“Conflict, Food Price Shocks, and Food Insecurity: The Experience of Afghan Households
,” a paper prepared for presentation at the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association’s
annual meeting, examines the relationship between conflict and food prices, using Afghanistan during the 2008 global food crisis
as a case study. By examining per capita food intake, numbers of fatalities and injuries, and the number of violent incidents in a given area, authors Anna D’Souza and Dean Jolliffe, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and World Bank, respectively, determine that “at least in the case of Afghanistan, conflict does not seem to be the predominant driver of food insecurity.” Instead, inhabitants of conflict-prone regions, namely southern Afghanistan
, consume more food, on the whole, than their northern compatriots. Residents of conflict areas do seem to be more affected by major food price increases
, however these are fairly uncommon. D’Souza and Jolliffe speculate that this may be due to “interruptions in market access, inability to trade and barter, and worse food production and distribution systems.” These findings may be somewhat counterintuitive, but are an important resource for those seeking to reduce food insecurity in both conflict-prone and peaceful regions.
In a working paper for the Center of Global Development, Samuel Bazzi and Christopher Blattman upend much of the established thinking on the relationship between commodity prices and conflict onset. Past researchers have found that lower prices of agricultural commodities lead to conflict as civilians have less to lose by rebelling against the government, and higher prices of resources like oil and minerals can lead to conflict as rebel groups have greater incentive to seize control. Contrary to these explanations, however, Bazzi and Blattman find “no evidence of a consistent, robust relationship between commodity price shocks and political instability.” Even when examining states with higher risks of conflict, like those which are particularly fragile, ethnically polarized, economically unequal, especially poor, and/or located in sub-Saharan Africa, they find no correlation between price shocks and conflict. The only evidence of a relationship they find is that rising prices lead to rising incomes, which can hasten the end of a conflict, but even this correlation is weak and varies from state to state. Though currently only a working paper, Bazzi and Blattman’s research provides an intriguing counter-narrative: “We argue that errors and publication bias have likely distorted the theoretical and empirical literature on political instability,” they write.