Most inhabitants in vulnerable states are dependent on subsistence farming. A systematic effort to achieve long-term food security in vulnerable states is therefore closely connected with both the prevention of and the response to famine.

Hunger during wars and conflicts

Hunger and conflict are crises that strengthen each other. Before the war in Syria broke out, the country experienced the worst drought in more than a century. Crops failed and more than 80 percent of the livestock died as a result of the drought. The ensuing flight from the countryside into the cities is considered a contributing cause of the conflicts that arose in 2011. Later, the war in Syria has developed into the largest refugee crisis the world has seen since the Second World War.

Hunger and poverty are often linked to conflict. Given that vulnerable states are mainly counties where agriculture plays a major role, questions of food security, land rights and state vulnerability are closely interconnected.

War and conflict often have catastrophic consequences for the population’s access to food. An intractable security situation and lack of resources often force local food production in war zones to cease. It may also become difficult to transport food from outside the country, and  the prices paid for whatever food is available rise so dramatically that few can afford them. Often, therefore, it is not weapons, but hunger that kills most people in a conflict. If the food production system breaks down completely, the aftermath of a conflict can prolong the hunger crisis in an area for a long time after the conflict itself is over.

Preparation is the key

This means that it is necessary to think about preparing ourselves, if world society is to get started quickly on reconstruction after war and conflict. Access to seed is one of the necessary measures that demand preparations beforehand.

Among the most prominent reasons why people attach themselves to violent groups are unemployment and lack of opportunities for young people. In the countryside in developing countries a large majority of the population gains its income from agriculture. Violence can be curtailed by creating more job opportunities in food production and processing of agricultural products.

One of the most important steps in rebuilding a country after conflict or serious natural disaster is to restart food production. There are far better chances of conflicts flaring up again if the population lacks access to food and water. Within a ten-year period, there is 40 percent greater probability of a conflict reemerging if the country lacks food security, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

It is not an accident that a number of armed groups which the international community defines as terrorists, operate in areas with vulnerable states. We see this throughout the Sahel belt, in Somalia, Iraq and Syria, and in Afghanistan. In the same areas we also find significant criminality related to smuggling of everything from weapons and narcotics to displaced people.

Since most countries that today are defined as vulnerable are also extremely poor, policies toward vulnerable states, must, in order to have a sustainable effect, have a long-term focus on food production. Short-term emergency relief measures must not get in the way of long-term development assistance.

Read more about vulnerable states and food security here. (In Norwegian.)