorised, measured and finally analysed affects the typology
of policies that will be adopted. This paper has a threefold objec-
tive. The first one is to critically review different approaches to
the analysis of food security proposed either in the academic world
or by international organisations. To the best of our knowledge,
there has not yet been a systemic attempt to compare the many
existing approaches.
The second aim of this paper is to use the capability approach,
primarily established by the economist Amartya Sen in the early
1980s, for the analysis of food security. In our opinion, the litera-
ture has often failed to identify the linkages between Sen’s entitle-
ment approach used in the specific fields of hunger and famine and
his capability approach employed to analyse (human) develop-
ment and wellbeing. While the central pillars of a capability
approach to food security may be visible in the pioneering work
of Drèze and Sen (1989), in this paper we try to extend it to
recognise the crucial role of factors such as participation in politi-
cal life and women’s empowerment.
Last but not least, we provide preliminary programmatic guid-
ance on how to implement this approach in the field. Our method
entails three steps that gradually allow a better understanding of
food security and could eventually be used in the future to identify
new ways of measuring this phenomenon.
Consequently, this paper is divided into four sections. The sec-
ond section reviews the approaches to food security, outlining
the basic differences, the third provides guidelines for an analysis
of food security based on the capability approach, and the fourth
section concludes and identifies the policy implications of using
the capability framework.
Main approaches to the analysis of food security
At the beginning of a paper discussing different approaches to
food security, one would expect a clear definition of food security.
Here, this is not the case for two reasons: (1) although a commonly
accepted definition exists (FAO, 1996), in food security practice and
actions the dimensions/factors stressed are often so diverse that
they highlight different views on the meaning of the term ‘‘food
security’’; (2) we intend to focus on the different approaches that
have drawn attention to different components of food security
and, in turn, have contributed to modifying and extending the def-
inition. Thus, this section presents five approaches to food security:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2015.03.008
0306-9192/Ó2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Corresponding author. Tel.: +49 (0)228 94927185.
E-mail addresses: francesco.burchi@die-gdi.de (F. Burchi), pasquale.demuro@
uniroma3.it (P. De Muro).
1
Tel.: +39 0657335685.
Food Policy xxx (2015) xxx–xxx
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Food Policy
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/foodpol
Please cite this article in press as: Burchi, F., De Muro, P. From food availability to nutritional capabilities: Advancing food security analysis. Food Policy
(2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2015.03.008
(a) food availability; (b) income-based; (c) basic needs; (d) entitle-
ment and (e) sustainable livelihoods. We will try to maintain a
chronological and logical order as far as possible by moving from
the oldest and narrower view of food security to the most recent
and advanced ones.
Food availability approach
We start our review with the ‘‘food availability’’ approach,
because it is undoubtedly the oldest and still the most influential.
Although the core ideas of this approach can be traced back to the
Venetian thinker Giovanni Botero (1588), it was Thomas Malthus
(1789) who popularised it and hence it is also known as the
Malthusian approach.
The approach focuses on the balance or imbalance between
population and food: In order to maintain this balance, the growth
rate of food availability should not be lower than the growth rate of
the population. Consequently, from this point of view, food secur-
ity is merely a matter of aggregate (per capita) food availability. In
a closed economy, this depends mainly on food production and
stocks whereas in an open economy, it also depends on food
trading.
2
Until the early 1970s, this was the reference approach for the
international community, both at the political and the academic
level. This is well-reflected in the definition of food security given
at the World Food Conference of 1974: ‘Availability at all times of
adequate world food supplies of basic foodstuffs to sustain a steady
expansion of food consumption and to offset fluctuations in production
and prices’ (UN, 1974).
The policy implications of this approach are twofold:
On the ‘‘demand side’’, the need to reduce the growth rate of
population – namely the fertility rate – through appropriate
policies.
3
On the ‘‘supply side’’, the need to boost (per capita) food pro-
duction, namely agricultural production. For such purposes,
the foremost policy that is generally prescribed and imple-
mented is to increase agricultural productivity.
Although in 1996 the World Food Summit adopted, with a large
consensus, a much broader and advanced definition of food secur-
ity that includes, in addition to availability, other fundamental
dimensions of food security – such as access to and utilisation of
food, a narrow sectoral focus on agricultural supply, productivity
and technology still dominates the international food security dis-
course and practice.
Whereas this is not the place to discuss the reasons why this
narrow view persists in spite of its evident flaws and failures, it
is interesting to note that after the 1970s, the Malthusian ghosts
of scarcity have been reinvigorated by increasing ecological con-
cerns and related concepts such as ‘‘carrying capacity’’ and ‘‘eco-
logical footprint.’’
Before moving on to the next approaches, it is important to
emphasise a methodological aspect that is useful in our analysis.
One main characteristic of any approach to food security is its units
of analysis. Generally speaking, the unit of analysis can range from
the world in total, to a country, a region, down to a community, a
household or a single individual. Furthermore, from an economic
point of view, the approach can focus on a single sector, a cluster
of sectors (e.g. the ‘‘food system’’ or ‘‘chain’’) or can be economy-
wide.
4
Considering these characteristics, the units of analysis generally
used in the food availability approach are the country (and its food
balance sheet) or the world and the agricultural sector (its produc-
tion and productivity).
Income-based approach
The long-lasting view of food security as a problem of food
availability has been partly re-visited within a more macro-eco-
nomic approach. The focus on the food sector – initially only agri-
cultural production, but also food trading later on – has been
criticised by economists for being too concentrated on one single
economic sector. Recognising that the economy is composed of
many interdependent sectors, food insecurity cannot be viewed
as a problem that is exclusive to the agricultural/food sector.
That is why the first attempt to broaden the discipline was actually
an attempt to shift the analysis towards national economies as a
whole. This meant bringing into the analysis variables, such as
Gross Domestic Product (GDP), economic growth, not necessarily
dependent on food production. In a market-economy, a stronger
economic system can allow the import of goods such as food.
This macro-economic framework was also more consistent with
old and very influential economic theories such as Ricardo’s com-
parative advantages, according to which each country has to spe-
cialise in the sector in which it has an advantage, given by the
abundance of a specific productive asset or by lower costs of pro-
duction. This whole approach might be considered a way to
include the national means of increasing aggregate food availabil-
ity within the food security framework.
