top of page
  • Writer's pictureStudentGuiders

Food Systems Challenges in Africa

Case Study A: Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Drought is by far the most frequently reported shock in our survey with 45 percent reporting exposure for themselves or household members in the past twelve months in stark contrast, for example, with only 2 percent reporting exposure to floods. Using novel household survey data from two conflict-affected regions in Eastern DRC, we studied variation in the support for violence related to reported exposure to drought and resilience metrics (Uexkull et al, 2020). Using comprehensive multifaceted objective and subjective indicators of resilience, the study finds that less resilient respondents who report having experienced drought and associated losses are more likely to be supportive of the use of political violence. In contrast, the findings suggest that there is no general association between reporting drought exposure and support for violence. The findings of this article suggest that objectively, more resilient households are less likely to support political violence and thus potentially participate in violence in this context. The reported experience of a drought is associated with support for political violence for the least resilient individuals. Yet, objective resilience and, to some degree, subjective resilience dampen the estimated security effects of reporting drought shocks. The study also shows that the explanatory power of resilience goes beyond conventional measures which rely on assets or income. These findings are in line with qualitative evidence on the role of violence in North Kivu, portrayed as an opportunity for social mobility, a new identity, and livelihood in a situation of social and economic crisis.

Notwithstanding limitations (which are duly acknowledged in the paper), these findings are relevant to assessing the security implications of climate change. There is a great need to identify pathways through which climate affects conflict risks (cf. Mach et al. 2019). This study provides a nuanced and granular analysis of the effect of climate-related shocks in one of the most fragile regions globally and shows how reported natural hazard impacts are moderated by resilience. The study findings are also important for development and humanitarian policy makers supporting more resilient individuals and communities. As relates to the design of policies and programs, a key finding of this study is that a member of a resilient household is less likely to support the use of political violence. This provides encouragement for investments in enhancing resilience of rural populations by both the international community and national governments, particularly in protracted crises, with the caveat that findings from this context cannot automatically be transposed to other situations.

Case Study B: The Boko Haram (BH) Insurgency in Nigeria

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of armed conflicts in Africa primarily driven by organized non-state actors. Among such actors, one of the most lethal groups is BH, a transnational terrorist organization, which ideologically places itself as a force of resistance against Western-based cultural intrusion among Muslims in northeastern Nigeria. From 2009-2019, Boko Haram carried out more than 4,000 attacks in Africa, with human fatalities extending over 38,000. During the same period, about 70 percent of the attacks and 80 percent of casualties were in Nigeria, making it the epicenter of BH insurgency. At the height of the insurgency, the group had significant territorial control in northeastern Nigeria, where it established a parallel state by replacing traditional governance structures and law enforcement bodies. (Cooke, Sanderson, Johnson, and Hubner, 2016).

A significant majority of the area occupied by BH comprised rural areas where agriculture is the predominant industry. Although BH’s stated objectives do not include the destruction of the agricultural sector and food security, their attacks directly and indirectly affected agriculture, rural households, and their livelihood activities. In the affected areas, casualties, disabilities, and injuries inflicted on farmers resulted in reduced labor supply in the agricultural sector. For people who were not directly exposed to the attacks, fears about possible exposure to future attacks and associated travelling risks discouraged movement away from home. This led to reduced application of labor in planting, weeding, harvesting, marketing, and sales and resulted in unrealized production or the idling of land. In areas where attacks were frequent and persistent, farmers were forced to flee their communities and fields leading to significant population displacement and abandonment of farms. BH insurgency has also negatively impacted fisherman and livestock producers via output shocks, inability to access markets, and increases in transportation costs. The presence of support systems, including micro-financial institutions and crop insurance agencies, which were already minimal in the northeastern region, worsened postconflict.

Given the persistence of the BH insurgency, surviving farmers have formed their own coping strategies over time. A growing interest in sheep production is one such strategy as sheep can be grazed within the household’s premises and nearby areas. Similarly, limiting agricultural activities to times of the day when the probability of BH attacks is low has also helped. Crop diversification strategies are also being implemented with the help of resilience-building programs adopted by development partners and national governments. Programs to integrate peacebuilding into assistance programs, increase access to finance, strengthen food market systems, and improve informationsharing among the local farmers have also been implemented.

