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Food security policy in Lao PDR: an analysis of policy narratives in use

Armstrong, J. (2018). Food security policy in Lao PDR: an analysis of policy narratives in use. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Food security has long been a component of the global development project. Over time, extensive definitions and conceptual frameworks for food security have emerged. This thesis explores food security policy discourse in middle income, non-crisis contexts in the Global South. Taking as its research site the Southeast Asian state of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), the thesis explores how food security is defined as a policy problem, and what solutions are proposed. Using an interpretive analytical approach, the research analyzes authored policy documents and constructed policy texts drawn from interviews conducted between 2011-2013 with 25 international experts to identify narratives emerging from the praxis of formal policy documents, institutional mandates and policy-in practice. The role of international expertise in shaping the national level discourse is explored in detail. Four policy narratives are identified: food security as modernization/economic growth, the smallholder narrative, the nutrition narrative, and food security as development. Particular attention is paid to the totemic status of rice in the discourse. For each narrative, a matrix of problem statements, proposed solutions, key indicators, and supporting institutions is presented. A metanarrative analysis of how these narratives intersect suggests that one of the characteristics of food security conceptually is its inclusiveness, giving it a remit across a range of sectors. This research presents food security as a valence issue, which, by virtue of its expansiveness, provides a platform on which multiple, divergent policy agenda coexist. Despite recognition among experts of serious shortcomings in both the conceptual framework and applied use in policy, this fluidity ensures that food security remains in consistent use, as both a component of national policy and as an artefact of global development discourse at the national level. Because of its continued focus on undernutrition in rural areas, the omission of issues such as overnutrition, urban food systems, and environmental degradation from the discourse, narratives in food security policy are presented as hewing to pre-existing problem statements and solutions. This renders food security an incomplete fit within the policy context of rapidly developing nations in 21st Century Southeast Asia.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
School of Policy & Global Affairs > School of Policy & Global Affairs Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management > Food Policy
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