Conflict & Food Security: Two sides of the same coin?

By Stephanie Brittain

Food insecurity and malnutrition can be ended sustainably within a generation, it is said. However, with one in eight people in the world today still undernourished and approximately two billion suffering from micronutrient deficiencies, the challenge is immense.

Further, the world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050 and at the current rate of development, the number of people at risk of hunger in the developing world will grow from 881 million in 2005 to more than a billion people by 2050.

78 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas, and agriculture remains fundamental for their economic growth and for food security for our expanding global population. Further, agricultural development is found to be about two to four times more effective in raising incomes among the poorest than growth in other sectors.

Conflict impedes agricultural development

Credit: UN/Tobin Jones 2013

Credit: UN/Tobin Jones 2013

However, many of the countries that rely on agriculture are also in conflict or suffering from environmental, economic or political instability. With rapidly changing politics, widening economic inequality, climate change and increasingly scarce natural resources, instability and insufficient rural development are two sides of the same coin.

Conflict can reduce the amount of food produced and disrupt people’s access to food, worsening food insecurity. Conflict can be also be exacerbated by environmental shocks and stressors, or by a weak political governance when incapable of meeting the needs of the most vulnerable and affected. Somalia is an example of national governance failure, prolonged drought and increased temperatures, fuelling a vicious cycle of food scarcity and instability.

The World Food Programme (WFP) reported significant declines in agricultural production in the Central African Republic (CAR) following its worst political and human crisis that sparked mass migrations, leaving more than 600,000 people displaced in 2014. Cassava production was 58% lower in 2014 than the 2008-2012 pre-crisis average and the agricultural sector contracted by 46 percent. 1.6 million people are now food insecure.

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