Food Governance: Remedy for Poverty Alleviation in Developing Countries

Food Governance: Psychological Remedy for Poverty Alleviation in Developing Countries


            Poverty is an endemic challenge that leads to food insecurity in both the developing and least developed nations.  Globally, food insecurity as a direct product of poverty leads to malnutrition, poor cognitive development, low-self-esteem, and overall poor quality of life. Accordingly, existing food security interventions targeting poverty alleviation are looked at in the context of practical actions and positive measures. In this regard, research studies have consistently pointed out environmental management, increased farm yields, youth engagement in agricultural production, and investments on job creation. Based on this, biological, chemical, and economic aspects of food security for poverty alleviation have dominated governance discourses.

In light of the preceding, there are also consumer centered behavioral approaches to solve problems of poverty and food insecurity through enhanced food governance. Despite their existence, less is said about how a better “food” governance at enterprise/industry/national levels is a remedy for poverty alleviation, through psychological mechanisms that alter consumer perceptions/behaviors. For this reason, this is a conceptual paper that addresses the relationships chain of food governance at enterprise/industry/nation levels through psychological interventions that remedy poverty levels in developing and developed nations especially in Asia.

Against this background, every intervention level shall be tackled independently while also looking at existing linkages that explain psychological mechanisms that can alter consumer perceptions/behaviors for improved food governance.


Literature Review

Correlation between Poverty and Food Security

            Poverty is directly connected to food insecurity. According to Källestål, Blandón, Peña, Peréz, Contreras …and Selling (2020), analyzed poverty-related problems in four municipalities in Northern Nicaragua using the Unsatisfied Basic Needs (UBN) Index. The study explored multiple dimensions of poverty based on the capability approach using data mined from the Cuarto Santos Health and Demographic Surveillance database using the K-means algorithm. Capability approach gives beneficiaries the right to determine alternative life they would prefer subject to interventions. Accordingly, the study found that fairly rich households based on UBN index had modern lifestyles based on subjective choice, but poor households were food insecure. In this regard, this study established a direct connection between poverty and food insecurity.

In sub-Saharan Africa, food security and agricultural productivity among small-scale farmers determine food security and livelihoods of rural households.  With reference to the aforementioned, Mutea, Bottazzi, Jacobi, Kiteme, Speranza and Rist (2019) found that solving food security challenges in rural agro-dependent communities’ requires an appreciation of food insecurity and livelihoods links. Particularly, the study relied on food Security index to determine food security and livelihood drivers. The aforementioned include variables such as “food consumption score, household dietary diversity score, coping strategies index, household food security access index, and months of adequate household provisioning”. Upon analysis, they found that 32 percent of households under the survey were food secure while the rest were insecure. Food security was dependent on household productive tools ownership, off-farm incomes, own-food consumption, agro-ecological factors, as well as pest destruction. Notably, the semi-humid and semi-arid conditions contribute to food security with all factors constant while humid and semi-arid ecological climatic circumstance negates food security.

To stress the point further, studies demonstrate that agro-ecological conditions impact on food security and malnutrition in children under the age of five years born in from low-income backgrounds.  Chakona and Shackleton (2018) investigated the connection between malnutrition risks in children under 5 years old from poverty-stricken households as a result of related problems of food insecurity. Using Household Dietary Diversity Score (HDDS) and Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HIFAS), the study found that dietary diversity increased with agroecological potential. On the other hand, HIFAS measurements increased with a low agro-ecological gradient. Based on this study, enhanced food production enhances food security through dietary diversity which then reduces malnutrition risk among children under the age of five years old.

Cognitive maladjustments and attitude towards poverty depend on childhood food security experiences. In this regard, Hermida, Shalom, Segretin, Goldin, Abril, Lipina, and Mariano Sigman (2019) established that low socio-economic status directly impacted on rural poor children compared to their urban counterparts. As such, the study found that children in poverty perform poorly in “executive functions and non-verbal communication intelligence”. As such they posit that policy interventions should target childhood cognitive development among children from poor backgrounds. Moreover, Lipina and Evers (2017) argued that cognitive development in children is dependent on the biological, psychosocial, and socio-cultural factors related to poverty. Consequently, they suggest that neuroscience can play a critical role in understanding cognitive development in children and their susceptibility to poverty.



