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Addressing Food Insecurity in Fragile States; Case Studies from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Sudan


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Drawing on case studies from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia and Sudan, this paper focuses on policy, programming and institutional issues related to addressing food insecurity in protracted crises and fragile states, with a focus on areas afflicted by conflicts. The case studies illustrate how dysfunctional institutions are at the root of structural food insecurity and show how local people and institutions have been able, to a certain extent, to adapt and cope with the crises. However, the protracted nature of the crises has substantially eroded people’s assets and weakened the capacities of traditional safety net systems to provide protection. Against this background, mainstream humanitarian assistance – which has been the international community’s dominant response – has not been able to address the basic determinants of food security and in particular has not sufficiently supported the positive efforts of local institutions. The case studies illustrate some innovative approaches for addressing food insecurity during protracted crises. They show that while it remains indispensable to ensure neutrality for immediate responses that protect the most vulnerable, it is also crucial to take into account institutional and policy dynamics that support processes to rebuild resilience; create opportunities for strengthening the livelihoods of affected population at the very early stages of the crisis; and develop an adequate basket of interventions to address a variety of needs.
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Addressing Food Insecurity in Fragile
States: Case Studies from the
Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Somalia and Sudan
Luca Alinovi, Günter Hemrich and Luca Russo
ESA Working Paper No. 07-21
July 2007
Agricultural Development Economics Division
The Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations
ESA Working Paper No. 07-21
Addressing Food Insecurity in Fragile States: Case
Studies from the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Somalia and Sudan
July 2007
Luca Alinovi
Agricultural Development
Economics Division
Food and Agriculture Organization
Günter Hemrich
Agricultural Development
Economics Division
Food and Agriculture Organization
Luca Russo
Agricultural Development
Economics Division
Food and Agriculture Organization
Drawing on case studies from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia and
Sudan, this paper focuses on policy, programming and institutional issues related to
addressing food insecurity in protracted crises and fragile states, with a focus on areas
afflicted by conflicts. The case studies illustrate how dysfunctional institutions are at the root
of structural food insecurity and show how local people and institutions have been able, to a
certain extent, to adapt and cope with the crises. However, the protracted nature of the crises
has substantially eroded people’s assets and weakened the capacities of traditional safety
net systems to provide protection. Against this background, mainstream humanitarian
assistance – which has been the international community’s dominant response – has not
been able to address the basic determinants of food security and in particular has not
sufficiently supported the positive efforts of local institutions. The case studies illustrate
some innovative approaches for addressing food insecurity during protracted crises. They
show that while it remains indispensable to ensure neutrality for immediate responses that
protect the most vulnerable, it is also crucial to take into account institutional and policy
dynamics that support processes to rebuild resilience; create opportunities for strengthening
the livelihoods of affected population at the very early stages of the crisis; and develop an
adequate basket of interventions to address a variety of needs.
Key Words: Food security, Institutions, Protracted crisis, Fragile states, Resilience,
Livelihoods, Humanitarian assistance.
JEL: Q15, Q18, R20, R52.
We are grateful to A. Catley, P. Little, S. Pantuliano, T. Raeymaekers and K. Vlassenroot for preparing the case
studies, and to Andrea Stoutland for final editing of this paper.
The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the
expression of any opinion whatsoever of the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation
of its frontiers or boundaries.
1 Food insecurity in protracted crises and fragile states
Drawing on case studies from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia and
Sudan, this paper focuses on policy, programming and institutional issues related to
addressing food insecurity in protracted crises and fragile states. The persistence of food
insecurity and the protracted nature of food emergencies require a search for effective
approaches and the right mix of instruments by way of which food security programmes and
interventions are planned and implemented under difficult circumstances.
It is estimated that more than 50 million people worldwide live in areas affected by protracted
crises that have lasted for five years or more.
In 2006, 25 of the 39 serious food emergencies
were due to conflict and its aftermath or a combination of conflict and natural hazards.
