Problems in Food Security Data Collection Practices with an illustration from northern Ghana



Published May 1, 2022
Jason Rancatore


Solutions to food security issues at all levels typically include a call for more and better data. This paper finds that food security data problems are only partially remedied by gathering more data or applying new and innovative metrics. Examination of various research in Ghana covering published academic work as well as the World Food Programme’s reporting at both the country and sub-state levels reveals some fundamental problems (both practical and theoretical). Coupled with the author’s observations of a market operation in northern Ghana, evidence suggests that these issues are overlooked in order to serve an institutional demand for more data. The paper concludes with a discussion of implications focusing on three ideas: differentiating issue management and knowledge production, reconsidering methodology, and local-level understandings.

How to Cite

Rancatore, J. (2022) “Problems in Food Security Data Collection Practices with an illustration from northern Ghana”, The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food. Paris, France, 28(1), pp. 59–72. doi: 10.48416/ijsaf.v28i1.436.
Abstract 72 | PDF Downloads 66



food security, data collection, ghana, methodology

Akudugu, M.A., Dittoh, S., and Mahama, E.S. (2012) The Implications of Climate Change on Food Security and Rural Livelihoods: Experiences from Northern Ghana, Journal of Environment and Earth Science, 2(3), pp. 21-29.
Armah, F.A., Odoi, J.O., Yengoh, G.T., Obiri, S., Yawson, D.O., and Afrifa, E.K. (2011) Food security and climate change in drought-sensitive savanna zones of Ghana, Mitigation and adaptation strategies for global change, 16(3), pp. 291-306.
Barrett, C.B. (2010) Measuring Food Insecurity, Science, 327(5967), pp. 825-828.
Boakye-Achampong, S., Osei Mensah, J., Aidoo, R., and Osei-Agyemang, K. (2012) The Role of Rural Women in the Attainment of Household Food Security in Ghana: A Case Study of Women-Farmers in Ejura-Sekyeredumasi District, International Journal of Pure & Applied Sciences & Technology, 12(1).
Cafiero, C. (2013) What do we really know about food security?, NBER Working Paper 18861. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Coates J., Bilinsky P., and Swindale A. (2007) Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) for
Measurement of Household Food Access: Indicator Guide. Washington, DC: Food and Nutrition
Technical Assistance Project, Academy for Educational Development.
Codjoe, S.N.A. and Owusu, G. (2011) Climate Change/Variability and Food Systems: Evidence from the Afram Plains, Ghana, Regional Environmental Change, 11(4), pp. 753–65.
Cooke, B. and Kothari, U. (eds) (2001) Participation: The New Tyranny? London: Zed Books.
De Haen, H., Klasen, S., and Qaim, M. (2011) What do we really know? Metrics for food insecurity and undernutrition, Food Policy, 36(6), pp. 760-769.
Dwamena, E., Banaynal, R., and Kemausuor, F. (2011) “Participatory Three Dimensional Model Mapping (P3DM): Expanding Rural Horizons and Decision Making for Food Security Planning, Climate Change Adaption and Flood Risk Reduction in Ghana, Research Journal of Agricultural Science 43(4), pp. 186-195.
Ferguson, J. (1990) The Anti-Politics Machine. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Fosu, A.K. (2013) Country Role Models for Development Success: The Ghana Case, in A.K. Fosu (ed) Achieving Development Success: Strategies and Lessons from the Developing World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fouilleux, E., Bricas, N. and Alpha, A. (2017) ‘Feeding 9 billion people’: global food security debates and the productionist trap, Journal of European Public Policy, 24(11), pp. 1658-1677.
Fourcade, M. and Healy, K. (2017) Seeing like a market, Socio-Economic Review, 15(1), pp. 9-29.
Godfray, H.C.J., Beddington, J., Crute, I., Haddad, L., Lawrence, D., Muir, J.F., Pretty, J., Robinson, S., Thomas, S.M., and Toulmin, C. (2010) Food security: the challenge of feeding 9 billion people, Science, 327(5967), pp. 812-818.
Headey, D and Ecker, O. (2013) Rethinking the measurement of food security: from first principles to best practice, Food Security, 5(3), pp. 327-343.
Helmke, G. and Levitsky, S. (2004) Informal Institutions and Comparative Politics: A Research Agenda, Perspectives on Politics, 2(4), pp. 725-740.
Hilbert, M. (2016) Big data for development: A review of promises and challenges, Development Policy Review, 34(1), pp. 135-174.