However, the most important shift was from food availability at
the macro-level to income at the micro-level (Griffin and Khan,
1977; Haq, 1976; Reutlinger and Selowsky, 1976; Reutlinger,
1977). The approach is very similar to the one traditionally used
to assess poverty. While poverty was conceived as a lack of suffi-
cient income needed to buy a bundle of goods to guarantee the sur-
vival (or minimum standard of living) of a person, food insecurity
is implicitly assumed to be a sub-category of poverty (often
referred to as ‘‘food poverty’’), i.e. lack of sufficient income needed
to buy the amount of food required for survival at the given condi-
tions (Sibrian et al., 2007; Sibrian, 2008). In particular, different
foods are converted into calories: If people’s calorie availability is
lower than a threshold identified by international nutritionists,
they are considered to be food insecure.
Through household surveys providing information on income, it
is theoretically possible to estimate the amount of food consumed,
given the assumption that poorer households use a larger propor-
tion of their income to buy food.
5
Food is, then, converted into calo-
ries: if household calorie availability is lower than the ‘‘required’’
minimum, some or all the members of that household are food inse-
cure. The specific problem related to this method consists in the
assumption of a given income-calorie elasticity. Taking, for example,
an elasticity measured in the same country in previous studies,
requires making very strong hypotheses.
2
Currently, the tool utilised to assess food availability is the ‘‘food balance sheet’’
which gives a picture of the amount of food available for human consumption in a
country as a result of food production, imports, exports, aid, wastes, and alternative
uses (FAO, 2001).
3
Sen (1999, Ch. 9) critically reviews various policies aimed at reducing the fertility
rate.
4
Though increasingly popular, in our review of different approaches to food
security we do not include ‘‘food sovereignty’’ as an approach in its own right. This is
because it is a political discourse emerged in mid-1990s about the agrifood system
rather than an analytical approach to food security. Considering its focus on food
production, agriculture and natural resources, as well as its emphasis on the
autonomy of local communities, food sovereignty is actually very close to the concept
of food self-sufficiency. Therefore, food sovereignty may be considered a localist and
communitarian version of the food availability approach.
5
As argued by Svedberg (2002, Ch. 7), there seems to be relevant empirical
evidence to support this hypothesis.
2F. Burchi, P. De Muro / Food Policy xxx (2015) xxx–xxx
Please cite this article in press as: Burchi, F., De Muro, P. From food availability to nutritional capabilities: Advancing food security analysis. Food Policy
(2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2015.03.008
Household expenditure surveys are more useful and can be
used to sort out the amount of expenditures on a number, albeit
limited, of food items. Many applied economists have estimated
the calorie contents of each food item and then aggregated them
in order to obtain the total amount of calories available for house-
hold members.
The main shortcomings of both these procedures are the several
assumptions made to move from income to food security: (1) from
income/expenditure to food through price per unit information; (2)
from food to calorie through equivalence tables; (3) from calorie
availability to food security/insecurity depending on the threshold.
With respect to the unit of analysis, income could potentially be
estimated per individual. However, there are problems related to
children whose food security also depends on adults’ income.
Furthermore, all the surveys mentioned above are conducted at
the household level. For all these reasons, we might reasonably
state that the household is the unit of analysis within this
approach. This implies assuming a certain distribution, usually
equal distribution or distribution according to biological needs,
among the household members.
Finally, this method could better suit an ideal market economy
in which nobody works in subsistence agriculture. Given the fact
that these measurements are often realised in rural areas of low-
income countries where the majority of the population is in subsis-
tence agriculture, this method is not highly reliable. As also argued
by Frankenberger (1992: 96), ‘expenditure surveys tend to under-
estimate expenditures on food because the value of food produced
at home or gathered locally is often not recorded.’
Basic needs approach
In the second half of the 1970s, the International Labour
Organization (ILO) proposed a new model of development, the
basic needs approach, with the intention of incorporating non-
economic dimensions of development (ILO, 1976). The problems
of poverty, unemployment and under-employment, registered in
periods of rising economic growth, were the primary causes of the
policy shift. The ILO and, later on, economists such as Streeten
(1981) and Stewart (1985) viewed development as a process con-
cerned with the satisfaction of basic needs for all human beings.
Given the practical nature of this approach, a limited list of
basic needs that governments and development agencies could
ensure was needed. Although the lists presented by different
authors differed slightly, in most cases they included food, together
with shelter and clothing (see Denton, 1990). As argued by Magrabi
et al. (1991: 65), ‘Food is a basic need – probably the most basic
need of all.’ Similar conclusions were drawn by authors from dif-
ferent disciplines such as Maslow (1943) in psychology and by
authors in the human rights literature. In particular, the definition
of ‘‘basic rights’’ given by Henry Shue (1996) as those necessary for
the enjoyment of all other rights has led many authors to primarily
include the ‘human right to adequate food’ (Kent, 2005).
This discourse in the development literature has heavily
affected the debate on food security, giving rise to the so-called
food first view (Maxwell and Smith, 1992; Maxwell, 1996).
6
This
approach focuses directly on whether people eat enough food and
has contributed to making a further step in shifting analysis from
the macro level to the micro level. Food is seen as the priority
(and probably the only) element of food security. This is the main
approach behind the view of food security as ‘‘Consumption of less
than 80% of WHO average required daily caloric intake’’ (Reardon
and Matlon, 1989) and as ‘The ability ... to satisfy adequately food
consumption needs for a normal healthy life at all times’ (Sarris,
1989).
With this framework, there are different ways of assessing food
security coherently. The first one is a food frequency assessment,
which can be performed by simply asking people the number of
meals eaten per day or even the frequency of consumption of dif-
ferent food items. These surveys are easy to conduct; however,
focusing on the frequency and not on the quantity consumed
makes calculating the calorie equivalent more complex.
The second method is based on a direct observation of food con-
sumption. All household members are observed during meals in
order to obtain direct information on all food consumed. The final
calorie availability is obtained by weighting the food items accord-
ing to their nutritional contents and aggregating them.
7
More
recently, some indicators based on the quality and diversification
of diet have been developed, which are in line with the food first
approach (Hoddinott and Yohannes, 2002). An example is the ‘‘di-
etary diversity score’’, indicating the number of food groups that
have been consumed regularly (usually over 24 h or one week).
