Why some are more equal than others: Country typologies of food security

Eugenio Díaz-Bonilla, Marcelle Thomas
ifpri discussion paper
2016

Food (in)security conditions differ across countries, and those differences affect the discussion of potential policy approaches. This paper reviews several approaches to creating country typologies of food (in)security conditions and then updates Díaz-Bonilla et al.’s 2000 IFPRI paper Food Security and Trade Negotiations in the World Trade Organization. The exercise uses five variables: domestic food production per capita (constant dollars per capita); a combination of calories and protein per capita; the ratio of total exports to food imports; the ratio of the nonagricultural population to total population; and a variable based on the mortality rate for children under 5. The raw values are all transformed into z-scores. The paper explains how the variables relate to the traditional dimensions of availability, access, and utilization in the definition of food security. Data for the variables correspond to the period 2009–2011 (or the latest available) and cover 155 developed and developing countries. Two clustering methods are applied: hierarchical and k-means. The hierarchical approach is used first, to determine potential outliers and to explore what would be a reasonable number of clusters. That analysis suggests that the maximum number of relevant clusters for the analysis is 10 and identifies three countries as outliers. We then use the k-means method to classify all other countries in one of the 10 different clusters or groups. The paper analyzes the average profile of each one of those groups and divides them into three categories of food insecure, intermediate, and food secure. We highlight the different profiles of each of the food-insecure clusters (such as whether they were rural or urban, trade stressed or not, and so on). Limitations related to land and water availability (measured as arable land, hectares per person, and renewable internal freshwater resources in cubic meters per capita) are incorporated into the analysis as an additional dimension to be considered. The paper closes with some policy considerations for the different types of clusters of food-insecure countries.