Written by Lahiru Fernando
28 Oct, 2015 | 5:23 pm
Though Sri Lanka seems to be food-secure at national level, research shows that access to food at household level remains a significant concern, Manoj Tibbotuwawa, a research economist attached to the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) said.
About 5.2 million people equivalent to a quarter of Sri Lanka’s population were estimated to have been undernourished in 2014, Tibbotuwawa’s article titled ‘Food Security: Does it Matter for Sri Lanka?” revealed.
Currently an estimated 4.7 million people are undernourished.
“The challenge is not just to ensure food security to an estimated 4.7 million people currently undernourished, but also to feed the additional 2.4 million people expected to inhabit the island by 2050”, the article quoting Tibbotuwawa said.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) report on Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2014 ranks Sri Lanka at the 39th position among 76 countries ahead of all South Asian countries. This shows that Sri Lanka’s food security at national level has improved significantly over the years. However, at household level, the situation is disturbing.
While Sri Lanka is no longer in the ‘alarming’ category, according to the GHI, Sri Lanka’s hunger is still classified as ‘serious’.
The Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) of the United Nations says Sri Lanka’s depth of hunger for 2014 stood at 216 kcal/capital/day, a decline compared to the level of 230 – 240 kcal/capita/day recorded during the early 1990s.
According to the FAO, 26.3 percent of children below the age of 5 did not have the recommended weight for the age and 21.4 percent and 14.7 percent were suffering from stunting and wasting in 2012.
This indicates a severe problem of child malnutrition that has persisted despite economic growth and increases in per capital income and food availability at national level.
Data suggests that food insecurity seems to be associated with the problem of access to food rather than with the availability of food at national level.
Food Security as defined by the World Food Summit is achieved when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.
In Sri Lanka national level food security is often confused with food self-sufficiency, the research revealed.
Tibbotuwawa says a country need not achieve self-sufficiency in food to achieve food security as national food security is attained when a country produces enough food for its people or has the capacity to import its food requirements by its export earnings or a combination of both.
Accessibility of food depends on the individual’s income capacity to purchase food at the household level.
“It is important to see if national food availability has sufficiently ensured access to food at the household level,” Tibbotuwawa said.
Experts say instead of a costly ‘self-sufficiency model’, Sri Lanka should focus on a combination of domestic food production and trade and tackle household food security with short and medium term interventions to ensure the poorest segments of society has access to food.
Diversifying dietary patterns can also help ensure food security at household level, the study said.
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