This was an important step towards moving away from an exclusive
focus on the quantity of food consumption.
The individual unit of analysis is perfectly compatible with the
food first approach. However, food frequency assessments are usu-
ally conducted at the household level, whereas direct observation
and assessments that look at diet are often effected at the level
of the individual (also for children). Therefore, in the last two cases,
a function of food distribution within the household does not need
to be assumed. This is particularly important because by observing
directly the conditions of women, we do not assume that they
receive the same amount of food as men. This problem, usually
referred to as the ‘‘gender bias’’ in the development and food secur-
ity literature, has been observed in many developing countries
(Chen et al., 1981; Das Gupta, 1987; Harriss, 1995).
The main advantage of the food first approach compared to the
(micro) income-based approach to assess food security consists in
the possibility of focusing directly on the commodity we are inter-
ested in (food), rather than on the income needed to buy it. This
way we do not need information on current price per unit and,
at the same time, we do not have to look at whether the person
has physical or social problems in purchasing food. Finally, by con-
centrating on what is actually eaten, the food first approach implic-
itly recognises (and does not underestimate) the food grown at
home rather than purchased in the market.
As a conclusion of this brief review, this approach draws atten-
tion to short-term food security. It tells us whether households
have enough food to feed all their members in a given time or in
the past. However, it does not provide much information on poten-
tial food deprivations in the future.
Entitlement approach
In the 1980s Amartya Sen’s entitlement approach contributed to
challenging the Malthusian view of famine and hunger, and shifted
the focus from national food availability to people’s access to food.
‘The entitlement approach concentrates on each person’s entitle-
ments to commodity bundles including food, and views starvation
as resulting from a failure to be entitled to any bundle with enough
food’ (Sen, 1981: 434). Entitlements depend on two elements: (1)
personal endowments, which are the resources a person legally
owns, such as house, livestock, land and non-tangible goods
(Osmani, 1995); (2) the set of commodities a person has access
to through trade and production, i.e. the ‘‘exchange entitlement
6
To the best of our knowledge, no one has explicitly stressed the linkage between
the basic needs approach and the food first approach to food security.
7
Given the scope of this review, we do not engage in the many debates concerning
measurement problems, such as the changing behaviour of people while being
observed by strangers.
F. Burchi, P. De Muro / Food Policy xxx (2015) xxx–xxx 3
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(2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2015.03.008
mapping’’ (Sen, 1981: 435). Starting from a situation in which an
individual has just enough means of subsistence, a decline in
endowments can obviously lead the person to starvation.
However, with the same endowments, a person can still fall into
the hunger trap because of a decline in exchange entitlement map-
ping; for instance, a sharp reduction in the price of the commodity
that the individual produces, due to external causes, reduces her/
his capacity to buy food.
Moreover, the entitlement failure may take different forms.
Given an economy in which each group, for the sake of simplicity,
produces one commodity (including labour), and given a food
exchange rate (commodity price/food price), any group risks star-
vation due to an entitlement failure either because of a reduction
in food production for personal consumption or because of a fall
in the food exchange rate (Sen, 1981). In the first case, there is a ‘di-
rect entitlement failure’, whereas in the second case there is a
‘trade entitlement failure’. This distinction is particularly relevant
when examining which group is at risk of starvation if something
changes. The ‘direct entitlement failure’ occurs for food producers
as a result of a decline in their production; the ‘trade entitlement
failure’ occurs for groups that produce products other than food
when their terms of exchange fall or the total availability of food
declines. Furthermore, groups that live on both the consumption
of the produced good (e.g. meat) and its sale to obtain other food,
risk suffering from both direct and trading entitlement failures.
This approach has been primarily proposed and tested for fam-
ine analysis, but the same rationale works for chronic hunger and
endemic undernourishment (Burchi, 2011). In the words of Drèze
and Sen:
If people go hungry on a regular basis all the time, or seasonally,
the explanations of that have to be sought in the way the
entitlement system in operation fails to give the persons
involved adequate means of securing enough food. Seeing hun-
ger as entitlement failure points to possible remedies as well as
helping us to understand the forces that generate hunger and
sustain it
[Drèze and Sen, 1989: 24.]
The entitlement approach has contributed to re-addressing the
problem of hunger and famine by diminishing the role of aggregate
food supply and giving more relevance to the socio-economic con-
ditions of people. ‘Starvation is a matter of some people not having
enough food to eat and not a matter of there being not enough food
to eat’ (Sen, 1981: 434). Therefore, adding the access dimension has
significantly affected the notion of food security. The influence of
Sen’s work is visible in two important definitions of food security:
‘All people at all times have both physical and economic access to
the basic food they need’ (FAO, 1983), and ‘Access by all people at
all times to enough food for an active, healthy life’ (World Bank,
1986: 1).
Having enough food per capita at the national level is a neces-
sary but not sufficient condition for food security. Therefore, in
order to make a food security assessment, we need to extend the
informational basis. Variables related to people’s endowments
such as productive and non-productive assets, with particular
emphasis on employment and non-tangible resources such as edu-
cation or membership of an association,
8
as well as information on
wages and other prices of food and non-food items, should be ade-
quately taken into account.
Furthermore, in their book Hunger and Public Action (1989),
Drèze and Sen extend the analysis from food entitlements, i.e.
the set alternative bundles of food items over which a person can
have command, to broader entitlements, i.e. the set alternative
bundles of commodities such as drinkable water or services such
as sanitation and health care over which the person can have com-
mand. This more recent contribution outlines the need to consider
access not only to food, but also to these other goods and services
that directly influence hunger and food security.
With respect to the unit of analysis, this approach refers to
individuals as well as families.
9
However, as in the income-based
approach, in order to analyse the means of accessing food and other
food-security related commodities by children, we need to consider
the household as a whole. In the specific application of the entitle-
ment approach to famine, analysis has focused on more ‘‘macro’’
aspects, drawing attention to occupational groups.
