How the choice of food security indicators affects the assessment of resilience—an example from northern Ethiopia

  • Bapu VaitlaEmail author
  • Jennifer Denno Cissé
  • Joanna Upton
  • Girmay Tesfay
  • Nigussie Abadi
  • Daniel Maxwell
Original Paper


Using longitudinal survey data from northern Ethiopia collected over 18 months, this study shows that conclusions about household food security are highly sensitive to measurement decisions. Especially important are 1) decisions about which food security indicators and cut-offs are chosen, and 2) whether analysis focuses on food security status at a given point in time or food security resilience over time. We define resilience as the probability that a household is truly above a chosen food security cut-off, given its underlying assets, demographic characteristics, and past food security status. Our study finds that different factors determine food security status and food security resilience. We also find that the drivers of resilience vary depending on whether food security is measured by Food Consumption Score (FCS) or the reduced Coping Strategies Index (rCSI). Literacy and livestock holdings are associated with both FCS status and FCS resilience, and the latter is also predicted by access to safe water and sanitation, the dependency ratio, and debt. In contrast, only previous rCSI scores predict current rCSI status, while marital status, literacy, livestock, and other forces matter for determining rCSI resilience. We also find that conclusions about food security resilience are sensitive to the cut-offs chosen to signify a food secure state.


Resilience Food security Sub-Saharan Africa Ethiopia Livelihoods Coping strategies 



We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and additional funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This support spanned the period from 2010 to 2013 and supported the field data collection. The field teams that collected data in four rounds over a two-year period included Ataklti Techane, Bereket Gebre Medhin, Fisseha Gebre Tensae, Selam Yirga, Martha Tekle, Michael Gebre Hiwot, Kidane Hintsa, Lemlem Fitsum, Samson Hadgu, Gebresselassie Hailu, Haile Tewelde, Dawit Gebre Her, and Ataklti Haile; our thanks to all for their hard work. Special thanks to Julia Van Horn for editorial assistance. We are solely responsible for any errors in the analysis.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

12571_2019_989_MOESM1_ESM.docx (95 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 94 kb)


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Copyright information

© International Society for Plant Pathology and Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  2. 2.Feinstein International Center, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and PolicyTufts UniversitySomervilleUSA
  3. 3.Munich Climate Insurance InitiativeBonnGermany
  4. 4.Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and ManagementCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  5. 5.College of Dryland Agriculture and Natural ResourcesMekelle UniversityMekelleEthiopia

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