The humanitarian crisis unleashed by drought in Somalia has again highlighted the close links between extreme weather and food security. But how exactly are the two connected? And what can farmers in developing countries do to lessen the negative effects of climate change? This Q&A provides an overview of the key issues, with a focus on smallholders in Africa.
The term may sound like jargon for simply having enough to eat or knowing where one’s next meal is coming from, but food security is a multifaceted concept that has evolved significantly over time. According to the current UN World Food Programme definition, people are said to be food secure when “they have availability and adequate access at all times to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” In other words, it’s not just about now, but the foreseeable future; and it’s not just about food, but the right kind of food, and the ability to prepare it safely. “Access” is a key component of this definition: even when there is plenty of food in markets or granaries, people will be food insecure if they cannot afford to buy it, or have nothing to barter for it. Even famines sometimes occur when food is available but not accessible.