Exploring Food Security, Disasters and Gender-Justice

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Larina FERNANDEZ, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India
Disaster discourse generally refers to and is largely influenced by sudden geophysical catastrophes. There is little literature on the conceptualization of disasters from ‘routine’ events that disrupt the social system and the built environment. Reflecting on this thought, my dissertation aims to locate food security within disaster studies and explore the idea of gender justice within.

Food insecurity is often perceived as a consequence/ secondary impact of disasters. The factors, causes and effects of nutritional disasters that aggravate pre-existing vulnerabilities (of regions) are hence poorly understood (Dirks et al., 1980). The lackluster approach in dealing with food emergencies is also discussed by Mayer. As Balatibat (2004) rightly points out, “the persistence of hunger and malnourishment in a world of plenty is the most profound moral contradiction of our age”. Most of these food insecure pockets are also primarily occupied by the socially, economically and culturally backward (Chakravarty & Dand, 2005). Furthermore, women are disproportionately affected despite being producers of 50-70% of the food consumed in developing countries.

My dissertation hence explores the interplay of social interactions and human-environmental dynamics that shape food vulnerability. Why women are rendered vulnerable during a food crisis is discussed with the objective of ensuring gender-justice while planning food security programmes/policies. The causality also paves way to new thematic research areas within disaster studies while driving home the need to perceive food insecurity as a silent disaster.


The abstract summarizes parts of my Masters dissertation. My research participants were members of the Irula tribe of Attapady, Kerala. Despite high HDI, pockets like Attapady where women are undernourished and infants die due to malnutrition exist within Kerala on account of which, the state initiated a number of interventions, including one on Community Kitchens, to address the crisis.