When Food Security is Insecure – a Concept of Food Security Explained with the Help of Small Pelagic Fish

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Ocean Science in Action - Oceans of the future

9. Small Pelagic Fisheries of Pemba Channel, Tanzania

9.2 When Food Security is Insecure – a Concept of Food Security Explained with the Help of Small Pelagic Fish

Video duration - 06:50

Why do we need to adapt traditional food security concepts and analyses to small-scale fishery case studies?

The concept and methods of analysis of food security have developed from being mostly concerned with national and global food supplies in the 1970s, to a more inclusive understanding incorporating households and individuals within the definition. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines food security as “when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

Although total capture production of all fisheries in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) supported a total catch of 4.9 million tons of fish in 2016, with fisheries and aquaculture generating around US$1.9billion annually, most fishers in the region are among the poorest in society and levels of hunger are still alarming. This paradox demonstrates how food security on a national scale does not necessarily imply that food security exists on an individual level. Small-scale fisheries in developing countries are not fully accounted for in national statistics, which leads to underreporting and undervaluing of both the economic and nutritional importance of such fisheries. This creates the risk of policy makers underestimating the importance of these fisheries and fishers to ensuring stable levels of food security.

Given the high dependence of WIO coastal communities on the marine environment, particularly for their diet, and the rapid adverse changes occurring in the Indian Ocean and its ecosystems ― there is a clear need to accurately assess the status of food security. From a food security perspective, key issues facing countries of the WIO are:

  1. climate change impacts influencing and changing marine productivity patterns and ecosystem dynamics in food-sensitive regions;
  2. a growing population increasing the demand for seafood;
  3. a high level of dependence on fisheries for fish as food and livelihoods;
  4. a high dependence of developing countries on small-scale fisheries for economic growth.
Both (3) and (4) are of high importance as both issues are often masked and overlooked within traditional national food security analyses.

Dr S. Taylor - NOC, Dr N. Jiddawi - IMS, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Further Reading:

Ashley, J. (2016). Food security in the developing world. Amsterdam: Academic Press

Babu, S., Gajanan, S. and Sanyal, P. (2009). Food security, poverty and nutrition policy analysis. London: Academic Press

Béné, C., Macfadyen, G.; Allison, E.H. (2007). Increasing the contribution of small-scale fisheries to poverty alleviation and food security. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 481. Rome, FAO. 125p

Allison, E. H. (2011). Aquaculture, fisheries, poverty and food security. Working Paper 2011–65. Penang: WorldFish Center

Hentschel, J., Lanjouw, J. O., Lamjouw, P. and Poggi, J. (2000). Combining census and survey data to trace spatial dimensions of poverty: a case study of Ecuador. World bank review, 14(1), 147 – 165

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