Measure of indigenous perennial staple crop, Ensete ventricosum, associated with positive food security outcomes in southern Ethiopian highlands

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Enset-based food systems are unique to southern Ethiopia where they serve as a staple food for millions of households. Enset, a banana relative of which the entire pseudostem and corm are edible, possesses a highly unusual combination of crop traits including perenniality, highly flexible planting and harvest times, and tolerance of a very wide range of environmental conditions, which together earn it the local name of “the tree against hunger.” Previous studies have identified the strategic food security value of mature enset stands for household food security, but a multisector panel data set makes identifying wider enset food security associations tractable for the first time. We assess whether household data on area of mature enset is associated with four indicators of food security together with demographic, asset, and consumption covariates. We find that area of mature enset significantly improves estimates for three of four food security indicators, thus improving our understanding of the role of understudied indigenous crops. Consistent and reliable food security indicators are needed to improve monitoring, particularly with regard to stability. Variance components of multilevel longitudinal models indicate that exposure to both idiosyncratic and covariate disturbance affects food security stability in a way that is consistent with reports of enset acting as both a food security buffer and an active adaptation strategy in the face of shocks or change. Here we show that living assets comprising culturally relevant indigenous crops such as enset can improve accuracy of food insecurity assessments, which may encourage wider investigation of other agrifood system-specific asset-like natural stores of value associated with food security and resilience.

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Food Policy



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