A Cultural Ecological Approach for Meal Security A Case Study of the Dynamics of the Food Habits in El Obeid, Sudan

Mirjam Röder

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


    Worldwide more food than ever is produced these days. It would be enough to feed everybody by far. However, only a limited group of the global population enjoys an adequate food supply. About 854 million people are undernourished worldwide. The global situation shows that hunger cannot be fought by just producing enough food. The socio-cultural complex of nutrition and food habits cannot be reduced to the production and marketing of crops. To fight the problem of lacking food security, ecological and socio-cultural conditions have to be taken into account.This research focuses on the questions of ‘what is food’ and ‘why is certain food eaten in a specific way’ as prerequisites to understand the problem of malnutrition and food shortage as well as to fight food insecurity. Humans could eat anything that is digestible and not poisonous. However, they do not do so. Even though all human beings share the need to provide enough energy and nutrients for their metabolic functions, they do not think of the energy or nutrient content of food when they eat. Food is eaten according to certain social and cultural norms and meanings. Food usually is not consumed as grown or found in nature. Through technologies, skills, and knowledge the raw matter is transformed into a meal and eaten in a way according to given socio-cultural norms. People eat a culturally bound meal which satisfies not only their dietary needs but culinary desires. Food habits are a result of the interaction between different natural and cultural factors and the ability of the individual to interact with both these spheres. Therefore, this research analyses the complexity of food habits, their dynamics, and how the food culture of a society interacts with the natural and socio-cultural environment. According to this, a cultural ecological concept of food culture - the cycle of meal - is introduced. It focuses on the interdependence and interactions of food habits within the natural and cultural environment. Moreover, the concept emphasises the importance of meal preparation as essential procedure of transforming natural raw matters into culturally bound products and as fundamental element to reach not only food but meal security. This study bases on research conducted in the town El Obeid in Central Sudan, which is located in the remote and famine-prone environment of North Kordofan. The case study shows that food shortage can only be understood and fought if food culture is considered as a central element of meal security. Therefore, the research is based on the examination of food habits, their dynamics, and interactions within the socio-cultural context.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Landwirtschaftlich-Gärtnerischen Fakultät, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008


    • Sudan
    • meal security
    • food habits
    • gender
    • urbanisation
    • food security


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