Classical Food Governance Measures: Food Security and Poverty Alleviation Interventions

Government policy geared towards vulnerable portions of the population is an immediate intervention to stave food insecurity across the world and quality thereof, as well as health, is equally integral.  Accordingly, Philip, Baransi, Shahar and Troen (2018), sought to investigate the long term implications on food aid on health and well-being with a specific focus on affluent Israel food pantries quality. Based on the Healthy Portions Score, the study sampled 105 beneficiaries of food aid from 16 food baskets across the country.  The study finds that social intervention through food aid in terms of quality, the recipient diet is critical in policymaking. Notably, the interest in this regard is on the consideration of diet and quality in food security policy.

Low socioeconomic status increases food consumption compared to food secure individuals when provided with free provisions. Accordingly, Godsell, Randle, Bateson and Nettle (2019) induced low socio-economic status among 123 adult participants and a control group. They then subjected them to the availability of free snacks where food secure participants consumed less compared to their food insecure participants. Anecdotally, deprivation may lead to poor food consumption which may lead to unhealthy eating habits and consequences such as obesity. As a result, consumer perceptions are manipulable, since the consumer makes food consumption choices based on subjective utility depending on scarce or abundance situations. Similarly, if poverty increases free food consumption, then enhancing food security is key to promoting sustainable food production and consumption.



Commercialization of agriculture has been suggested as a viable means for addressing farmer’s welfare in urban and peri-urban areas of the developing world. In this regard, Mutsami, and Karl (2020) argue that the commercialization of crops and large livestock is an established intervention to solve problems of poverty and food security. Critically, this study focused on the commercialization of rabbits with a focus on other underlying factors such as education, health, and micro-credit access and its implication on poverty alleviation.  It finds that rabbit commercialization in urban and peri-urban communities reduces poverty, reduces family sizes, enhances education attainment, and access to credit. Having looked at studies that establish the relation between food security and poverty, the former enhances individual general well-being such as health, academic achievement, and financing options for growth.

Global governance mechanisms under the auspices of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals focus on eradication of hunger through food security and safety measures.

According to Vågsholm, Arzoomand and Boqvist (2020) the balance between sustainability, food security and safety as well as prudent utilization of available food is vital in sustainable food production and consumption.  Strategies in this regard involve intensive food production, enhanced cycle production, recycling, and reuse of food. In addition, they argue that increased consumption of plant as opposed to animal proteins, reduction of antibiotic use in animal and plant husbandry is key to promoting food safety. They further acknowledge that product labelling is a way forward to increase consumer choice depending on their sensitivity to food wastage.

Psychological Capital in Food Governance

Social and psychological capital is key to transforming poor migrant communities from penury to self-sustaining individual development. Modesti, Talamo, Nocolais, and Recupero (2020) carried out a study on the role of social and psychological capital concerning social enterprises with a migratory background (SEMB) in Italy. According to the study, migrant-led social enterprises have a direct contribution to refugee integration in host communities. In this regard, they concluded that social and psychological capital were significant internal capital that facilitated refugee settlement and the ability to turn their adversity into resources for their development.  Despite these findings, the role of SEMB in enhancing migrant community social integration and effectiveness was left for future research. As such, this study notes gaps in social and psychological capital as a transformative force in food governance concerning security and safety.

In the era of climate change, a policy environment that supports climate-smart options has been promoted as an intervention in reducing global warming. For Lewis and Rudnick (2019), smart agriculture is based on three key concerns namely; a) contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, b) susceptibility to anthropogenic effects of climate change, c) nexus between agricultural production, incomes, and food security. Drawing from California state climate-smart policies and programs, that policy must offer sufficient trade-offs between the three concerns for prioritization or reconciliation of the same. California’s Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) allows for mitigation, adaptation, and production agricultural productivity measures depending on resource usage and sustained productivity.  Through stakeholder participation, farmers in California have adopted climate action farming practices based on state-sponsored incentive programs.