Given all the above considerations, employing this approach
rather than the previous ones improves assessment from many
points of view. The comparison with the food availability approach
has already been made and there is plenty of evidence for the pres-
ence of major food insecurity and undernutrition in countries with
sufficient food per capita. The distance from the income-based
approach is shorter, since income is an important means of gaining
access to food. As argued by Sen (1983: 756), ‘In dealing with star-
vation and hunger, the focus on incomes – though defective – is
not entirely disastrous. And of course it is a good deal better than
the focus on total food output and population size. The weighting
system of real income and cost-of-living pays sufficient attention
to food in a poor community to make real income a moderately
good ‘‘proxy’’ for entitlement to food in most cases.’ However,
given that income is not the only, and not necessarily the most
important, instrument for accessing food, and given that income
is hardly measured in rural areas of developing countries, a focus
on entitlements is preferable. Moreover, income reflects the short
term economic status of an individual/household, whereas the full
set of assets provides more information on long-run wealth and
vulnerability to food insecurity.
As compared with the food first approach, the entitlement
approach allows future food deprivations to be predicted: a smaller
amount of assets, for example, means that the person may have
more problems accessing enough food in the future. By examining
a large entitlement set, we can see that issues such as drinkable
water and health care are as important to food security as food
per se. Therefore, we emphatically move away from a food first
perspective to stress the complex and multidimensional nature
of food security.
Finally, clarification is needed with regard to terminology. In his
papers and books, Sen does not use the words ‘‘food security’’, but
prefers terms such as hunger, undernutrition or, finally, nutritional
deprivations. This is because the term ‘‘food security’’ directly
recalls the ‘‘food first’’ framework. Since we believe that, especially
in a debate that involves international organisations as well as aca-
demics, there is a need for coherence across time without con-
stantly changing titles and names, we prefer to continue talking
about food security in the remaining parts of this paper.
Sustainable Livelihoods approach
The Sustainable Livelihoods (SL) framework is not just an
approach to food security, but is a more general approach to devel-
opment and poverty. Although the concept was certainly used pre-
viously, the ‘‘emphasis on livelihood’’ was given in the 1980s by
Chambers (1983) who, in his seminal book, introduced the basic
8
Osmani (1995) extends the entitlement approach by recognising the importance
of non-tangible resources as endowments. In particular, he draws the example of
unemployment benefits for citizens in a given country. Being citizens of that country
(together with the unemployed status) entitles people to access money with which
they can buy food or access food directly (through food stamp-type programmes).
9
For an explanation of the concept of ‘family entitlements’, see Sen (1999: 162).
4F. Burchi, P. De Muro / Food Policy xxx (2015) xxx–xxx
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(2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2015.03.008
elements of this approach, with a focus on rural development and
poverty. Subsequently, the approach has been elaborated and
expanded by Chambers himself and by other scholars (Chambers,
1987, 1995; Chambers and Conway, 1992; Ellis, 2000; Scoones,
1998).
The SL framework has been more successful among develop-
ment organisations than in the academic world. Indeed, thanks
also to its flexible, holistic and pragmatic nature, it has been
adopted by nongovernmental organisations (e.g. CARE, Oxfam),
governmental agencies (e.g. DFID, IISD, NZAP and SDC) and UN
agencies (e.g. FAO, IFAD and WFP). Some of these organisations
have developed their own version of the SL approach and there
are now several different SL frameworks. Development organ-
isations have also created a number of handbooks and guidelines
on applying the SL framework in practice, and this has contributed
to the popularity of the approach among practitioners.
The SL framework has many communalities with the basic
needs approach and the entitlement approach. Like the former, it
focuses on ‘gaining a living’ (Chambers and Conway, 1992: 5), that
is ‘the necessities of life’ rather than on human development in a
broader sense – i.e. human flourishing. With the entitlement
approach it shares the focus on the ‘‘means’’ of securing a living:
In fact, the SL framework is mainly concerned with the assets, tan-
gible and intangible, at the disposal of a household which are very
similar to the concept of ‘‘endowments’’ in the entitlement
approach. The assets are classified in five categories: natural capi-
tal, physical capital, human capital, financial capital and social
capital. Although the approach is presented as people-centred,
the so-called ‘‘pentagon of assets’’ is actually the core concept of
the SL framework.
This approach has been applied to a variety of development
issues, including food security (Devereux et al., 2004; Hussein,
2002; WFP, 1998; Young et al., 2001). There are two distinctive fea-
tures of the general SL framework that give it some advantages in
the analysis of food security over previous approaches. The first is
its long term perspective; the second is its focus on the context
(political, economic, physical, social, cultural, etc.), although the
latter is often confined to agricultural activities and rural areas,
and seldom considers macroeconomic or economy-wide issues.
The combination of these two analytical features with the study
of the household assets brings three interrelated concepts to the
analysis of food security that are peculiar to the SL framework
and neglected in previous approaches:
1. Explicitly considering risks and shocks, adverse trends and sea-
sonality leads to the concept of vulnerability that according to
Chambers (1995: 175) ‘means not lack or want but exposure
and defenselessness. It has two sides: the external side of expo-
sure to shocks, stress and risk; and the internal side of defense-
lessness, meaning a lack of means to cope without damaging
loss’.
2. The idea of sustainability, strongly related to vulnerability and
resilience, is one of the core principles of the SL framework: ‘a
livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover
from stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabili-
ties and assets both now and in the future’ (DFID, 1999).
3. Coping strategies, that ‘represent a set of activities that are
undertaken, in a particular sequence, by a household in
response to exogenous shocks that lead to declining food avail-
ability’ (Curtis, 1993: 3, based on Davies, 1993). Coping strate-
gies are included in the more general livelihood strategies
which are the combination of activities that people choose to
undertake in order to achieve their livelihood goals.
The SL concepts have been also widely used for food security
measurement, especially in humanitarian emergencies (Maxwell,
1996; Maxwell et al., 1999, 2003) and famines (Howe and
Devereux, 2004).
Notwithstanding the fact that this approach is more compre-
hensive than previous approaches and is also policy and project-
oriented, it has some shortcomings in food security analysis.
