Help Yourself!

Food Rights and Responsibilities: Year 2 findings from Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility

Publication date: 4 June 2014
Author: Richard King, Policy Research Adviser at Oxfam; Alexandra Kelbert, researcher at Institute of Development Studies; Nick Chisholm, Senior Lecturer at University College Cork and Naomi Hossain, Research Fellow at Institute of Development Studies.

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.

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?

We asked these questions of around 1,500 people in 10 low and middle income countries. 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 programs 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.

The research is funded by the UK Government and Irish Aid.