Hoddinott, J. (1999) Operationalising Household Food Security in Development Projects: An Introduction, IFPRI Technical Guide #1. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.
Ike, C.U, Jacobs, P.T., and Kelly, C. (2017) A multidimensional approach to measuring household food security in Taraba State, Nigeria: comparing key indicators, Development in Practice, 27(2), pp. 234-246.
Jones, A. D., Ngure, F. M., Pelto, G., and Young, S. L. (2013) What are we assessing when we measure food security? A compendium and review of current metrics, Advances in Nutrition, 4(5), pp. 481-505.
Karamba, W.R., Quiñones, E.J., and Winters, P. (2011) Migration and Food Consumption Patterns in Ghana, Food Policy, 36(1), pp. 41–53.
Killick, T. (2010) Development Economics in Action: A Study of Economic Policies in Ghana, 2nd edition. New York: Routledge.
Kuwornu, J. K., Mensah-Bonsu, A., and Ibrahim, H. (2011) Analysis of foodstuff price volatility in Ghana: Implications for food security, European Journal of Business and Management, 3(4), pp. 100-118.
Maxwell, S. and Smith, M. (1992) Household food security: a conceptual review, in: S. Maxwell and T. Frankenberger (eds) Household food security: Concepts, indicators, measurements. New York and Rome: UNICEF and IFAD.
Maxwell, D., Coates, J., and Vaitla, B. (2013) How Do Different Indicators of Household Food Security Compare: Empirical Evidence from Tigray, Feinstein International Centre. Medford, MA: Tufts University.
Murphy, C. N. (2006) The United Nations Development Programme: A Better Way? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Owusu, V., Abdulai, A., and Abdul-Rahman, S. (2011) Non-Farm Work and Food Security among Farm Households in Northern Ghana, Food Policy, 36(2): pp. 108–18.
Pinstrup-Andersen, P. and Watson II, D. (2011) Food Policy for Developing Countries. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Quaye, W. (2008) Food security situation in northern Ghana, coping strategies and related constraints, African journal of agricultural research, 3(5), pp. 334-342.
Read, R., Taithe, B., and Mac Ginty, R. (2016) Data hubris? Humanitarian information systems and the mirage of technology, Third World Quarterly, 37(8), pp. 1314-1331.
Rivera-Ferre, M. G. (2012). Framing of agri-food research affects the analysis of food security: The critical role of the social sciences, The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food, 19(2), pp. 162-175.
Roesel, K. and Grace, D. (eds) (2015) Food Safety and Informal Markets. London: Routledge.
Sadowski, J. (2019) When data is capital: Datafication, accumulation, and extraction, Big Data & Society 6(1), pp. 1-12.
Santeramo, F. (2015) Food Security Composite Indices: Implications for Policy and Practice, Development in Practice, 25(4), pp. 594–600.
Scheyvens, R. and Storey, D. (eds) (2003) Development Fieldwork: A Practical Guide. London: Sage.
Schouten, G., Vink, M., and Vellema, S. (2018) Institutional diagnostics for African food security: Approaches, methods and implications, NJAS-Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, 84, pp. 1-5.
Sheahan, M. and Barrett, C. (2014) Understanding the Agricultural Input Landscape in Sub-Saharan Africa, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 7014. Washington, DC: World Bank Group.
Shipton, P. (1990) African Famines and Food Security: Anthropological Perspectives, Annual Review of Anthropology, 19, pp. 353-394.
Smith, L. C., Dupriez, O., and Troubat, N. (2014) Assessment of the reliability and relevance of the food data collected in national household consumption and expenditure surveys, International Household Survey Network Working Paper 008.
UN Global Pulse (2012) Big Data for Development: Challenges and Opportunities.
USAID (2010) Feed the Future Ghana FY 2010 Implementation Plan.
Webb, P., Coates, J., Frongillo, E. A., Rogers, B. L., Swindale, A., and Bilinsky, P. (2006) Measuring household food insecurity: why it’s so important and yet so difficult to do, The Journal of Nutrition, 136(5), pp. 1404S-1408S.
World Food Programme (2009) Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis, Ghana. Rome: World Food Programme.
World Food Programme (2009-2011) Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System. June 2009 – June 2011. Accra: World Food Programme.
Yanow, D., and Schwartz-Shea, P. (2012) Interpretive Research Design: Concepts and Processes. New York: Routledge.
Zezza, A., and Tasciotti, L. (2010) Urban Agriculture, Poverty, and Food Security: Empirical Evidence from a Sample of Developing Countries, Food Policy, 35(4), pp. 265–73.