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Food security trends in Southeast Asia

Suriyan Vichitlekarn from GIZ discusses food security trends in Southeast Asia and highlights both challenges and opportunities
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Food security is a forefront agenda of ASEAN region. It has been in the interest of the people, society, and the government officials over the past number of years. If you may recall that the political leaders agreed to halve the number of extreme hunger [of] people in 2015. And we have now managed to really reduce even more than half. So ASEAN region has contributed to a large extent of reducing the number of hungry people. But within that number of remaining hungry people, we still have over 60 million people still remain undernourishment and are still in hunger. Imagine that this is equivalent to a whole population of Thailand.
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So that would mean despite progress made in addressing food security there’s still a lot of challenges and work to be done. On top of that, if you look into the situation in food security in ASEAN region, we also experience that food security is not just only number of extreme hungry people. We see also seasonal and spatial food security, which that means a certain season of the year people may have food to consume but a certain season, due to extreme weather– like drought or flood– they may not have sufficient food to eat. We also have experience in terms of food security in urban cities.
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Who else could imagine that people living in a big city, where there’s an abundance of food, could still experience undernourishment. So that would mean even in a big city we still experience food insecurity. In addition to that, we also– the region experienced more extreme climate events, like drought or flood. You may have heard a number of times typhoons hit in the Philippines, in Vietnam, or floods happening in Thailand or Indonesia. So this is not only disrupts the economy development and social development in respective countries, but it also raises concern of how food security of the region could be. In addition to that, I also would like to touch upon the issues of water scarcity.
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There is still much effort to be done to look into how we can deal with extreme droughts and floods. And that would mean how we can better allocate water resources for the purpose of human consumption and food production. So this is an issue where it relates to how food systems should be developed in the future and how we can better address food security in the region.
In Week 1 we learned about the food security concept and its components. In this video, Suriyan Vichitlekarn, of GIZ, the German development agency, discusses food security trends in Southeast Asia, highlighting both challenges and opportunities.
While significant progress has been made in reducing extreme hunger, millions of people still go hungry or are malnourished across the region. Through this video, we learn that food security depends on far more than just the availability of food, and food insecurity is not specific to urban or rural areas – it exists widely in both settings. A person’s level of food security may also change seasonally, making it difficult to measure accurately.

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Gathering reliable data on food insecurity can be challenging as what is perceived as ‘food insecure’ can vary across contexts, and people may adhere to more traditional understandings of it (e.g. as something largely confined to rural areas). This is further challenged by inconsistent methods for measuring and reporting it.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges for measuring food security in your country? What level(s) should policymakers measure food security at, e.g. the individual, household, national level, to develop policies that are both realistic and effective?
Image Sources: “Terraced fields during drought in Sri Lanka” / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Bioversity International; “Typhoon Rammasun (Glenda) in the Philippines” / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Asian Development Bank; and “Flooded marketplace” / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Shanghai Daddy
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Food and Our Future: Sustainable Food Systems in Southeast Asia

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