Environment Systems and Decisions

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 6–22 | Cite as

Food security in Africa: a cross-scale, empirical investigation using structural equation modeling

  • Riva C. H. Denny
  • Sandra T. Marquart-Pyatt
  • Arika Ligmann-Zielinska
  • Laura Schmitt Olabisi
  • Louie Rivers
  • Jing Du
  • Lenis Saweda O. Liverpool-Tasie


Despite consistent gains in global agricultural productivity in the last 50 years, lack of food security persists in many regions of the world. Addressing this issue is especially pertinent in Africa where 39 of the nearly five dozen nations most at risk of food insecurity are located. We draw from interdisciplinary research to develop an empirical model that outlines the four interconnected aspects of food security—availability, access, utilization and stability. Given the complexity of this issue, we develop a model that considers agricultural, socio-political, and economic factors as drivers of food security and its manifestations, related in a complex system of relations that includes both direct and indirect paths. We use structural equation modeling with latent variables to specify a model that seeks to determine the primary drivers of food security over 55 years in Africa, West Africa as a region, and for a group of 5 West African countries: Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria. Empirical results reveal the critical importance of availability and accessibility for mitigating food insecurity.


Food security Undernutrition Africa Structural equation modeling 



Funding was provided by National Science Foundation (Grant No. SMA-1416730).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Riva C. H. Denny
    • 1
  • Sandra T. Marquart-Pyatt
    • 1
  • Arika Ligmann-Zielinska
    • 2
  • Laura Schmitt Olabisi
    • 3
  • Louie Rivers
    • 4
  • Jing Du
    • 5
  • Lenis Saweda O. Liverpool-Tasie
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of SociologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial SciencesMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Department of Community SustainabilityMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  4. 4.Department of Forestry and Environmental ResourcesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  5. 5.Department of Construction ScienceTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  6. 6.Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource EconomicsMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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