A Human Development and Capability Approach to Food Security: Conceptual Framework and Informational Basis

01 Feb 2012


According to the latest estimates by FAO (2010), there are nearly 925 million food insecure people in the world. The number is above that of 2007 as a consequence of the food price rise and the overall economic crisis. Therefore, food security is a crucial topic within the broader fields of development economics and development studies.

The present paper engages in the debate on the theory and policy of food security. The way food security is theorized, measured, and finally analyzed affects the typology of policies that will be adopted. The paper has a twofold objective. The first one is to review critically different approaches to food security proposed either within the academic world or by international organizations. According to our best knowledge until now there has not been a systemic attempt to compare (most of) the existing approaches.

The second aim of the paper is to develop the capability approach primarily elaborated by the economist Amartya Sen during the early 1980s, in order to use it for the analysis of food security. According to us, the literature has often missed to identify the linkages existing between Sen’s entitlement approach used in the specific fields of hunger and famine, his capability approach employed to analyze development and wellbeing, and the human development paradigm elaborated by UNDP. A strict connection exists and a direct reference to the book of Dreze and Sen (1989) and to the UNDP HDR on human security (1994) is needed to understand it. By combining these three approaches, we can arrive to a more comprehensive theoretical approach to food security.

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