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First Line of Defence: Assessing the potential of local food reserves in the Sahel

First Line of Defence: Assessing the potential of local food reserves in the Sahel

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Published by Oxfam

Acute food crises continue to reverse positive development trends in sub-Saharan Africa. As the international community attempts to address the challenges of food security, the focus has largely been on two issues: the devastating effects of food price volatility on the most vulnerable populations, and recurrence of acute food crises. Food reserves have potential to be a first line of defence against food insecurity, but there is a lack of analysis focusing specifically on how food reserves can be used at different levels and in a range of ways. Oxfam's report aims to fill that gap by analysing recent experiences with local food reserves in the Sahel region, reviewing the factors that determine their failure or success, and assessing innovative instruments (such as linking local food reserves to national reserves; index insurance and stabilization funds) that could contribute to their improvement.

Updated in Janury 2013

Acute food crises continue to reverse positive development trends in sub-Saharan Africa. As the international community attempts to address the challenges of food security, the focus has largely been on two issues: the devastating effects of food price volatility on the most vulnerable populations, and recurrence of acute food crises. Food reserves have potential to be a first line of defence against food insecurity, but there is a lack of analysis focusing specifically on how food reserves can be used at different levels and in a range of ways. Oxfam's report aims to fill that gap by analysing recent experiences with local food reserves in the Sahel region, reviewing the factors that determine their failure or success, and assessing innovative instruments (such as linking local food reserves to national reserves; index insurance and stabilization funds) that could contribute to their improvement.

Updated in Janury 2013

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Published by: Oxfam on Oct 18, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/20/2014

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Local food reserves can play a key role as part of both community and national food security
strategies. The fact that they are firmly grounded in the local dimension of food security makes
them particularly well placed to effectively address local needs and adapt to changes. Local
food reserves are tailored to each specific context and their objectives can be adapted in
accordance to the concrete needs of the communities they serve.

LFR can be an effective tool in the face of idiosyncratic risks. They can support the needs of
certain individuals and small groups in circumstances where the effects of a shock do not affect
the entire population (i.e. when only part of the population requires the services of the LFR).
LFR can also support the most vulnerable populations in normal years by facilitating their
access to food at lower prices.

However, in the fight against covariant shocks (drought, floods, price hikes) causing recurrent
food crises, the limitations of LFR must be acknowledged, since these shocks affect local
production directly and make this instrument inefficient in the face of these macro-shocks. This
is also true of situations where the inversion of price cycles causes LFR to go bankrupt. In light
of these shortcomings, it can be argued that when faced with covariant shocks, it is at the level
of national food reserves that food insecurity issues can be most effectively addressed.
Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge a) the protective role in defence of household
economies when faced with personal shocks; and b) the need to re-launch these defence
structures after a high intensity shock or a price inversion phase.

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