Saturday, 16 January 2010

Drought, Famine, and Conflict: Case from the Horn of Africa

In the Horn of Africa especially, drought is part and parcel of daily life. It is so common that in many African societies, the drought season marks an important part of the annual calendar. In a recent BBC report, the UN expressed fears that ... "The world is in danger of allowing a drought in East Africa to become a humanitarian catastrophe".[1] At the same time, I came across news headline that said, "Kenya drought worsens conflict."[2] These headlines made me think more deeply about the two issues: if conflict and drought are the scourge of our modern world, it would therefore be appropriate to question their symbiotic relationship. If they are related, how do they influence each other? Is drought a cause of conflict or is conflict a cause of drought? Will drought always trigger conflict? Will conflict exacerbate drought? (Conflict cannot change weather patterns, but it can affect agricultural practices, land use, and other social factors that intensify the effects of diminished rainfall, particularly by causing famine).

This paper will show the relationship between drought, famine, and conflict. Drought is mainly a natural phenomenon that affects parts of the world. Some areas of the world with strong economies and viable political structures have successfully responded to the advent of drought in their countries by adjusting water storage, allocation, and usage patterns, while other parts of the world have dismally failed to do so. Africa is an example of an area that suffers from recurring drought and desertification. Short-lived droughts are seldom dangerous; but sequential drought years are. Though sequential droughts are common in the Horn of Africa, people there have not successfully responded to it; rather they have been devastated by it. Is this because almost all of the recent droughts and famines in the Horn of Africa region have occurred in situations of armed conflicts? A relationship seems likely.

In this paper, I argue that drought is a contributing factor to conflict and conflict exacerbates drought, making famine more likely. Therefore, drought, conflict, and famine are inextricably linked, with each acting as a catalyst to the other. The situation in the Horn of Africa will be a showcase to support the thesis.
Read more

No comments: