Precarious lives: food, work and care after the global food crisis
The longitudinal study synthesized in this report (PDF) is the result of a 4-year collaboration between IDS, Oxfam and research partners in: Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Vietnam and Zambia. The research was carried out between 2012 and 2015 and involved annual visits to communities in 23 rural, urban and peri-urban sites, along with commissioned reviews of national-level prices and policies over the period. The social, economic and political adjustments made by people in developing countries in the wake of the global food crisis are the focus of this report. It documents how people across a variety of contexts have responded en masse to these common pressures, changing the work they do and the food they eat. The actions they took depended on how they were already living, the price hikes they faced, their resources and capacities, and the wider opportunities and constraints of their context. The multitude of individual responses consolidated new norms and influenced institutions and politics. Although these collective and institutional adjustments are still working themselves out, the implications for each society, economy and polity are potentially vast. Powerful shifts towards commoditisation at the nexus of food, care and the informal economy – already underway in most countries – appear to have been given a significant boost by rising food prices. As key research findings, the researchers observed rapid changes in people’s eating habits and – alongside accelerated urbanisation – a move to more dangerous, demeaning and insecure jobs as people worked longer hours to raise the cash needed to put food on the table. As people worked harder and longer, and migrated to towns, other regions or countries to find work, more turned to heavily-marketed convenience fast food, particularly unhealthy processed items with high fat/sugar/salt content – a more ‘Westernised’ diet. People in all communities had concerns about food safety and quality. Many called for regulation to protect children from the advertising and marketing strategies that encourage poor eating habits from the earliest years.