World Food Day: Climate change worsens hunger and conflict: It’s time to break the cycle

Women sell fruits and vegetables on a sidewalk in the Philippines, where workers in the informal economy risk having their livelihoods destroyed by the impacts of COVID-19. The UN will commemorate World Food Day on October 16. Credit: ILO / Minette Rimando
  • Opinion by Farah Hegazi, Caroline Delgado (Stockholm)
  • Inter Press Service

Despite a constant increase world harvests, more … than 150 million people were acutely food insecure in 2020, and 41 million people would have been on the verge of starvation this summer. The main drivers of this food insecurity were violent conflicts and extreme weather events.

With the number of active armed conflicts at a historic peak, the impacts of climate change intensify rapidly, and the global economy rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to find lasting solutions to the dangerous interactions between hunger, conflict and the impacts of climate change could not be more pressing.

Hunger, conflict and climate change: a deadly cocktail

Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Zimbabwe together represented the 10 worst hunger crises in 2020. In the previous decade, they accounted for over 72% of all conflict-related deaths at the World level. Most of these countries are also very vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

It is not a mere coincidence. Conflict and climate change both have an impact on the ability of people to produce, market and access food, often through complex interactions.

Attacks on food production are a regular feature of war, whether it is planting landmines in fields, burning crops, looting or killing livestock, or forcing farmers to leave the land. food crops for more lucrative illicit crops such as coca leaves.

Disruption of transportation routes makes it more difficult to distribute and store food, especially the more perishable types. And when food is scarce and formal markets fail to deliver, black markets can thrive, with profits often going to one side or another of the conflict, helping to prolong the fighting. Not surprisingly, long-lasting food insecurity is one of the major legacies of the war.

Climate change can also disrupt food production, from immediate damage caused by floods and droughts to slower impacts such as changing rainfall and rising temperatures that make it more difficult to grow current crop varieties.

These impacts can devastate the livelihoods of farmers and herders. The the risk of conflict erupting increases when they compete for viable land and water resources or migrate. They can also be courted by armed groups that promise security and better prospects.

In Mali, for example, nearly a fifth of the population is food insecure due to greater variability in rainfall and more frequent and severe droughts linked to climate change. Extremist groups quickly used this to their advantage, providing people with food. in exchange for support and thus further fuel the conflict.

South Sudan faces a similar situation. In flood-affected pastoral areas such as Jonglei, cattle raids have become more frequent and violent.

Combined solutions

On the positive side, these links between hunger, climate and conflict provide entry points for action that addresses all three – and does so more effectively than programs attempting to address them separately.

For example, in a region of East Africa known as Grand Karamoja, which covers parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda, violent clashes have occurred. broke out between groups of migrating herders during a prolonged drought.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations have been successful in reducing these conflicts and improving the livelihoods and food security of pastoralists, by help them negotiate agreements on the use of pastures and water resources.

Even small-scale and very localized programs can catalyze larger change. In Colombia, a country highly vulnerable to climate change and marked by the aftermath of a long-standing armed conflict, the revival of indigenous traditional knowledge is gain momentum.

This includes the use of natural early warning signs such as the appearance of certain migratory birds, which can help locals prepare for climate impacts, as well as revive farming, fishing and hunting practices. sustainable. In the process, it brings together communities fragmented by the fighting.

Rising hunger and conflict – reversing decades of progress – as well as the intensifying impacts of climate change all call for urgent action, from the United Nations downwards. But these are related problems, which worsen each other to the detriment of humans and nature.

Even though he recognized As conflict and climate are linked to food insecurity, the recent United Nations Food Systems Summit missed the opportunity to discuss in depth how these links work or how to address them.

Another chance for real progress presents itself with the impending United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, COP26. It is hoped that discussions on climate change adaptation and loss and damage will explicitly consider how to decouple hunger, conflict and climate change.

Dr Farah Hegazi is a researcher on the Climate Change and Risks program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), where she specializes in environmental peacebuilding. She is part of the research team of the SIPRI Environment of Peace initiative (

Dr Caroline Delgado is Principal Investigator and Director of the Food, Peace and Security Program at SIPRI. His areas of expertise include conflict, human security and peacebuilding. She is one of the focal points of the Global Violent Death Registry (GReVD).

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© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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