Although the term ‘‘capabilities’’ is cited,
10
the actual starting point
of the framework is the household’s ‘‘pentagon of assets’’ and related
livelihood strategies, rather than ‘what life we lead and what we can
or cannot do, can or cannot be’ (Sen, 1987: 16). Consequently, (1) the
SL approach, like the entitlement approach, is more suitable for ana-
lysing food crises and emergencies, famines, or extreme food pov-
erty, rather than more general food security and development
issues; (2) freedom and agency issues are in fact overlooked, while
we will see in the next section that they play an important role in
the analysis of food security; (3) the variable relationship between
people and food – what use we can each make of a given basket of
food (Sen, 1985, Ch. IV) – is also not analysed thoroughly, and there-
fore the ‘‘utilisation’’ dimension of food security is neglected; (4)
finally, since the unit of analysis of this approach is the household
or the community but not the person, intra-household inequalities
in the distribution of and access to food – that often affect women
and children – may be overlooked.
A human development and capability approach to food security
The capability approach to food security was primarily devel-
oped in 1989 by Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen in their pioneer-
ing book Hunger and Public Action. Although the authors do not
make any reference to the concept of food security, they
develop a general analytical framework for studying hunger,
chronic or transitory, and all related aspects, based both on
the capability approach of Sen (1985, 1999) and his entitlement
approach: undernourishment, malnutrition, famines, etc. A puz-
zling point about this book and the proposed framework is that,
although it is much broader and more far reaching than the
entitlement approach, it is much less known, discussed and uti-
lised both by scholars and practitioners. For example, almost all
the studies and reports on food security produced after 1989
that make reference to Sen cite only the book Poverty and
Famine and the entitlement approach, but not Hunger and
Public Action. The great popularity and success of the former
book overshadows the latter. This circumstance is as odd as it
is baffling.
In the beginning of the book, the authors explain why the
entitlement approach is not sufficient for a general approach to
hunger issues and why we therefore need to move beyond food
entitlements towards nutritional capabilities: ‘The focus on entitle-
ments, which is concerned with the command over commodities,
has to be seen as only instrumentally important, and the concen-
tration has to be, ultimately, on basic human capabilities’ (Drèze
and Sen, 1989: 13). This change of perspective derives from the
crucial distinction between means and ends of development
emphasised by Sen that also applies to the study of hunger: ‘A
more reasoned goal would be to make it possible to have the
capability to avoid undernourishment and escape deprivations
associated with hunger’ (Drèze and Sen, 1989: 13), i.e. the capabil-
ity to be free from hunger. By switching the focus from ‘‘command
over food’’ to ‘‘nutritional capabilities,’’ this approach goes beyond
the ‘‘access’’ dimension of food security – which is the main con-
cern of the basic needs, entitlement and SL approaches – and also
10
See also Bebbington (1999).
F. Burchi, P. De Muro / Food Policy xxx (2015) xxx–xxx 5
Please cite this article in press as: Burchi, F., De Muro, P. From food availability to nutritional capabilities: Advancing food security analysis. Food Policy
(2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2015.03.008
includes the ‘‘utilisation’’ dimension. This is one of the most impor-
tant innovations of the capability approach to food security.
11
Drèze and Sen explain why access is not sufficient and util-
isation is crucial: ‘The object, in this view, is not so much to provide
a particular amount of food for each. Indeed, the relationship
between food intake and nutritional achievement can vary greatly
depending not only on features such as age, sex, pregnancy, meta-
bolic rates, climatic conditions, and activities, but also access to
complementary inputs’ (Drèze and Sen, 1989: 13).
In the book they cite a number of fundamental complementary
inputs: health care and medical facilities, clean drinking water,
sanitation, eradication of infection epidemics and basic education.
However, this is not (and could not be) an exhaustive list.
The variable relationship between food intake and nutritional
achievement is a general theoretical issue thoroughly analysed
by Sen (1985): conversion factors and rates, i.e. the fact that the
conversion of personal income, resources and commodities into
well-being and freedom ‘depends crucially on a number of contin-
gent circumstances, both personal and social’ (Sen, 1999: 70), such
as personal heterogeneities, environmental diversities, variation in
social climate, differences in relational perspectives, distribution
within the family. Paraphrasing Sen (1999: 71), these different
sources of variation in the relation between resources and well-be-
ing make income, entitlements or livelihoods a limited guide to
food security. This problem is particularly relevant when we deal
with the food security of disadvantaged people or of socioeco-
nomic groups in unfavourable circumstances or conditions.
The above mentioned features of the capability approach to
hunger make it the one that better entails three dimensions –
availability, access, utilisation – of food security, as defined at the
1996 World Food Summit.
12
There are two recent developments that allow the framework
proposed by Drèze and Sen in 1989 to be expanded and comple-
mented. The first is about the role of another component of the
capability approach: ‘‘agency’’, i.e. a person’s ability to pursue
and achieve goals. In Hunger and Public Action, the role of agency
is not explicitly analysed since the book is more concerned with
public action for social security. As suggested by Crocker (2008),
a full and coherent application of the capability approach to food
security should also focus on the role of people’s agency (see sec-
tion ‘Food security analysis through the capability approach’). In
the SL approach, the analysis is confined to ‘‘livelihood strategies’’,
whereas in the capability approach, agency goes beyond the
standard of living and personal well-being, and includes other
valuable goals.
The second development concerns security. The capability
approach to food security should also include the fourth dimension
of food security, as defined by the World Food Summit, which is
stability that is much more than just food price stability. This
dimension is explicitly considered in the SL framework, especially
through the concept of vulnerability. Although vulnerability issues
are also carefully analysed in the book by Drèze and Sen, the
capability approach to food security could be enhanced by
integrating the ‘‘human security’’ concept first proposed by the
UNDP in the Human Development Report of 1994. Since food
security, according to the UNDP, is one of the seven areas of human
security, introducing human security into the capability approach
allows us to advance from the ‘‘capability to avoid undernourish-
ment,’’ that does not explicitly consider the time dimension, to
the ‘‘capability to be food secure,’’ that has a long term perspective
and thus includes the stability dimension.
One of the main reasons why the capability approach to food
security has not been commonly utilised after 1989 in food secur-
ity studies and policies by researchers and policy-makers, probably
consists in the lack of significant efforts to develop guidelines to
operationalise it. The ambitious and risky aim of the next section
is to start sketching out such guidelines.
