New report reveals how poor women and men understand food rights

5 June 2014

Does more talk of the right to food and more action on food security amount to more accountability for hunger? Not necessarily, according to the latest findings from the 'Life in a time of food price volatility' research project.

Broken eggs at Dhaka market

Help Yourself! provides the second year results of a four-year study on how food price volatility affects everyday life and uncovers grassroots realities related to the right to food.

Understanding around food rights is patchy and public accountability mechanisms are weak

Do people at risk of hunger think they have a right to food? What does a right to food mean, and how can it be claimed and enforced? IDS and Oxfam researchers asked these questions of around 1500 people in 10 low and middle income countries.

Research in 2013 found that customary rights and responsibilities, patchy and uneven at the best of times, are affected by rapid changes in food prices and responses to them; becoming less effective buffers against the global drivers of food insecurity. People at risk of hunger are keenly receptive to state and civil society action that strengthens their sense of right to food, but formal responsibilities for action are often unclear and monitoring systems rarely capture local realities.

Food security programmes are often demeaning, divisive, unreliable, discriminatory and discretionary. This weakness of public accountability for food security would matter less if people felt that markets were doing the job of guaranteeing access to good food. However, complaints about volatile and rising food prices continue to be a feature of everyday life, contrary to the overall impression of falling prices on world markets.

Researching life in a time of food price volatility

This project is a four-year (2012-15) collaboration between Oxfam and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), to monitor the impacts of, and responses to, volatile food prices in poor communities in ten developing countries. It aims to inform short-term efforts to help people cope with high and fluctuating food prices, and to influence the design of food security and social protection responses over the longer term. The research is funded by UK Aid and Irish Aid.

Related resources

Find out more about Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility and read the latest research and policy findings on our project web page.

Read lead researcher, Naomi Hossain's, blog which conveys the voices of the men and women interviewed as part of the study.

Join the conversation on Twitter by following us @ids_uk and @oxfamgbpolicy and using the hashtags: #helpyourself and #foodrights

For details of our report launch today in Dublin, see our Help Yourself! event web page.

Image: 'Broken eggs for sale at Dhaka market', by Naomi Hossain.