ESA Working Paper No. 03-11



Armed Conflicts and Food Security

Slobodanka B. Teodosijeviæ


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Agricultural and Development Economics Division
The Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations



Despite the end of the Cold War conflicts are still very frequent and most of them occur in developing countries. However, the nature of conflicts has changed and the proportion of civilian fatalities has increased markedly. The causes and consequences of conflicts are often a complex mix of inter-linked economic, environmental, political, cultural and religious factors. The human, social and economic costs of armed conflict are massive. Thousands of men, women and children die each year as a direct and indirect consequence of war. About 25 million people were displaced by the end of 2001. GDP per-capita is estimated to decline by about 2.2 % per year during conflict, with sectors which have high transaction costs hit more severely. Although the agricultural sector is typically less affected than industry per-capita agricultural production falls by about 1.5 % per year in periods of conflict. Food production is usually reduced, and in some cases collapses, leading to hunger and starvation and forcing large numbers of people to migrate. Food aid buffers food-intake levels to some extent but calorie availability per-capita-per-day does fall by an average of about 7 percent as a result of conflict. Food itself frequently becomes a weapon during conflict. The destruction of rural infrastructure, the loss of livestock, deforestation, the widespread use of land-mines as well as the population movements lead to long-term food security problems, particularly when these factors interact with natural disasters. Subsistence farming, crop diversification, divestment and migration are some of the survival strategies that people resort to. Agricultural sector recovery depends on successful demobilization of soldiers, land de-mining and the reconstruction of rural infrastructure, in particular roads and irrigation.


© FAO 2003