Tuesday 6
Advancing the measurement of resilience to food insecurity
M. d'Errico
› 11:35 - 12:30 (55min)
› Antigone 1
Resilience perspective on food security mechanisms: Exploring cross-scale interactions and tradeoffs in India's new National Food Security Bill
Rimjhim Aggarwal  1@  , Katherine Spielmann  2@  
1 : School of Sustainability, Arizona State University  (ASU)  -  Website
PO Box 875502, Tempe, AZ 85287-5502 -  États-Unis
2 : School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University  (SHESC, ASU)

This paper makes an argument for the critical importance of a resilience perspective, particularly an understanding of cross-scale interactions and tradeoffs, in enhancing food security. We focus on cross-scale interactions because current policy discussions on food security largely emphasize state-level action at regional and national scales, and are based on short-term planning horizons, often neglecting the role of household and community level action in building resilience. We use evidence from prehistoric societies in the American Southwest as well as historical and contemporary India to support our argument.

In September 2013, India - home to around one-third of the world's poor and one-sixth of malnourished people – enacted a highly ambitious National Food security Bill. Under this Bill, nearly 70% of India's population will be entitled to receive heavily subsidized food grains, a significant step-up from the around 40% that were targeted earlier. While the new Bill is being widely acclaimed, critics have questioned the efficacy of its delivery mechanisms and its sustainability. Under the earlier program, only around 58 percent of the subsidized food grains actually reached poor households. The expanded scope of the program has rekindled long-standing debates in development policy circles about how food security mechanisms should be designed.

These debates provide an opportune time for resilience scholars to engage with development practitioners to broaden the discussion on food security beyond the current monolithic, centralized models and short-term thinking. The present study evolved from a collaboration between an archaeologist who studies resilience in prehistoric societies in the American Southwest and a development economist who works on food security issues in India. The longue duree perspective of archaeology provides a perspective on the factors that promote enduring resilience and sustainability that is currently lacking in discussions and planning for food security. Archaeological data demonstrate the long-term success of household-scale strategies in maintaining food security, in particular the centuries-long importance of household-level storage as an adaptation strategy that promoted resilience of the food supply.

Household-scale strategies were prevalent in semi-arid regions of India also before the spread of green revolution technologies in the 1970s. Attention subsequently shifted, however, to growing a few select cereals supported by government programs that offer to buy major food grains after harvest at pre-announced minimum support prices. In response, farmers generally sell their produce right after harvest to meet cash needs. Over time, household storage as an option for enhancing intra-annual food security has diminished and has been substituted by storage at the central government level. This change has been associated with a significant shift in risk structure at local, regional and national levels. Recent studies have also documented the widespread leakages, corruption problems, and storage losses at government facilities.

In this paper we draw on the case of the American Southwest and India's own historical experience, to explore how an enhanced portfolio of household and community level adaptation strategies, including household level storage and village grain banks, could help reduce the vulnerability of small-scale farmers and village communities, and empower them under climate uncertainty.


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