Social co-governance involving diverse stakeholders is a very crucial component of food security vulnerabilities. Chen and Wu (2019) therefore define the collaboration between “government, industry and society” (p. 1) as social co-governance. In this regard, they argue that collaboration between the three must be built on positive psychological capital. Giving the example of Pork production in China, they propose four approaches for positive psychological capital based food safety governance; a) Manufacturers instilling food safety and security values on employees, b) government may appeal to the sensibilities of food producers and social actors for efficacy towards this regards, c) state may also publish food safety standards and guidance for producers, and d) social persuasion of social actors through participatory approaches in policy formulation.

Background and Rationale

Conceptual Framework

            Globally, the human population is growing creating demand for sustainable for food safety, security, and health. Accordingly, the UN SDG’s acknowledges the challenge of hunger and the need to feed 10 billion sustainably people with nutritious and healthy food (Hunter, Özkan, Beltrame, Samarasinghe, Wasike…, & Sokolow, 2016). Presently, food governance systems fall short of enhancing food security at a time when over 750 million people are hungry and malnourished. According to studies, the global population will hit the 10 billion mark by 2050 generating an urgent need for global and national food security (Vågsholm, 2020). Against this background, consumer-oriented policies and standards aimed at sustainable consumption are significant.

Less is said about how a better “food” governance at enterprise/industry/nation levels can be a remedy for poverty alleviation, through psychological mechanisms that can alter consumer perceptions/behaviors. Notably, the social co-governance model based on stakeholder positive psychological capital is an approach suitable for analyzing food security and poverty alleviation drawing on lessons from China (Wu, Gong, Chen, & Hu, 2020).  In this regard, the four ingredients of social co-governance model are transplanted in the study of food governance relationships chain involving national, industry and enterprise practice seeking to alter consumer behavior and perception towards sustainable consumption for poverty alleviation.

From the preceding, this conceptual note addresses psychological social co-governance in the developed world citing examples from China and other parts of Asia. For this reason, the structure of this study explores industry, enterprise, and national food governance levels separately and inter-relationships. Specifically, it explains how food governance stakeholders in the developing world may alter consumption patterns towards food security and subsequently poverty alleviation. Here below is a diagrammatic representation of the concept applied for the study.

Figure 1: Conceptual Framework


National Food Security governance

            Successful economies build their quest for socio-economic development policy on food security for its population as well as safety of the same. China built its economic prosperity on the back of ensuring a food secure nation with policies derived from experiences from past famine (Browning, Qiu, Yang, Zhang, & Thomas, 2019). Governments play a significant role far as national food governance in terms of sustainable consumption (Beveridge, Whitfield, Fraval, Wijk, van Etten, Mercado, &…Challinor, 2019). Consequently, the 1950’s famine inspired 1980’s, President Deng Xiaoping’s food sufficiency policy which focused on quantity.  Moreover, China has social welfare and pension policies that cushion the poor and vulnerable hence sustaining quantity food consumption (Browning et al., 2019).  Through this approach, the government takes a welfare approach to the alleviation of the effects of poverty in rural and urban China.

China socio-cultural orientation as a product of ethical traditional systems influence consumer clean meat-eating preference, nonetheless the national policy is centered on safety and economics. Overall, China’s government prioritizes agricultural technology, food safety, and security (Garcia, Osburn, & Jay-Russell, 2020). As a result, such policy approaches arouse Chinese middle-class preference for clean and plant-based meat (Garcia et al., 2020). With food safety incidents on the rise, there is a rising interest in organic food among the aforementioned socio-economic groups in urban areas. This can be attributed to policy gaps upon which consumer cognition influences market demand for organic food. Similarly, policy lacunas drive unsustainable procurement of endangered sea-cucumber consumption   (Fabinyi, Barclay, & Eriksson, 2017). As such, both policy action and inaction may sanction consumer cultural orientation even if consumer preference ignores sustainability.

