Emergent patterns in nature and society

Food security risk index map 2013

I wonder how this map would change if you account for the food flows on the trade network. Form EndingHunger I quote:

This is a map created by risk analysis experts Maplecroft using the key elements of food security set by FAO. The Food Security Risk Index (FSRI) is calculated based on assessing 12 components of food security. The indicators include the accessibility and availability of food and the stability of food supplies across all countries. Additionally, the index takes into consideration the nutritional and health elements of populations.



From the Maplecroft website:

The Food Security Risk Index (FSRI), released by risk analysis and mapping company Maplecroft, is based on the key elements of food security as laid out by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It is calculated using 12 indicators, measuring the availability, access and stability of food supplies across all countries, as well as the nutritional and health status of populations.

Vulnerability to food insecurity

According to the FSRI, a number of critical factors have combined to intensify the current food crisis affecting countries in the Horn of Africa, including Somalia (ranked joint 1st), Eritrea (4), Ethiopia (7) and Djibouti (14).

These countries, along with much of Sub-Saharan Africa, are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. Maplecroft states that contributing factors for food insecurity include: a low capacity to combat the effects of extreme weather events such as drought; prevalence of poverty; and failing infrastructures, which undermine both food production and emergency food distribution capacity. Conflict is also a major driver of food insecurity as it displaces people from their normal social networks and livelihoods. The on-going violence in eastern DR Congo, for example, is largely responsible for its precarious food security situation.


Global food stocks ‘alarmingly’ low

Despite a slight decrease in global food prices since February 2011, the prices of commodities such as rice, maize and wheat remain volatile. The World Bank warns that global food stocks remain at “alarmingly low” levels and even small reductions in yields will apply considerable upward pressure on prices.

“Food insecurity can not only cause humanitarian disasters; we have also seen it emerge as a contributing factor to societal unrest,” says Maplecroft CEO, Alyson Warhurst. “As global demand for food grows due to rising populations, food security will take on increasing importance for governments and it needs to be on the risk agenda of multinational corporations.”


African ‘land grab’ – risks and opportunities for development

The diversion of resources, land, and agricultural outputs away from food production and towards biofuels has become an especially contentious issue. A July 2011 FAO report on the relationship between price volatility and food security reveals that the expanding biofuels market is a major cause of rising prices of food staples.

Aside from driving up agro-commodity prices, increased use of biofuels has also led to what is being termed a ‘land grab’ in Africa. Private energy companies based in the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden are reported to have secured contracts for land in highest risk African countries, in the FSRI, for the production of biofuels. These include: Ethiopia (7), Mozambique (18) and Tanzania (29). China is also reported to have secured contracts to grow palm oil and jatropha in the DR Congo (1) and Zambia (23), as part of its intensified effort to ensure energy security. China’s requested land deal in Zambia elicited fierce criticism from opposition leader Michael Sata in the light of food shortages and high prices following severe flooding and drought in 2008.

Large-scale land acquisitions in developing countries nonetheless present opportunities as well as risks. Increased investment in countries’ agricultural industries can serve to benefit the rural poor by generating employment in the sector, by developing rural infrastructure, as well as by contributing to poverty reduction.

“Responsible investment can lead to development and play an important role in expanding access to sufficient and stable food supplies,” added Alyson Warhurst. “The transfer of technological advances and expertise in agronomy may also help to improve the capacity of the agricultural systems of developing countries to increase production of food crops for both domestic consumption and export markets.”


The world seems more feudalistic that one could imagine. It seems imperative to add the flows of food and land tenure into the map to better understand who is getting what and at whose expense.


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