That said, challenges remain in the resiliencebuilding efforts in conflict-affected parts of Nigeria. First and foremost, Boko Haram’s attacks are still ongoing making the implementation of development programs extremely difficult. Identifying and mitigating the drivers of such attacks should be a priority as part of mitigating endogenous shocks such as armed conflicts. Second, optimal use of limited available resources requires understanding that different locations within the same conflict zones may be very different with respect to their degree of exposure to the shock, and hence require more decentralized rebuilding efforts. Finally, with respect to IDPs, agricultural development programs in both host communities and post-conflict zones should be based on the characteristics and preferences of farmers who choose to stay and return respectively.

Case Study C: Locusts in East Africa

From 2019-2021, desert locusts triggered by a cyclone in the Arabian Peninsula spread south affecting food systems across East Africa (see Figure 3.4). Locust swarms directly affect food systems by destroying crops and grazing fodder thus negatively affecting the availability of food for human populations and indirectly influencing food security by escalating competition for pasture, space, and water. For context, a small (1km2) size swarm (approx. 40 million locusts) can consume the equivalent amount of food that 35,000 people would eat in a day (Cressman et al., 2016). Individual farms have had their total crop destroyed in less than 24 hours; during the 2003-2005 locust outbreak in West Africa, the region recorded 100,

Figure 3.4. Locust extent in 2019-2020 (DW, 2020).

90 and 85 percent losses on cereals, legumes and pastures respectively adversely affecting more than 8 million people (UN-SPIDER, 2021). Locust outbreaks have historically created intense shocks for national and global food systems, decreasing food availability while requiring additional financial capital for pesticides, equipment, and labor. Further, recovering from the destructive impact of locust attacks puts a huge economic burden on the affected farmers and countries (Cressman et al., 2016).

During the recent crisis, it was estimated that swarms affected 5.3 million hectares with the worst impacts in five countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. A total of 35 million people were affected across these countries 20.2 million of whom in East Africa were already food insecure. The outbreak was the worst in 70 years in Kenya and the worst in 25 years in Ethiopia, Somalia, and India (ReliefWeb, 2020). Without broad-scale control, conservative estimates in 2019-2020 for the locustrelated losses (including for staple crops, livestock production, and asset damages) were estimated at US$8.5 billion for countries in the wider East Africa region, Djibouti, and Yemen (ReliefWeb, 2020). In response, FAO requested $351 million for rapid response and anticipatory action, of which it received 95 percent, and was able to lead an effective response program from forecasting to responding and from short-term coordinating to preparing for the medium and longer term. Treatment involves pesticide application on the ground and from the air, with environmental tradeoffs. With this funding, more than 2 million hectares of land have been treated since January 2020, saving the livelihoods and protecting the food security of 36.9 million people across the ten countries and three main livelihoods in the region namely, farming, agropastoralism, and pastoralism (FAO, 2021a).

Early response allowed rural communities to avert the loss of 4.1 million tons of cereal crops and 806.6 million liters of milk with a combined commercial value of $1.57 billion. While some marginalized groups in the region remained vulnerable and next-generation swarms are emerging in 2021, so far, the system has demonstrated resilience to this shock (FAO, 2021b).

Case Study D: Drought in Uganda

The region of Karamoja, located in the northeast of Uganda, is recognized as the least socially and economically developed part of the country. Majority of the population remains below the poverty line. It comprises seven districts: Kaabong, Abim, Kotido, Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit and Amudat. Historically, Karamoja has been a pastoral area, suited for livestock husbandry. Although Karamoja bears similarities to other pastoral regions in East Africa, few of its households are selfsufficient in terms of food and most rely on barter trading for much of their staple foods. The region suffers from severe environmental degradation, poor infrastructure, lack of social services, and limited opportunities to sell agricultural products. In recent years, the region has been subject to recurrent droughts and sporadic floods possibly resulting in the erosion of the local people’s resilience and coping capacities. This has led to an increased focus on the need to better understand the importance of livelihood strategies and resilience here.

