Food security in less developed countries: assessing the effects of food aid in rural Kenya as a food supply shock on consumption and nutrition

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Virginia Tech

Food Security can be defined in terms of establishing national or regional minimum nutritional standards, or in terms of securing national or regional self-sufficiency production levels. In this research, food security is viewed from a nutritional-economic standpoint. The prevalence of severe malnutrition and food production instability, especially in Sub-Saharan African Countries, creates the impetus to identify the several economic aspects which characterize the overall food sector and its security floor. Hence, LDC governments, drawing on the WFP (World Food Program) and other international agencies, are interested in formulating a desirable national food strategy which, to a certain degree, secures a balanced national food production sector and consumption pattern. Food aid, in turn, is an essential mechanism designed to serve developmental purposes, such as income redistribution or provision of food as a real resource. Food-for-Work (FFW), as a specific form of food aid programs, represents a short-run food supply shock in the market environment of the recipient country's economy, since it is used as a "bridge" for meeting the basic nutritional requirements of the poorest households in the short-run. In the long-run, FFW can be used for developing infrastructure, creating jobs and advancing working skills, providing additional income to participants, and further improving the overall nutritional status of the poor. Recognizing these features of food aid, this research focused on the empirical estimation of the specific nutritional contribution of a FFW project, implemented at the community level in the Ewalel and Marigat locations of the Baringo District, Rift Valley Province, Kenya. The primary objectives were to measure empirically the magnitude of the FFW contribution on the nutritional status of the participant households, and to determine the relationship between consumption patterns and domestic (local) food prices. In this research, FFW participants' consumption behavior was hypothesized to be differentiated from the non-participants in terms of their income elasticities of demand for nutrients. Also, it was hypothesized that the FFW nutritional contribution to participants was greater than the equivalent net income gains through the value of the FFW provided food items (monetary market value of provided food items). Both hypotheses are supported by the analysis.

To determine the course of this research, a two step analytical procedure was followed. First, following Lancaster's conceptual setting on the "Goods' Characteristics Theory."