Conflict the main contributor to rising food insecurity in Africa

Conflict the main contributor to rising food insecurity in Africa

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Food insecurity in Africa is an ongoing concern and has been rising since 2014. However, the causes of insecurity vary from climatic to human. This paper in Nature Food examines the relative contribution of different factors to food shortages.

While it is known that armed conflict, weather events and pests all contribute to food insecurity in Africa, it is not well known how these factors interrelate, and which is most to blame for reducing the availability of food.

The researchers used data from 2009-2018 for the number of people in different African regions requiring emergency food aid, and coupled this with data on droughts, conflict and locust outbreaks over the same period.

It was found that droughts had remained a relatively constant contributor to food insecurity throughout the study period, and locusts had had only a minor impact. In contrast, the researchers found that rising food insecurity could be largely attributed to increases in violent conflict. This was particularly true in regions with higher conflict, such as Nigeria and South Sudan. The study also found that it was livestock producers that were most at risk of food insecurity, compared to crop farming populations and those living along the region’s rivers and coastlines.

Conflict causes food insecurity in a number of ways. It disrupts or destroys food production and supply chain infrastructure, causes migration and impedes the flow of food aid and other external assistance. In combination with droughts, conflict can be devastating for agriculture and take years to recover from. As the authors note, conflicts are far less predictable than drought, and they were unable to establish any relationship between the frequency or magnitude of conflicts and droughts.

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Photo by UNHCR/ B. Heger
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