These organisations, other than government departments, are quite active in the health field in developing nations like India. Their efforts have been remarkable in combating and building awareness about deadly diseases like AIDS and in the on-going pulse polio programme in India to administer oral drops to children below five years of age to prevent polio.
Food security is a flexible concept. Many definitions of this concept have been attempted. The continuing evolution of the concept of food security has reflected the wider recognition that the technical and policy issues are highly complex.
A careful definition was that negotiated in the process of international consultation leading to the World Food Summit (WFS) in November 1996. Food security as a concept originated in the mid-1970s, in the discussions of international food problems when the world faced a global food crisis.
The initial focus of attention was primarily on problems of food supply, of ensuring the availability and the price stability of basic food items at the national and international level. A process of international negotiation followed, which led to the World Food Conference of 1974 and a set of arrangements for promoting food security.
The issues of famine, hunger and food crisis were also being extensively examined, following the events of the mid 1970s. The outcome was’ a redefinition of food security. That the potential vulnerability of affected people is a critical aspect was explicitly recognised.
Another factor which led to the modification of the views about food security was the emerging evidence that the technical successes of the Green Revolution did not automatically lead to rapid and dramatic reductions in poverty and malnutrition. These problems were recognised as the result of lack of effective demand by the poor.
Food security was defined in the 1974 World Food Summit as: “availability at all times of adequate world food supplies of basic foodstuffs to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and to offset fluctuations in production and prices”.
In 1983, Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) expanded its concept to include securing access by vulnerable people to available supplies, implying that attention should be given to both the demand and supply side of the food security equation: “ensuring that all people at all times have both physical and economic access to the basic food that they need”.
The World Bank Report “Poverty and Hanger” (1986) focused on the time dimensions food insecurity. It introduced the widely accepted distinction between chronic food insecurity, associated with problems of continuing or structural poverty and low incomes, and transitory or temporary food insecurity, which involved periods of intensified pressure caused by natural disaster, economic collapse or conflict.
This concept of food security is further elaborated in terms of: “access of all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life”. Essentially, food security can be described as a phenomenon relating to individuals. It is the nutritional status of the individual household member that is the ultimate focus, and the risk of that adequate status not being achieved or becoming undermined.
The latter risk describes the vulnerability of individuals in this context. As the definitions reviewed above imply, vulnerability may occur both as a chronic and transitory phenomenon. Food security is a multi-dimensional phenomenon. National and international efforts are needed to meet and ensure food security, especially in the era of globalisation and liberalisation. Attention has to be given to long-run food security, and focus should not be limited to transitory food insecurity.