Document Type

Honors Project - Open Access


While food security is traditionally defined with four pillars, there are increasing calls for an additional two (agency and sustainability) so that we may more comprehensively conceptualize all dimensions of food security. However, the challenge is that it is difficult to effectively measure agency, a person’s control over their food system. Measuring women’s agency is especially critical in Africa South of the Sahara where women play prominent roles in farming and food preparation. This honors thesis explores the feasibility of creating a metric to measure agency within food systems and gender relations using data related to food security and dietary diversity among Burkinabé female rice farmers. First, I explore the literature on agency at a variety of scales and in different situations related to autonomy and sovereignty. Then, I develop an index based upon a subset of questions in the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS). I also consider how including agency as a dimension of food security can positively transform our understanding of food security. I achieve this by relating agency to the existing pillars of food security to understand how agency fills the gaps in our conceptualization of such systems. Lastly, I ask whether a connection exists between the level of agency, food security, and individual dietary diversity scores. I explore the correlation between the scores within the entire sample of interviews as well as analysing individual women as case studies. Ultimately, I conclude that agency can be quantified in a way that increases its accessibility to policymakers to create more just food systems, with the aim of expanding how we understand and approach food justice.

Included in

Geography Commons



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