Chapter 1 emphasised that a central task of any government is to secure food for its population. It is interesting then to examine why in the late twentieth century some governments fail miserably to do so. This chapter examines a variety of factors which explain that failure. The emphasis of Chapter 3 was on factors at the international scale which prejudice a country’s ability to command food, i.e., how international factors can undermine a country’s ability to generate resources needed to command food for its population. This part of our analysis explores factors at the national level which help explain why, within countries, entitlements vary. Some of the myriad ways governments interact with local food security are shown in Figure 4.1.
It is often difficult to discern the boundaries between international and national decision-making; international actors often form alliances with nationally potent actors and the context of national decision-making is structured by decisions made elsewhere. However, the distinction is useful because it helps to identify the variety of agents and actors which govern access to entitlements and food. Generalisations about national policy are necessary but it is important to emphasise that circumstances in the developing world are extraordinarily varied and dynamic:
In some developing countries such as Mexico and Brazil, the quantity of food available is well above requirements (in fact, food availability per person in Mexico is estimated by FAO to be almost the same as in many