Operationalizing Household Food Security in Development Projects: An Introduction

Some development agencies and academics regard the concept of household food security—often defined as "access for all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life"—as a guiding principle for designing interventions in rural areas. Although there is a large literature on food security, much of its focus lies in developing and testing research issues. As such, it is not always directly relevant to the work undertaken by development practitioners designing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating projects.

The purpose of these eleven Technical Guides is to bridge the gap between theory and practice. They provide a set of operational methodologies that will assist development practitioners in integrating household food security and nutrition concerns into their projects.  They take as their point of departure the fact that project staff often face an "information constraint." That is, information is often lacking on the nature of the food security and nutrition problems facing a country, or region within a country, the location of food insecure areas, and the causal links between potential interventions and food security outcomes. These guides show how practitioners can obtain such information and how they can use it to improve the food security and nutrition impact of their projects.

This is an introductory guide in two senses. First, it provides a brief introduction to the concept of food security. (An introduction to nutrition issues is found in Technical Guide #5.) It outlines the links between the types of projects often designed and their impact on food security and nutrition. By doing so, it provides a framework for thinking about what projects would be most appropriate in a given situation and indicates what types of information are needed in order to maximize impact on food security. It can also be the case that collaborators in developing countries are not always fully conversant with food security concepts. The material presented in this guide can also be used to sensitize such individuals. Second, it introduces the remaining ten guides, showing how using these can assist in easing information constraints often faced by development practitioners. By doing so, it should be possible to improve the targeting of interventions, to understand their likely effects, and to develop improved monitoring and evaluation methods.

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