Food security analysis through the capability approach
This Section aims to provide useful preliminary insights in order
to carry out an in-depth analysis of food security at the household/
individual level, following the capability approach. In other words,
it intends to give broad guidelines to policy-makers and project/
programme designers on how to operationalise the approach in
the field.
While the core assessment of food security should focus on the
‘‘micro’’ level, an analysis of macro food availability can still be
valuable. This is because an insufficient amount of food per capita
would necessarily result in food insecurity and because the food
market affects the price, which in turn affects people’s entitle-
ments. The FAOSTAT database, for example, offers plenty of infor-
mation on the production, trade and price of several food items, as
well as the synthetic picture of food availability provided by the
food balance sheets.
13
Table 1 presents the different informational bases, data
required, possible data sources, and, finally, the food security
dimensions we take into account for our central analysis based
on the capability approach. It consists of three phases: (1) analysis
of food entitlements; (2) analysis of basic capabilities for food secur-
ity; (3) analysis of the capability to be food secure. In the next para-
graphs we explain each of them, bearing in mind that each phase
implies adding a new informational basis, new variables and new
dimensions.
In the first phase – analysis of food entitlements – information
must be gathered on the three key components of entitlements:
endowments, exchange conditions and production possibilities.
In more detail, we should ideally have data on variables such as
employment status, type of employment, assets, savings and possi-
ble claims to the state or other local institutions for cash-transfer
or food assistance. These data can often be extracted from existing
sources, such as the World Bank Living Standard Measurement
Surveys (LSMS), the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS)
financed by USAID and the UNICEF-supported Multiple Indicator
Cluster Survey (MICS).
11
In this paper we do not discuss the ‘‘right to food’’ approach for two main reasons.
First, to some extent the human right approach is closely linked to the capability
approach: as argued by several scholars (e.g., Sen, 2004b; Nussbaum, 2011), most of
the human rights can be expressed in terms of rights to capabilities (e.g., right to
health). The human right terminology, however, brings new insights as it considers
freedom in a wider perspective: while the capability approach only focuses on the
‘‘opportunity’’ side of freedom, the human rights also consider the ‘‘process’’ aspect of
freedom (Sen, 2004b). This is because it recognises as intrinsically important
procedural aspects: the duty holders have, for example, the correlate obligations to
respect the principles of non-discrimination and participation (UNDP, 2000). The
second and most important reason for not concentrating on the human rights to food
relates to the way it is operationalised by international organizations. These
organizations refer to the ‘‘right to food’’, where food is viewed as a basic need, a
commodity to deliver to people. Moreover, they tend to use a legalistic framework for
the enforcement of the human right to food (e.g., FAO, 2006; Künnemann and Epal-
Ratjen, 2004). This is in contradiction especially with Sen’s view: he argues that a
legal framework is only one way for the enforcement of human rights, and that an
ethical recognition of these rights or political campaigning can often be more
effective. In conclusion, the human rights to food, as implemented world-wide, is
more an approach to enhance food security by means of legal tools than an analytical
framework to assess food security.
12
Based on this definition, ‘Food security exists when all people, at all times, have
physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their
dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life’ (FAO, 1996).
13
See: http://faostat3.fao.org/home/index.html (accessed on 17 June 2014).
6F. Burchi, P. De Muro / Food Policy xxx (2015) xxx–xxx
Please cite this article in press as: Burchi, F., De Muro, P. From food availability to nutritional capabilities: Advancing food security analysis. Food Policy
(2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2015.03.008
For the exchange conditions, we should obtain information on
the prices of the highest possible number of goods and services
from national and local sources or from international databases
such as FAOSTAT. More difficult is it to gather information on the
skills and professional knowledge of the individual or household
members. Through all these data, we can examine whether people
have access to enough food for survival now and probably in the
near future.
Phase 1 should also include an analysis of the variations in
endowments and exchange conditions in the recent past.
Unfortunately, there are no standard household surveys where
households are asked this type of question. Information on a
change in endowments could be obtained by directly asking people
whether they have bought or sold important assets, while changes
in exchange conditions could be ascertained through other official
or non–official statistics. This is just an example of a broader study
of ‘‘coping’’ and ‘‘adapting’’ strategies to understand the set of
strategies people employ during crises and ‘‘normal’’ periods as
suggested by the SL framework (Corbett, 1988; Maxwell, 1996;
Maxwell et al., 2003). Through this complex analysis, we can
incorporate not only what people have, but also what people do
as agents of their future. This provides information on another food
security dimension, i.e. stability. If people have a seasonal job, the
prices of the commodity they offer would be subject to great
fluctuations, or if they are known to have sold key productive
assets, we would estimate that the person or household is largely
vulnerable to food insecurity although she/he or they may have
sufficient calorie intake at the time of survey.
The second phase consists of an analysis of some basic capabili-
ties. First of all, we need to take into account other factors beyond
food entitlements that affect the capability to be free from hunger,
considered as the capability to have enough food/calories.
14
These
are the institutional and environmental conversion factors, which
are, to a large extent, beyond a person’s control. Institutional conver-
sion factors are the set of rules, norms and customs that allow, for
instance, a certain amount of income to be converted into an ade-
quate amount of food. If, for example, a woman is not ‘‘allowed’’ to
Table 1
Food Security analysis through the capability approach.
Step What is
measured
Food security dimension Informational basis Variables Existing data sources
1 Food
entitlements
Access to food + stability Endowments: labor force,
productive assets, wealth (non-
productive assets, savings, others),
non-tangible resources (e.g.,
memberships)
Employment status, type of
employment, extended set of assets
(mainly livestock, land and house-
related assets), right/legal claims to
public provision of food or income
transfer from the state
Demographic and Health Survey
(DHS-USAid); Living Standard
Measurement Survey (LSMS-
World Bank); Multiple Indicator
Cluster Survey (MICS-UNICEF)
For the stability dimension:
variation of endowments and
strategies (coping strategies,
adaptation)
Exchange conditions: prices of food
items, wages, and prices of other
non-food goods and services
Wages from primary and secondary
income generating activities, price of
different food items/groups and
prices of other goods and services
LSMS
Data on prices can be taken from
FAOSTAT or from national
sources
Production possibilities: skills and
technology
Professional skills
2 Basic
capabilities
Access to food and other
food security-related
items + stability
Being free from hunger (i.e.
