By Daniel Maxwell, Clement Ahiadeke, Carol Levin, Margaret Armar-Klemesu, Sawudatu Zakariah, and Grace Mary Lamptey (1999). Food Policy Vol. 24 (4), pp. 411-429.
Recent research on the multi-factorial nature of food security has provided a wealth of analytical insight, but measurement problems remain a major challenge, not only for research, but particularly for targeting, program management, monitoring and evaluation. Building on an approach suggested in a 1996 article, this paper constructs a series of alternative food-security indicators based on the frequency and severity of consumption-related coping strategies. These alternative indicators are then compared with more standard measures, including a consumption benchmark, a poverty benchmark and a nutritional benchmark using data from the 1997 Accra Urban Food and Nutrition Study. Against these more traditional indicators, the coping strategy indicators are best at ruling out cases—that is, minimizing the risk of classifying a food-insecure household as food-secure. They also help to identify sources of vulnerability and the trade-offs made with other basic needs to acquire sufficient food. The measures outlined here are much less time-consuming and less expensive in terms of data collection and analysis, and therefore perhaps offer a pragmatic alternative to food and livelihood program managers. However, the comparative analysis of conventional benchmarks with the coping strategies indicator reveals some shortcomings with the benchmark indicators as well—a sign that perhaps the indicators of food security proposed here are both alternative and complementary measures.