Last week, IDS and Oxfam released a new report: Precarious Lives: Food, Work and Care After the Global Food Crisis
The report found that the global food crisis of 2007-11 changed the relationship between the work people do and the food they eat. The report notes that the costs of these changed relationships have gone uncounted by global policymakers.
This report identifies continuities and multiple causal connections in prevailing work-life conditions, as well as the positive dimensions of change in the wake of the food crisis. But in counterpoint to what appears to be unwarranted aid industry optimism about recovery and progress, it also highlights heightened precariousness as directly connected to higher (and to a lesser extent, more volatile) food prices. Indeed, many of these new elements of precariousness have been causally connected to food price rises and volatilities by the people whose everyday lives we report here: the How did these adjustments alter people’s relationships to food or to the food system?
This new precariousness includes more dependence on:
• unreliable cash incomes and casualised, risky occupations – key characteristics of the ‘precariat’ (Standing 2011);
• increasingly integrated markets for finance, inputs, distribution networks and sales, particularly in the production of food;
• purchased and processed (often industrial) foods and/or food perceived to be unsafe (‘foods from nowhere’ (McMichael 2009b; Le Heron and Lewis 2009));
• more tenuous social networks and relations, featuring higher levels of mobility and social normative change – the ‘visible foot’ that pushes the ex-peasantry (Araghi 2009).
Together, these factors amount to a new precariousness that is not only characteristic of economic life but also of social relations and identities associated with that new mode of economy (Jørgensen 2015). It also points to collective and political implications for the moral and political economy, through its indication of a popular basis for mass grievances relating to higher and less reliable food costs, and therefore to the prospects for social mobilisation around matters of core subsistence (Holt Giménez and Shattuck 2011).
The report is the final report from Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility, a four-year research project led by IDS, Oxfam and partners in ten countries: Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Vietnam and Zambia.
The report comes with an accompanying policy briefing, Delivering Social Protection that Nourishes: Lessons from the Food Price Crisis, wherein it is argued that nourishing social protection must do more than boost basic incomes so that people can buy more expensive food. It must also protect the social or non-market aspects of nourishment.