Journal Article


Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility

Published on 17 November 2015

Between 2007 and 2012 global food price volatility affected millions of people on low and precarious incomes. As food has been increasingly commodified and people on low incomes have struggled to pay for life’s necessities, they have responded by changing their ways of making a living, residences, diets, family relationships and ways of caring for one another.

This IDS Bulletin (which can be accessed for free) maps out how food price volatility has played a part in global social change, showing how a multitude of micro-reactions to rising and unpredictable prices has laid the foundations for transformed societies.

Written by researchers from ten countries, each of whom carried out a longitudinal study into the impacts and effects of food price volatility over three or more years, this IDS Bulletin elucidates two critical areas.

First, it gives insights into how reactions to food price volatility led to transformations at multiple levels and second, it demonstrates the usefulness of a social research method that understands the mechanisms by which social change comes about in a macro-event like the global food crisis.

Stabilising prices will not be enough to provide development opportunities to those who have already been forced to change their way of life, for whom high prices remain a barrier to life improvements and for whom cultural change has swept away much that they once could rely on. It is time to think not only about stabilising the price of food, but also making it possible for citizens to have greater control over what and how they eat, alongside rights to care, equitable gender relations and a fair working environment.

Access articles for free


Introduction: How Prices Rose and Lives Changed Patta Scott-Villiers and Alexandra Wanjiku Kelbert

From Global to Local and Back Again: Researching Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility Naomi Hossain


Anomaly or Augury? Global Food Prices Since 2007 Richard King

Disaggregated Analysis: The Key to Understanding Wellbeing in Kenya in the Context of Food Price Volatility Nick Chisholm

Macro Events and Micro Responses: Experiences from Bolivia and Guatemala Gabriela Alcaraz V.


Eat With Us: Insight into Household Food Habits in a Time of Food Price Volatility in Zambian Communities Mwila Mulumbi

The Role of Fatalism in Resilience to Food Price Volatility in Bangladesh Ferdous Jahan, Mamun-ur-Rashid and Sharif A. Wahab

Food Prices and the Politics of Hunger: Beneath Market and State Haris Gazdar

Food Price Volatility in Ethiopia: Public Pressure and State Response Tassew Woldehanna and Yisak Tafere

How to Support Poor Vietnamese Consumers to Deal with Food Price Volatility and Food Safety Issues Tran Cong Thang and Dinh Thi Bao Linh


Food Price Volatility and the Worrying Trend in Children’s Snacking in Indonesia Rachma Indah Nurbani

Life Around the Firewood Stove: The Impact of Price Volatility Alma Lucrecia Olivet López

Social Change, New Food Habits and Food Price Volatility in Burkina Faso Ludovic Ouhonyioué Kibora

‘Tell Me What You Eat and I’ll Tell You Who You Are’: Changing Eating Habits in Cochabamba, Bolivia Rosario Léon


Image of Patta Scott-Villiers

Patta Scott-Villiers

Research Fellow

Publication details

published by
Scott-Villiers, P. and Kelbert, A. W.
IDS Bulletin, volume 46, issue 6


About this publication

Related content