Publication: Food Security Working Paper #002
By Julian May, October 2017
Food security and nutrition are receiving renewed attention in international and national policy agendas. This has been accompanied by a profusion of theoretical concepts borrowed from diverse disciplines and then employed to describe challenges to achieving food security and adequate nutrition. Complex eco-systems, wicked problems and public goods are among these. In order to make a constructive contribution to policy debate, the underlying political economy of food security is interrogated to understand why food security problems may be indeterminate. This reveals food to be an outcome from a complex problem-determined food eco-system. The problems are ill-defined, the solutions uncertain and food itself is a commodity, predominantly privately produced and purchased. As a result, governments are compelled to take account of competing interests of actors within the food system when considering any intervention. Further, food security includes non-exclusive components such as food safety, social protection and food price stability and the right to food is enshrined in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Albeit impure, food security is then a public good requiring public sector action to ensure that it is universal, indivisible and interdependent with other human rights. Achieving this requires that collective action problems be resolved in order to achieve food security and nutrition.
In this report, we examine the determinants of child malnutrition using the Birth to Twenty data, a cohort study of children born in Soweto-Johannesburg in 1990. In particular, we focus on the causes of low height-for-age, or stunting, at age two, the measure most commonly used to capture chronic undernutrition in ...