Considering rainfall anomalies and self-reported drought, climatic conditions are relevant factors that affect both household resilience capacity and food security in the region. The greater amount of rainfall during the rainy season of 2016, compared to the long-run average, is positively associated with resilience capacity and food security indicators (both food consumption and Household Dietary Diversity Score (HDDS)). On the contrary, the shock of drought (again is self-reported), has a negative effect. Almost all households located in Karamoja report being affected by drought. To cope with drought, households adopt strategies with negative implications for food security and for incomegenerating activities in the long term. For example, one common trend across all districts in the Karamoja region is that households reduce meal sizes and quality when coping with drought. On their part, Amudat households sell more animals than usual to cope with drought while in Kotido, the consumption of wild food and seeking relief assistance are the most frequently adopted strategies. On the other hand, in Moroto, the most frequent coping strategy often entails engaging in prohibited activities such as the sale of charcoal or illegal brewing of alcohol for sale to provide an income.

The key drivers of resilience capacity - diversification of crop production, diversification of income sources, coping strategies adopted in the case of a food shortage, and education - are all part of the Adaptive Capacity (AC) pillar of resilience measured within RIMA-II (FAO 2016). Non-productive assets and agricultural assets, including land (access to land and natural resource management), also significantly contribute to the resilience capacity of households. In comparison to Abim, the most resilient district of the region, all the other districts (especially Amudat) report lower proximity to main services (specifically schools and hospitals), low stability of the main water source, and low access to improved sanitation and water. Households in Abim District show a high contribution to resilience capacity from formal transfers such as cash-forwork programmes. On the other hand, households in Amudat, Moroto and Nakapiripirit show poor access to credit services.

In terms of district heterogeneity, the drought shock had a more significant negative effect on resilience capacity in Nakapiripirit, followed by Napak, Abim and Kaabong. On the contrary, the shock does not affect resilience capacity in Amudat, Kotido and Moroto districts (see Table 3). Women-headed households located in Kaabong, Kotido, Moroto, Nakapiripirit and Napak districts are less resilient than households headed by men because they have a lower amount of assets (both productive and non-productive) compared to households headed by men.

Case Study E: Farmer-Herder Conflicts in Nigeria

For centuries, pastoralism (or transhumance) has been an important livelihood activity across Africa. Due to seasonal drought conditions and variations in grazing resource availability, nomadic herdsmen historically grazed their animals at locations far from their domains, even across national boundaries, with little resistance. Pastoral clashes have become more prevalent in recent years due to more persistent drought conditions (Butler and Gates, 2012, Maystadt and Ecker, 2014), changing weather and rainfall patterns (Lybbert et al., 2006; Maystadt and Ecker, 2014), climate change (Adano et. al., 2012), and increased desertification (George, Adelaja and Awokuse, 2020). In the case of Nigeria, growing desertification in Lake Chad, poverty in the north, and security concerns from the BH insurgency have exacerbated the pressure on Fulani herdsmen to graze further from their northern primary grazing areas into the Middlebelt and southern states for longer periods of time (George, et al., 2020). These destinations often have established agriculture, land tenure practices, and economies (George et al, 2019).

A palpable recent result of these dynamics is increased farmer-herder conflicts and more deadly violence by pastoralists. According to the Armed Conflict Location and Events Database (ACLED), the number of violent incidents increased by 2000 percent (from 74 to 1,613) between 2009 and 2018. Since 2010, eight more African countries have experienced their first episode of violence by pastoralists (ACLED, 2020). This rise in violence can be attributed to increased property rights problems (e.g., Butler and Gates, 2012), poor institutional arrangements (e.g., Adano et. al., 2012), and growing incidents of conflicts (George, Adelaja & Awokuse, 2020). With 54 percent of the incidents in Africa and 60 percent of the fatalities in 2019, Nigeria is now the epicenter of violence perpetrated by pastoralists and their associated organizations. Between 1997 and 2018, 7,983 casualties resulted from 1,082 pastoralist attack incidents in Nigeria alone. In 2018, fatalities from Fulani herdsmen attacks outnumbered those from BH. Most Fulani herdsmen are Muslims, but their victims are mostly northern and southern Nigerian Christians. With the rise of violence by the Fulani Ethnic Militia in support of its herdsmen kindred, the farmer-herder problem in Nigeria has taken on a serious religious undertone, with questions now being raised by some minority groups about the sovereignty of the nation.

