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Food security in African and Arab countries: a review of the topic and some suggestions for building composite indicators with Principal Components Analysis


  • Ernest Reig

    (University of Valencia)


This paper is concerned with the issue of food security, placing special emphasis on the current situation of Arab and African countries. The main conceptual aspects of food security are briefly reviewed, pointing to the shift from a former focus on food energy availability to a more comprehensive appraisal of this phenomenon in recent times. The most likely causes of recent rises in food prices are also described. Food security issues are analysed in connection with rural poverty issues and with the failure to achieve successful agricultural development in some developing countries, which sometimes have to overcome strong restrictions concerning the availability of land and water resources for food production. The paper points to the convenience of using multivariate statistical tools to summarise a wealth of food security-related indicators, and a practical example of the use of Principal Components Analysis (PCA) for data concerning 52 African and Middle East countries is provided, with a dataset originally comprising 13 variables. The PCA methodology is described in a non-mathematical fashion, also showing the basic steps in its application to this case. Two basic composite indicators, or ‘principal components’ are selected, one in connection with ‘human development’ and the other with ‘being at risk of hunger’, and countries in the sample are ranked according to their situation with regards to these dimensions.

Suggested Citation

  • Ernest Reig, 2012. "Food security in African and Arab countries: a review of the topic and some suggestions for building composite indicators with Principal Components Analysis," Working Papers 1210, Department of Applied Economics II, Universidad de Valencia.
  • Handle: RePEc:eec:wpaper:1210

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Breisinger, Clemens & van Rheenen, Teunis & Ringler, Claudia & Nin Pratt, Alejandro & Minot, Nicholas & Aragon, Catherine & Yu, Bingxin & Ecker, Olivier & Zhu, Tingju, 2010. "Food security and economic development in the Middle East and North Africa," IFPRI discussion papers 985, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    2. Benno J. Ndulu, 2007. "Challenges of African Growth : Opportunities, Constraints, and Strategic Directions," World Bank Publications - Books, The World Bank Group, number 6656, December.
    3. Diao, Xinshen & Hazell, Peter & Resnick, Danielle & Thurlow, James, 2006. "The role of agriculture in development: implications for Sub-Saharan Africa," DSGD discussion papers 29, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    4. Winters, Paul & Davis, Benjamin & Carletto, Gero & Covarrubias, Katia & Quiñones, Esteban J. & Zezza, Alberto & Azzarri, Carlo & Stamoulis, Kostas, 2009. "Assets, Activities and Rural Income Generation: Evidence from a Multicountry Analysis," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 37(9), pages 1435-1452, September.
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    1. Wegayehu Fitawek & Sheryl Hendriks & Aurélien Reys & Filippo Fossi, 2020. "The effect of large-scale agricultural investments on household food security in Madagascar," Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, Springer;The International Society for Plant Pathology, vol. 12(6), pages 1349-1365, December.

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    food security; agricultural development; Arab countries; Principal Components Analysis;
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