Shocks, seasonality, and disaggregation: Modelling food security through the integration of agricultural, transportation, and economic systems
Food insecurity is a complex phenomenon with biophysical, climatic, economic, and infrastructure facets. Despite this understanding, there are few stakeholder-based modelling tools that can capture these dynamics and thereby evaluate the direct and indirect impacts that climatic change, economic change, and policy interventions can have on food security. To address this need, we have developed the Food Distributed Extendable COmplementarity (Food-DECO) model. The Food-DECO model represents individual aggregated stakeholders as decision-makers within the agricultural, transportation, and economic systems. In this paper, we demonstrate the model's capabilities by applying it to a food system based on characteristics of Ethiopia, a frequently food-insecure country. Food-DECO produces results that show the effects of seasonality and regional distribution networks on human nutrition while disaggregating those effects by age, gender, and per capita income. We explore the impacts of a regional crop failure and evaluate the possible effectiveness of several commonly proposed food security interventions. The economic integration of agriculture and transportation in Food-DECO enables us to see, counterintuitively, that improving the capacity of the existing food distribution network between regions can negatively impact the nutritional outcomes in the region experiencing crop failure; the increased ability to meet high demand elsewhere leads to an increase in regional exports – even during a food shortage.