China’s practice and policies target small farms with vaccination programmes against swine fever which may decimate small pig farms economically and dent supply of its important pork market. Being the global largest pork producer and consumer, Africa Swine Flu pandemic threatened smallholder farmer incomes and raised consumer safety concerns (Garcia et al., 2020).  As a result, local animal immunization policy targeting small and medium scale pig farms sustains an economic sector and consumer safety perceptions to support uptake.  The internal market negative psychological concerns on food safety in the global largest pork consumer will in turn reduce poverty.

Sustainable interventions modeled on behavioral researches guide policy formulation. Behavioral science has been identified as an approach for construing climate change adaptation with regard to sustainable management of the scarce environmental resources like food, energy, and water (Moore & Boldero, 2017). Eradication of this threat to a critical sector of the Chinese economy calls for development of vaccines with the help of the scientific community and sound government policy (Zhou, 2019). Notably, swine fever is a threat to China’s food security being the largest pork  producers and consumers meaning it is a critical part of her dietary needs (Garcia et al., 2020). Immunization policy is a safety guarantee that is critical to pork consumption, food security and small scale farmers’ income hence poverty alleviation.

Poverty alleviation strategies through food security policy measures entail the development of standards for land use and small farmers’ entrepreneurship perceptions. With regard to food production, rural land use policy within a local and socioeconomic context to relieve the extremes of food pressure and anthropogenic effects of climate change (Reay, Warnatzsch, Craig, Dawson, George…, & Ritchie, 2020). The aforementioned is achievable if the focus is trailed on policy-driven lifestyle changes that are based on cognition. Studies have shown that in China positive spillover effects on environmental sensitivity are fluid compared to Brazil and Denmark (Capstick, Whitmarsh, Nash, Haggar, & Lord, 2019). A good example is China’s agricultural entrepreneurship policy which transforms cognition of the value of agriculture as a business.  As a result, about  4.5 million farmers moved to back to start their businesses to diversify income sources (Kong, Zhao, Zhang, Tsai, & Lin, 2019).   Being an established agricultural economy with near sufficient food resources, entrepreneurship approach is suitable for stabilizing incomes and reducing poverty.

Overall, evidence-based policy initiatives based on education and cultural interventions are critical for poverty alleviation and sustainable consumption. While China’s consumption practices are largely market-driven, western perceptions towards reducing health and environmental consequences of consumption is education and prevention programs (Carrus, Pirchio, & Mastandrea, 2018). Certainly, China can draw lessons from the west for evidence-based policy options for its intervention against environmental and health problems of consumption.  Some consumption and poverty alleviation efforts can be induced through policies that induct learners on conserving cues to influence behavior (Watson, Wiers, Hommel, Gerdes, & de Wit, 2017). Consequently, the policy has the potential to influence consumption through the evidence-driven interventions for healthy consumptions, environmental safety, and food security which in turn alleviates poverty.

Policy inaction directly influences market-driven consumption based on developing individualist cultures in developing China with an impact on the market value chain. A rising urban population cumulative demand preferences create a chain of producers, middlemen, transport, and other sectors whose productivity is critical poverty cushion. Social norms and cultural practices are directly linked to food choices which then impacts on the well-being and health outcomes (Carrus et al., 2018). In addition, long-held cultural dietary needs also contribute to generic effect in organic food consumption which sustains and economic sector. Despite the benefits of a non-regulated food security environment, widely held practices may only expand sustainably through policy support.

Industry Initiatives

            National policies standards with a safety focus may also be part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or industry safety and health standards practice to influence consumer choice.  For the Chinese pork industry, the China Brand Name Association certifies products as Voted Trust Brand (VTB) to assure consumers of safety, reliability, quality, and affordability.

(Wu et al., 2020).Generally, this is dependent on internal and external factors that influence consumer decisions on food purchase behavior (Martínez-Ruiz & Gómez-Cantó, 2016). Factors that producers may use to attract consumer attention includes product farming practices, production methods, and nutrition (Wu et al., 2020). When these values are instilled in employees in the production process, consistency and consumer behavior as far as choice is concerned.