following Sen, having enough
calories for survival). This depends
on another set of variables: personal
conversion factors (e.g., age, sex,
and metabolism), institutional
conversion factors, and
environmental conversion factors
Quantity of food, food groups, calorie
intakeSex, ageLaw, rules,
normsClimate, frequency of natural
disasters
DHS, MICS
Being educated (basic education,
which depends on availability and
accessibility of formal and non-
formal training)
School enrolments, educational
achievement, literacy, participation
in adult literacy courses and other
non-formal education programs
UNESCO Institute of Statistics,
DHS, LSMS; MICS
Being in a good health (depends
among other things on health care)
Access to health services, resistance
to main diseases, self-reported
health status
DHS, MICS and, to a lower degree,
LSMS
Access to drinkable water and
sanitation
DHS, LSMS, MICS
Being able to take part in
household decision making and
community life
Participation in household decision
making and participation in
community life
DHS (since 1999)
3 Capability to
be food
secure
Access to food and other
food security-related
items + stability + utilisation
It is given by the interaction of the
capability ‘‘being free from hunger’’
with the capabilities ‘‘being in a good
health’’ and ‘‘being educated’’. In
addition, it depends on food
utilisation and cultural/social
acceptability
Diet quality, diet diversification,
nutrition knowledge (through
questionnaire focusing on
micronutrients), hygienic practices
DHS, MICS
Testes, cultural and religious beliefs
about food products
National/local sources
Source: authors’ elaboration.
In bold are the main elements of the informational basis for the analysis of food security.
14
This capability is linked to the concept of ‘‘undernutrition’’ used by the FAO and
the WFP.
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leave the house and go to the market alone, she will not be able to
spend her income to purchase food. An in-depth institutional analy-
sis is required to gather such information.
Environmental conversion factors are ones affecting, for exam-
ple, the conversion for food growers of food production into actual
food (for subsistence agriculture) or income (for food sold in the
market) given the productive possibilities and exchange condi-
tions. Natural disasters and climate fall into this category. It is pos-
sible to obtain information on environmental conversion factors
through basic national or international sources, or by employing
ad hoc qualitative/participatory tools (e.g., focus groups or ‘‘life
stories’’) at the community level.
Moreover, access to food is not enough to understand food
security and we therefore need to move to a broader analysis of
basic capabilities, such as being in good health, being educated
and being able to take part in household decision making and com-
munity life. To carry out this analysis, already existing data must
be collected or found on: (1) school enrolment, educational
achievements, literacy, participation in adult literacy courses and
other non-formal education programmes; (2) access to health care
services, sanitation, morbidity from major diseases, self-reported
health status; and (3) the capability to make a shared or autono-
mous decision within the household on issues such as budget
and food allocation (empowerment-type questionnaires), and par-
ticipation in community life. While data on education and health
for many developing countries (at the national and regional/
provincial levels) are available in many databases such as DHS,
LSMS and MICS, data on participation in household decision mak-
ing and on women’s empowerment and autonomy has only been
available in the DHS database since 1999.
Finally, the capability to be food secure is a more complex
capability that depends on interactions between the ‘‘basic
capabilities’’. In this case, by ‘‘basic’’ and ‘‘more complex’’ capabili-
ties, we mean that the former are foundational to the latter.
15
Our
interpretation of the ‘‘capability to be food secure’’ is close to what
Drèze and Sen (1989) define as the ‘capability to be adequately nour-
ished’. This is coherent with the 2001 FAO definition of food security
as a ‘A situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physi-
cal, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food
that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and
healthy life’ (FAO, 2001: 49). This is probably the most advanced def-
inition as well as the one that best recognises the close relationship
between food security and nutrition, though not the best known and
most accepted.
Enjoying all the basic capabilities is necessary but not sufficient
to be food secure. Further data on the utilisation of food should be
collected. These data should provide information on the nutritional
knowledge of the person,
16
the quality and variety of the diet and, if
possible, hygienic and cooking practices. As an example, having
enough calories obtained from one single type of food cooked in a
way that does not derive the right nutritional contents from it is
likely to cause the person to be food insecure. Therefore, in this
phase, the informational basis must be widened. The questionnaire
should incorporate a set of questions on knowledge of the benefits
of micronutrients and other nutrition-related aspects,
17
whether
the person has participated in nutrition programmes and specific
information on different food items or food groups in order to con-
struct an indicator of diet diversification.
18
Finally, a person may have enough food of the right quality, but
not be able to eat it because of cultural or religious reasons, or
because they do not like the taste or are simply not used to eating
that food.
19
Drawing from Crocker (2008):
For example, the taste of an available grain may be too different
from that to which they are accustomed. Evidence exists that
people who receive extra cash for food sometimes fail to
improve their nutritional status, apparently because they
choose to consume nutritionally deficient foods. If food is to
make a difference in people’s nutritional and wider well-being,
it must be food that the individuals in question are generally
willing and able to convert into nutritional functioning. This is
not to say that food habits cannot be changed. Rather, it under-
scores the importance of nutrition education and social criti-
cism of certain food consumption patterns. If people find food
distasteful or unacceptable for other reasons, even nutritious
food to which people are entitled will not by itself protect or
restore nutritional well-being
[Crocker, 2008, Ch. 8.]
That is why information on religious beliefs and local food
habits should be collected. Most of this information can be col-
lected at the community level by employing qualitative techniques
such as focus groups.
The analysis of food security through the capability approach
allows a more comprehensive examination of the phenomenon.
While the income-based approach would take income as a focal
variable, the entitlement/capability approach provides information
on how income is used to ultimately reach the capability to be food
secure, depending on personal and external conversion factors,
food choices and behaviours. Unlike the food-first approach, the
capability approach takes into account the quality, utilisation and
social acceptability of food, and the interaction with other basic
capabilities such as health and education. The capability approach
also differs from the ‘‘mechanical’’ view of food insecurity as a lack
of micronutrients or other food properties generally advocated by
nutritionists.
20
By analysing the phenomenon through the three
steps described in Table 1, it aims to identify the root causes of food
insecurity, situating the study within the broader topic of well-be-
ing. Food insecurity, within the framework, can be the result of a lack
of education, health or other basic capabilities that constitute peo-
ple’s well-being.
