August 8, 2015

About the RBI

00000249“Food security [is] a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

– Food and Agriculture Organization

In Asia, the term “Rice Bowl” is synonymous with food security as rice is the main staple for most of Asia’s population. The RBI is an initiative designed to facilitate productive dialogue, collaboration and action between governments, the private sector and other key stakeholders in the area of food security.

Rather than measuring a country’s current level of food security, the RBI assesses how robust a country’s capacity is to address the challenges of food security. It consists of a quantitative examination of the key enablers and disablers of food security and includes an accompanying qualitative component authored by Professor Paul Teng, one of Asia’s leading food security experts.


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Concept & Purpose

Food security is complex, consisting of many components and interactions, and increasing agricultural productivity is not the only consideration for improving food security. There is general acceptance that there are four main dimensions of food security: availability, physical access, economic access and utilization. The RBI tracks the main disablers and enablers of these four dimensions.

Designed to translate the complexity of food security into an opportunity for action, the RBI aims to improve lives in Asia by helping to enable a robust and sustainable food system. While the nature of the challenge to increase food security in an environmentally sustainable way is highly complex, the task can be addressed through an increased level of collaboration, alignment and action by governments, the private sector and other key stakeholders.

In this spirit, the RBI is designed to stimulate and facilitate this solutions-focused interaction between the various stakeholders in the area of Food Security.


Translating the complexity of food security into an opportunity for action

The challenge in creating the RBI lies in identifying the key driving factors in each dimension of food security, characterizing them individually, and then integrating them in order to guide further action in improving a country’s overall capacity to enhance food security.

We knew we must distinguish between an index that describes the current state of food security in a country and an index that describes how robust a country’s system of food security might be. The second type of index, the type we decided to create, focuses on identifying the factors that enable a country to be food secure over time. This helps us have a more solutions-oriented focus and can become an important platform for further discussions by the many government agencies, NGOs and private sector players with roles to play or contributions to make in the issue.

The RBI has been designed in an attempt to answer this issue by:

  • Taking a holistic view on the enabling and disabling factors of food security
  • Integrating relevant, (publicly) available datasets
  • Providing analysis with a solutions-focused mindset
  • Creating a means for catalyzing collaborations


The enablers or disablers of food security are described here as factors – each of which may influence the state of food security. These factors are quantified on the basis of publicly available data and grouped into four rubrics: Policy and Trade, Farm-Level, Environmental, and Demand and Price.

Furthermore, in designing the RBI it was considered imperative to be able to answer the following additional questions:

  • How robust is a country’s food and agricultural system to address the food security challenge?
  • Which are the areas that need to be a focus for intervention?

The underlying assumption is food security can be achieved if demand and supply can be brought into balance (production, trade), people have access to food (price, income), farmers have the means to be productive (farm-level factors), innovation and private sector initiative is encouraged (policy and investment) and the environmental prerequisites exist for providing long-term sustainability.

Learn more about the specifics behind our data and research design in the Technical Aspects section.