Industry labelling practices on food safety and security promote consumer confidence in products if sustainable consumption key messages are embedded in.  Shifts in socio-cultural practices towards individualism increase consumer psychological orientation towards healthy and sustainable choices (Carrus et al., 2018). In China, the organic food industry in big cities is a response to the increasing concern on the use of pesticides and anti-biotics (Liu & Zheng, 2019). Consequently, industry categorizes organic and inorganic food, traditional, and pollution-free among others to win consumer trust in the safety and nutritional value (Liu & Zheng, 2019). The market generated responses to food safety and sustainable consumption through classification is alters consumption patterns in response to their safety concerns.

Organic farming initiatives in the face of increasing demand for dairy products in China increase crop yields to meet emerging consumer choices and incomes for dairy farmers. As evidence shows dairy farming is an alternative organic solution to increasing crop yield and replaces synthetic and environmentally unsustainable synthetic fertilizers (Fang, Ma, Zhang, Wei, & Hou, 2020). Organic food classification labelling not only distinguishes organically produced products to influence the growing consumer choice but also provides additional income to dairy farms to play a role in organic food production (Liu & Zheng, 2019).  Here, consumer trust and attitudes towards organic foods is a key support system for small and medium-scale dairy farmers recycling efforts   (Lazaroiu, Andronie, Ut¸˘ a, & Hurloiu, 2019). Importantly, the industry in China is responding to new and modern consumer interests in sustainable organic produced foods creates a value chain for organic fertilizer for the benefit of small-scale dairy producers.

Industry plays a critical role in encouraging organic food consumption through consumer cognition and urban affordance.  Research has demonstrated that individuals respond to cues which sometimes lead to obesity or healthy weight consciousness (Watson et al., 2017). Response to advertisement Pavlovian cues is a learning mechanism that differs between obese and healthy weight individuals (Watson et al., 2017).  The industry may capitalize on the effects of external influences on consumer decisions on food attributes and consumption. China’s nascent organic industry may capitalize on its specific social context with regard to healthy production, consumption, and the value chain it supports (Martinez-Ruiz & Gomez-Canto, 2016). All this may be captured on industry standards of advertising to divert people to organic food production and consumption for food security and poverty alleviation among organic farmers.

Industry practices geared towards sustainable food production also draw from government regulatory initiatives on sustainable consumption.  Japan conservative government policy on whaling supports industry efforts towards sustaining its internal whale meat market (Butler-Stroud, 2016). Forces driving its consumption derive from the national government, diet, and the general society. The government subsidizes the industry to meet the demands of traditional whale meat consumers and make commercialize the industry (Butler-Stroud, 2016). The fact that it has withdrawn from multilateral governance structures, influences national consumption to create jobs in the whaling industry.

Fundamentally, communist government policy support and industrial practice towards food security have the potential to alter poverty and sustainable consumption.   For this to take effect, then it requires significant staff and organizational change which then cascades to collective industry practice towards sustainable practices (Lee, Wang, & Liu, 2017). Practical lessons in this regard are pro-environmental value orientations will that determine collective action (Lee et al., 2017). The same standards may be applied with regard to changing attitudes in urban areas towards organic foods in urban China. As such an increased consumption for organic foods industry-standard may extend their practices in the organic food production sectors. Most definitely, the concentration of production to meet a rising and expanding urban behavior driven demand has the potential to increase employment and thus poverty reduction.

Enterprise Initiatives

            The role of enterprise may combine with industry standards through collaborative approaches to climate-sensitive use of marine food resources management such as fish stocks. Climate change effects such as rising sea-levels and other anthropogenic effects threaten fish stocks hence food security of small scale farmers (Butler, Rochester, Skewes, Wise, Bohensky, Katzfey, & Duggan, 2020).In Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, small scale farmers’ contribution to food security in the isolated Asia-Pacific Islands depend on integrated systems that rely on the distributor and consumer feedback that inform policy (Butler et al., 2020).  In particular, co-governance mechanisms at the village level brings together consumers and fisheries in a bottom-up approach to policymaking and consumption practices (Butler et al., 2020). Participatory approaches, inculcate ownership and responsible consumer choices that are directed towards sustainable consumption to safeguard the future food security generations.