In addition to growing casualties from violence by pastoralists, adverse impacts on agriculture and the food supply change have been documented in extant literature. George, Adelaja and Awokuse (2020) showed that in affected areas, agricultural production is curtailed, livestock holdings are reduced, and cattle thefts have increased as farmers flee, also resulting in a reduction in crops planted and harvested. Reprisals from Middlebelt and southern communities and greater rejection of beef raised by pastoralists have also disrupted the cattle beef supply chain thereby raising the level of angst among herdsmen. The Nigerian government’s proposed cattle settlement policy has also been rejected by many states in the Middlebelt and southern Nigeria. Proposals by some southern and Middlebelt states to promote animal husbandry will likely create more discontent among Fulani herdsmen and the Fulani Ethnic Militia.

The complex farmer-herder conflict has now become a major national security threat in Nigeria. The resolution of this problem will simultaneously advance food security, agricultural development, national security, ethnic and religious harmony, and economic development while fostering greater resilience to future shocks. Given the complexity of the problem and the large number of people killed to date, the foundation of any permanent solution must be peace-building.


ACLED. (2020). Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) Codebook,. Version8.

Adano, W. R., Dietz, T., Witsenburg, K., & Zaal, F. (2012). Climate change, violent conflict and local institutions in Kenya’s drylands. Journal of Peace Research, 49(1), 65–80.

Adelaja, A. & George, J. (2019a). Effects of conflict on agriculture: Evidence from the Boko Haram insurgency. World Development, 117, 184– 195.

Adelaja, A., & George, J. (2019b). Terrorism and use in agriculture: The case of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Land Use Policy, 88, 104116.

Adelaja, A., J. George, T. Miyahara & E. Tetteh. (2018). “Food Insecurity and Terrorism” Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 45, 1-19.

African Union. (2016). The Social Impact of

Ebola and In Particular the Nature of Social Protection Interventions Required. Report of the specialized technical Committee on social development, labour and employment. Available at: newsevents/workingdocuments/28072-wdthe_social_impact_of_ebola_-english.pdf

Ainehvand, S., Raeissi, P., Ravaghi, H., & Maleki, M. (2019). Natural disasters and challenges toward achieving food security response in Iran. Journal of Education and Health Promotion, 8(1).

Akresh, R., Bhalotra, S., Leone, M., & Osili, U. O. (2012). War and Stature: Growing Up during the Nigerian Civil War. American Economic Review, 102(3), 273–277.

Akresh, R., Verwimp, P., & Bundervoet, T. (2011).

Civil War, Crop Failure, and Child Stunting in Rwanda. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 59(4), 777–810.

Alexander, D. E. (2013). Resilience and disaster risk reduction: an etymological journey. Natural hazards and earth system sciences, 13(11), 2707-2716.

Alinovi, L., D’errico, M., Mane, E., & Romano, D. (2010). Livelihoods strategies and household resilience to food insecurity: An empirical analysis to Kenya. In “Conference on “promoting resilience through social protection in sub-Saharan Africa”, organized by the European report of development in Dakar, Senegal”, pp. 28-30.

Alinovi, L., Mane, E., & Romano, D. (2008). Towards the measurement of household resilience to food insecurity: Applying a model to Palestinian household data. In Deriving Food

Security Information from National Household Budget Surveys. Experiences, Achievement, Challenges (pp. 137–152). Rome: FAO.

Alix-Garcia, J., Walker, S., Bartlett, A., Onder, H., & Sanghi, A. (2018). Do refugee camps help or hurt hosts? The case of Kakuma, Kenya. Journal of Development Economics, 130, 66–83.

Amankwah, A., & Gourlay, S. (2021). Impact of covid-19 crisis on agriculture: Evidence from five sub-Saharan African countries. LSMS study. World Bank: Washington DC.

Arias, M. A., Ibáñez, A. M. & Zambrano, A. (2019).

Agricultural production amid conflict: Separating the effects of conflict into shocks and uncertainty. World Development, 119, 165-184.

Artadi, E. V, & Sala-I-Martin, X. (2003). The economic tragedy of the 20th century: Growth in africa. NBER working paper 9865.

Awodola, B. & A. Oboshi. (2015). Terrorism in Northern Nigeria: A Threat to Food Security in Maiduguri. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 6(3), 11-17.

