The recent Caribbean Food Security and Livelihood Survey published by CARICOM provides very useful insights for The Bahamas that should be treated as important markers and actively examined by policy makers in a more robust manner.
The survey is indicative of the serious level of attention that is needed on the issue of food security in the country and puts on the radar matters to be considered from a policy perspective as it relates to vulnerable segments of the population.
Food security is a national security matter and one that is a bit more complex than simply having food to eat. The outputs from the survey suggest that the persons sampled are displaying very pronounced characteristic of being food insecure.
Food security requires, amongst other elements, for there to be food availability - having sufficient quantity of appropriate food available; accessibility, which includes purchasing power; utilization, which includes adequate nutritious dietary intake.
It is clear from the survey that these three important elements are being negatively impacted. In addition to persons going without food, the findings showed that those who responded were eating a narrow range of food, unable to eat healthy and nutritious food, and, while there may also be adverse implications here, eating less than desired.
Coupled with the reported coping strategies - reducing expenditure on non-food items such as health and education and using savings to meet food needs – these matters bring to the fore important social, economic, and human capacity issues that should attract official attention. If not already known.
The pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the countries food security infrastructure and the survey provides anecdotal evidence that matters such as “feeding self”, “expanding local agricultural output”, “employing technology to secure less expensive output” continues to urgent policy issues.
There are aspects of the information, as it currently stands, where great care should be applied in its interpretation. Despite this, it becomes readily obvious that the sample of persons responding to the survey are likely to fall in vulnerable segments or lower social-economic groupings.
Set against the backdrop of the pandemic one would anticipate that the outcomes as reported would be reflected in these groupings.
This does not diminish the potency of the findings. A careful assessment across all reported outputs displays a level of consistency in either deteriorating income, negative effects on food consumption or need for noticeable adjustments to purchasing patterns.
When the dominant age demographic of above 40 is considered, and we take into account their main worries - inability to cover essential needs; fear of illness; unemployment and having to resort to savings - it is clear that at some level the country should take a careful look to ensure the we fully understand the issues at play and are responding accordingly.
These matters should not be ignore.
Critically, the lifestyle adjustments noted holds negative implications for health and quality of life and by extension for national productivity and increased government social support. Therefore in the face of high and increasing levels of inflation, the questions to be asked are: how representative this survey is of the entire population? What initiatives and programs are in place, or adjustments needed to address the indicative issues? In addition, what work needs to be done to ensure that the potential negative effects suggested are efficiently addressed in the best interest of the country?
Hubert Edwards is the Principal of Next Level Solutions Limited (NLS), a management consultancy firm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hubert specializes in governance, risk and compliance (GRC), Accounting and Finance. NLS provides services in the areas of enterprise risk management, internal audit and policy and procedures development, regulatory consulting, anti-money laundering, accounting and strategic planning. He also chairs the Organization for Responsible Governance’s (ORG) Economic Development Committee. This and other articles are available at www.nlsolutionsbahamas.com