International: Correlation Between Women's Economic Activity & Food Security
FEEDING people isn't easy. Asia saw food riots in 2008 and 2011 when rice prices spiked, and left many in hunger. Globally food prices grew three times as fast as inflation over the past decade.
A new index on food security released this week by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), commissioned by DuPont, a large chemicals and materials firm, uncovers a few fascinating findings. The most interesting is a strong correlation between women's economic opportunity and access to affordable, safe food. The Global Food Security Index shows a hefty 0.93 correlation with the EIU's Women’s Economic Opportunity Index, which measures female economic participation (scattergraph below).
As the report states: "The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that if women had access to the same productive resources as men—better seeds, fertilisers and fungicides—they could increase their yield by 20% to 30%. As women make up 43% of the world’s farmers, this would increase total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5% to 4%, and reduce hunger globally by 12% to 17%, according to the FAO."
Interestingly, the correlation between food security and EIU's Democracy Index was only 0.77, a much weaker link than with women's labour equality. This suggest that what happens in the political sphere is a bit less important than what happens on the social sphere, in terms of food.
The EIU's index ranks 105 countries with a model that analyzes 25 individual indicators in the areas of affordability, availability and quality and safety. (An interactive website is here; the underlying data is here.)
Among the other interesting findings are that landlocked countries show only a modest increase in food insecurity, on average seven points lower on a scale to 100. Also, the country that had the least annual volatility of farm output over the past 20 years was China (explained by generous subsidies that create a floor for food commodity prices), while the North African countries of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria had some of the most variance.
The good news is that several of the countries at the very bottom of the index, notably Mozambique, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Nigeria, are also ones with strong economic growth, suggesting that their food situation may improve as living standards rise and as sound policies are hopefully put in place