Balassa, B. (1989). Policy Responses to Exogenous Shocks in Developing Countries. American Economic Review, 76(2), 32–38.

Balassa, B. (1989). Policy Responses to Exogenous Shocks in Developing Countries. American Economic Review, 76(2), 32–38. https://doi. org/10.1007/978-1-349-10588-5_2

Balkan, B., & Tumen, S. (2016). Immigration and prices: quasi-experimental evidence from Syrian refugees in Turkey. Journal of Population Economics, 29(3), 657–686.

Bellemare, M.F. (2015). “Rising Food Prices, Food

Price Volatility, and Social Unrest.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics 97(1):1–21.

Béné, C. (2020). Resilience of local food systems and links to food security – A review of some important concepts in the context of COVID-19 and other shocks. Food Security 12(4), 805–822.

Besley, T., & Reynal-Querol, M. (2014). The legacy of historical conflict: Evidence from Africa. American Political Science Review, 108(2), 319–336.

Bjørndal, Trond, Alena Lappo, Madan Dey, Audun Lem & Anna Child. (2016). Economic analysis of food supply and demand in Sub-Saharan Africa up to 2022. Fisheries and Aquaculture Circular, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.

Bourblanc, M., Ducrot, R., & Mapedza, E. (2017).

Path Dependence in Nebo Plateau: Strategic Partnerships and Rural Poverty Alleviation in South African Small-Scale Irrigation Schemes. Journal of Southern African Studies, 43(2), 381–396.

Bozzoli, C., & Brück, T. (2009). Agriculture, Poverty, and Postwar Reconstruction: Micro-Level Evidence from Northern Mozambique. Journal of Peace Research, 46(3), 377–397.

Brück, Tilman, Marco d’Errico, & Rebecca Pietrelli. (2019). “The Effects of Violent Conflict on Household Resilience and Food Security: Evidence from the 2014 Gaza Conflict.” World Development, 119, 203-223.

Butler, C. K., & Gates, S. (2012). African range wars: Climate, conflict, and property rights. Journal of Peace Research, 49(1), 23–34.

Calderón-Mejía, V., & Ibáñez, A. M. (2016). Labour market effects of migration-related supply shocks: Evidence from internal refugees in Colombia. Journal of Economic Geography, 16(3), 695–713.

Calderón, C., & Servén, L. (2010). Infrastructure and

Economic Development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Journal of African Economies, 19(1), 13–87.

Carpenter, S., Walker, B., Anderies, J.M., & Abel, N., (2001). From Metaphor to Measurement: Resilience of What to What? Ecosystems 4, 765–781.

Casey, K., Suri, T & R. Glennester. (2014). The

Economic Impacts of Ebola: The First 100

Firms. Stanford Institute for Innovation in Development Economics. Stanford CA.,

Chapagain, T., & Raizada, M. N. (2017). Impacts of natural disasters on smallholder farmers: Gaps and recommendations. Agriculture and Food Security, 6(1), 39.

Chapoto, A & Jayne, T. (2007). “The impacts of Trade barriers and market interventions on maize price predictability: Evidence from Eastern and Southern Africa”. Working paper, Michigan State University.

Choularton, R., Frankenberger, T., Kurtz, J., & Nelson, S. (2015). Measuring Shocks and Stressors as Part of Resilience Measurement. Resilience Measurement Technical Working Group.

Cissé, Jennifer Denno & Barrett, Christopher B., (2018). “Estimating development resilience: A conditional moments-based approach,” Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135, 272-284.

Collier, P., & Gunning, J. W. (1999). Why Has Africa Grown Slowly? Journal of Economic Perspectives, 13(3), 3–22.

Constas, M., Frankenberger, T., & Hoddinott, J.

(2014a). Resilience measurement principles:

Toward an agenda for measurement design.

Resilience Measurement Technical Working Group, Technical Series: Food Security Information Network.

Cooke, J. G., Sanderson, T. M., Johnson, J. C., & Hubner, B. (2016). Militancy and the Arc of Instability: Violent Extremism in the Sahel.

Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Recent Posts

See All

When infusing pantoprazole, use a separate IV line, a pump, and an in-line filter. A brown wrapper and frequent vital signs are not needed. A client has gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The pro

Your paragraph text(10).png
bottom of page