Entrepreneurs play a pivotal role in influencing dynamics of consumer preferences and procurement chain from producers. Supermarkets in Vietnam have increased variety and choice and spending habits on food items depending on incomes (Trinh, Dhar, Simioni, de Haan, Huynh…, & Jones, 2020). Accordingly, regions with high consumption of fat and processed carbohydrates which impact on quality with negative impacts on health. In this regard, noted evidence of household consumption of high fat and high protein foods that contribute to healthy eating habits among consumers (Trin et al., 2020). Similarly, India’s policy bars biofortification of rise, which makes any dietary consumption among predominantly poor consumers. Once again, government policy constraints enterprise efforts to wean societies of dependence on native rice (Bashir, Takahashi, Nakanishi, & Nishizawa, 2013). Under such circumstances, the pursuit of health outcomes among rice farmers through fortification constraints the role of enterprises.

Bold and inclusive measures are capable of making bold collective interventions for sustainable food consumption and poverty alleviation. In this context, the complex interplay of interests between food security and mitigating the effects of climate change (Ziervogel & Ericksen, 2010).  India’s approach of cash transfers safety net to vulnerable households to mitigate against food security effects of climate change. Unfortunately, the cost of maintaining household asset-building programs are exorbitant and unsustainable (Ziervogel & Ericksen, 2010). Consequently, a combination of formal and informal components of food security and poverty alleviation. An appropriate informal solution for a developing economy capitalizes on social rather than technical innovations to generate a self-sustaining micro-economy. On the other hand, the formal sector may address the capital needs on the backdrop of policy supported micro-loans to enhance food production and consumption among the poor (Ziervogel & Ericksen, 2010). This is tantamount to investment in already existing local economies through state and enterprise efforts.

Enterprises founded on goal-oriented frameworks are critical in creating environmentally sustainable food consumption for poverty alleviation. They do this through the promotion of background knowledge and provision of information on sustainable consumption cues at the point of sale have been identified as possible interventions (Vermier, Weijters, Huower, Geuens, Slabbicnk…, & Verbke, 2020). The challenge with consumption cues is that they are usually ignored at the point of purchase while sometimes climate-sensitive food products may be costly. Industry, government, and enterprise may collaborate to alter consumer perception towards sustainable consumption (Vermier et al., 2020). Perhaps developing economies in Asia need to complement this effort with the policies that make sustainable production cost-effective and key messaging to stimulate green consumption behavior. This will a long way in promoting goal-oriented behavior through collective policy, industry, and enterprise to influence the same and increase incomes among organic producers and the value chain it supports.


            Against the preceding, food governance mechanisms in Asia’s developing nations have a direct implication on consumer preferences. So far, the concept reveals that there are competing needs that fall short of tradeoffs required to balance food safety, security, and sustainable consumption thereof. National policies establish standards and procedures that alter consumption for poverty alleviation. Similarly, coordinated efforts between industry and enterprise facilitate linkages with national systems in implementation and regulatory standards geared towards consumer preferences. China’s clean meat and pork consumption habits are a reflection of its evolution of middle-class consumer choices with a focus on organic consumption. In this regard immunization and recycling are critical components in food governance measures to safeguard the small scale farmers’ economic interests.

China and other Asian countries are hardly aligned to capitalize fully on positive psychological capital. Most of the Asian countries exist in evolving food markets with divergent consumer preference towards organic foods, bio-fortification, and sustainable marine resources exploitation.  Primary indications show that consumer total preference creates a need for research on consumer safety and policy for poverty alleviation. Despite these concerns, positive psychological capital can facilitate interaction between national systems, industry and enterprise. Consumer-driven systems like in China address food security and safety are the fulcrum around policies and market practices that safeguard the majority small farmers who are critical in enhancing food governance. As the production chain emphasizes safety and health factors, consumer trust.

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