21
Using the words of David Crocker (2008, Ch. 8),
‘Instead of identifying hungry people simply by a lack of food intake
and mechanically monitoring individuals or dispensing food to them
according to nutritional requirements, the focus should be on nutri-
tional functioning and those ‘‘nutrition-related capabilities that are
crucial to human well-being.’’’
Another element that is implicitly incorporated in all the steps
of the capability framework for food security is agency, i.e. ‘the
ability of people to help themselves and also to influence the
world’ (Sen, 1999: 18–19). People are clearly constrained by insti-
tutional and environmental factors which are to a high degree
beyond their control. However, their actions can affect their life
and their likelihood of escaping poverty and food insecurity. A per-
son may choose to ‘‘help themselves’’ by, for example, diversifying
15
See, for example, Terzi (2007). In the capability literature, the terminology ‘‘basic’’
has also been seen in different ways: see, among others, Alkire (2002), Nussbaum
(2003), and Sen (2004a).
16
In the case of children, researchers should clearly analyse the nutrition
knowledge of the parents or those who take care of the child.
17
See, for example, the questions asked to interviewees in Indonesia by the NGO
Helen Keller International, used by Webb and Block (2004). Alternatively, see the
study by Burchi (2010) who aggregated the relevant information available in the DHS
surveys to construct one indicator of nutrition and health knowledge.
18
See: Hoddinott and Yohannes (2002) and Arimond and Ruel (2004).
19
This is incorporated in the following part of the FAO definition of food security,
‘‘social ... access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food’’ (FAO, 2001: 49, emphasis
added).
20
Lack of vitamins or other micronutrients is the cause of the so-called ‘‘hidden
hunger’’ (see Burchi et al., 2011).
21
See, for instance, the study of Burchi and De Muro (2007) that recognises the
relevance of basic education for enhancing food security in rural areas of developing
countries.
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their income-generating activities or adopting coping strategies for
food security in the long run. Conversely, a person may choose to
‘‘influence the well-being of others’’ such as their children, at the
expense of their own well-being. Finally, they may act just to ‘‘in-
fluence the world’’, by taking decisions that could also reduce their
well-being.
22
‘As individual and collective agents we decide how to
respond to inner urges, external forces, and constraining circum-
stances, and whether or not to enhance or sacrifice our well-being
to some higher cause’ (Crocker, 2008, Ch. 8).
The discussion on agency leads us to examine a final point,
which has not previously been discussed. Table 1 outlines the link-
ages between different capabilities; however, we might after all be
interested in knowing whether a person or a household is actually
food secure, i.e. whether their functioning of ‘‘being food secure’’ is
activated. Whether or not the capability moves into the function-
ing depends exclusively on people’s choice. Although being food
secure is such a basic capability for which the largest proportion
of people with such a capability would decide to activate the
related functioning, there may be cases in which people might
choose not to be food secure. It can be the case of an anorexic per-
son ‘‘deciding’’ to fast or, as already outlined in previous para-
graphs, a person making inter-temporal choices in order to
ensure long-term food security. This situation can be properly cap-
tured only by simultaneously examining capabilities and function-
ings (Sen, 1987). However, for evident reasons, policy-makers
should concentrate on people with a low capability to be food
secure (in the short and long run), without further need to analyse
functionings. By following the three-step procedure described in
Table 1, we can identify people that are undernourished but do
not have constraints to access food and food-related items.
As a conclusion to this section, the capability-based analysis of
food security requires a larger informational basis than any other
previous approach. However, in the paragraphs above, we consid-
ered only the ‘‘ideal’’ number of variables to be used during the
three phases of the study. In the field, programme and project
designers from international organisations or NGOs always face
constraints in time and cost. A lower informational basis can still
be used to perform a reliable analysis of food security built on
the capability framework. It is only important to keep the most
relevant elements, and maybe reduce the number of variables for
each factor
23
or the complexity of data collection. The key point is
not how many variables we should focus on, but which variables:
in this sense, the capability approach provides new important
insights.
Conclusions
The paper constitutes one of the first attempts to provide a
comprehensive but synthetic review of several approaches for
the analysis of food security, and attempts to identify the linkages
between different frameworks. In particular, we have tried to com-
bine the debates that have been going on for a few decades in the
academic field and within international organisations.
Moreover, building on the pioneering work of Drèze and Sen
(1989), we extended the capability approach to food security by
highlighting the importance of factors such as participation in
household decision making and empowerment, and distinguishing
between the capability and the functioning to be food secure. In
our opinion, the capability approach directly evolved from the
entitlement approach, as well as other theoretical frameworks,
and its operationalisation in the field of food security allows a
more comprehensive analysis of its direct and indirect drivers.
We then provided some preliminary insights into how to apply
this approach. We identified three steps of analysis that can pro-
gressively ensure a better understanding of food (in)security in a
given area. Through this procedure, we can detect whether food
insecurity is really a problem of lack of assets or purchasing power,
or if it is mainly the result of the lack of basic capabilities such as
education and access to health care. Therefore, it places food secu-
rity in the broad area of studies on well-being and (human) devel-
opment, as opposed to the area of agriculture. It finally opens the
space to a different type of programmatic guidance on food secu-
rity analysis, which could be used by UN organisations as well as
NGOs, and constitutes the basis for a different way of measuring
this phenomenon. We hope that new contributions in this field will
follow these directions.
Acknowledgments
This paper is a revised version of the background paper for the
African Human Development Report 2012 ‘‘Towards a Food Secure
Future’’, commissioned by the UNDP, Regional Bureau for Africa.
The authors acknowledge the financial support of UNDP and would
like to thank for helpful comments Ricardo Fuentes, Sebastian
Levine, Pedro Conceicao, all the participants in the 2010 HDCA con-
ference on ‘‘Human Rights and Human Development’’ held in
Amman and the participants in the 2009 Garnet conference on
‘‘Food Security and Sustainable Development: Challenges for the
Governance of International Relations’’, held in Rome.
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23
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41–58.
10 F. Burchi, P. De Muro / Food Policy xxx (2015) xxx–xxx
Please cite this article in press as: Burchi, F., De Muro, P. From food availability to nutritional capabilities: Advancing food security analysis. Food Policy
(2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2015.03.008
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