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July 25, 2024
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Workshop on Measurement of Undernourishment and Severity of Food Insecurity | FAO in India | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


FAO India and Society for Social and Economic Research organised a day-long workshop on “Measurement of Undernourishment and Food Insecurity” in New Delhi.

The workshop was attended by senior officials from the National Statistical Commission (including Central Statistical Office and the National Sample Survey Organisation), various Ministries of the Government, as well as members of the academia and civil society.

In the first session, Mr. Carlo Cafiero, Senior Statistician, FAO, made a detailed presentation on the FAO’s methodology for measurement of Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU). The presentation clarified several common misconceptions about this methodology. He explained that PoU is estimated as the probability that calorie intake for the representative average individual is below Minimum Dietary Energy Requirement (MDER). MDER, which is an average of the minimum energy requirements of various demographic groups in the population, represents the minimum energy required by an average individual for a healthy and active lifestyle. He discussed in detail the challenges involved in estimation of required statistics from data available from various sources across the world.

As a discussant, Prof. Abhijit Sen, Former Member, Planning Commission of India, succinctly put the debate about the methodology of estimation of PoU in the context of Indian debate on the estimation of poverty. He was of the view that, of all the available alternatives, FAO’s method to estimate PoU is indeed the most reliable.

Participants discussed the challenges of estimating PoU at the State and district level, particularly in the context of SDG monitoring. India’s advantage lies in the fact that quinquennial surveys of consumption conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in India are already conducted at the district level, and this survey data can be applied to estimate PoU at the State-level.

In the afternoon session, Carlo Cafiero presented FAO’s Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES), an experience-based scale for measurement of severity of food insecurity. Surveys commissioned by the Voices of the Hungry project of FAO have established the robustness of FIES methodology. Low cost of FIES surveys and a sound conceptual framework for comparable cross-country estimation makes FIES particularly suitable for SDG monitoring. Participants discussed the possibility of including FIES in national surveys conducted by the NSSO and other agencies. Ms. Vani Sethi, Nutrition Specialist, UNICEF India, and Mr. Vikas Rawal, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, made presentations on Indian surveys that have used the experience-based measurement of food insecurity.

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