Some of these crises have been going on for years, others for decades, with varying degrees of
intensity and impacts on food insecurity. In such a context, a protracted food crisis may be
defined as “the persistent uncertainties in people’s access to food due to a range of interacting
demand- and supply-side factors” (Flores et al., 2005). Indeed, the key features of most
protracted crises, in addition to the loss of human lives due to conflicts, are the increasing
levels of food insecurity and hunger. As shown in Figure 1, five countries in Africa,
including the DRC, Somalia and Sudan, have declared food emergencies during 15 or more of
the years since 1986.
Commission of the European Communities (2006): 15
FAO Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) reports
Figure 1 Protracted food emergencies in Africa
Source: FAO Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).
The global effort to reduce chronic hunger (as manifested during the 1996 World Food
Summit (WFS)) has stagnated for more than a decade, with the number of undernourished
people remaining above 850 million. Significant progress in some regions and countries has
been masked by setbacks in others. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of undernourished
people increased by 37 million between 1991 (the baseline period for the WFS target) and
2002, the latest reference period. This increase can largely be attributed to the changes in five
war-torn countries, which accounted for 78 percent of the region’s total increase (SOFI, 2006).
Particularly dramatic was the worsening of food insecurity in the DRC, where the number of
undernourished people tripled from 12 million to 36 million, and the prevalence increased
from 31 to 72 percent of the population (SOFI, 2006).
In order to overcome the impasse, the persistence of protracted food security crises must be
addressed. The picture of global food insecurity draws attention to vulnerable and fragile
states that lack the capacity or institutional frameworks to implement long-term food security
solutions in the face of unfolding crises.
United Nations and donor coordination bodies are
devoting more attention to ways to better address the critical problem of food insecurity in
Commission of the European Communities (2006): 4
situations of crisis (particularly those of a complex and protracted nature), instability and
In recent years there has also been increasing interest in how best to engage with and work in
fragile states, and a number of donors have developed specific fragile states strategies.
various definitions of fragile states cover a wide spectrum of stages including state collapse,
loss of territorial control, low administrative capacity, political instability, repressive policies
and conflict.
Efforts have also been made to create indices to identify fragile or failed states.
However, it is easier to reach agreement on the broad range of problems associated with failed
states than to agree on a definite list of fragile states. Some of the methodological challenges
to identifying a fragile state include:
i) The framing of state fragility is necessarily subjective given the contested character of
concepts of stability, governance and democratization.
ii) Statistical comparisons across countries do not explain trajectories for state collapse.
iii) Indices are not linked to strategic response frameworks.
Nevertheless, what is of interest from our perspective is that countries experiencing food
security crises related to protracted conflict are consistently included in the top range of these
Of particular interest is whether some of the strategy frameworks for fragile states can inform
policy options for protracted food security crises, and whether some of the lessons from work
on food security in protracted crises are relevant to discussions concerning the appropriate
mechanisms for providing aid to fragile states. This paper extracts lessons from the DRC,
Somalia and Sudan in relation to the following themes:
Linking relief and development. Protracted crises are characterized by policy and
funding gaps and “grey zones” between humanitarian assistance, rehabilitation and
development. The dynamic nature of food insecurity calls for a flexible and parallel
use of humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and development instruments, adapted to the
For information on donor organizations that have designed fragile state strategies, see World Bank (2006),
DFID (2005) and USAID (2005).
Torres, Magüi Moreno and Anderson (2006): 6.
Fragile or failed states indices include: the Low Income Countries under Stress list (LICUS) (World Bank)
(; the Country Policy and Institutional Assessment
(CPIA); and the Failed States Index (Fund for Peace) (
specific conditions of the crisis context. The experiences reviewed include the use and
sequencing of these instruments in a variety of sectors and geographic settings.
Linkages between food security and conflict. The United Nations Secretary-
General’s 2006 progress report on the prevention of armed conflict states that “tackling
food insecurity and related problems of agricultural underproduction and resource
scarcity can do much to stabilize a fragile situation”. The report highlights the
important role that food assistance plays before, during and after a crisis, demanding
that “in addition to paying much closer attention to food insecurity that can lead to
conflict, it is important to deliver food and other assistance in ways that do not
contribute to conflict”. We cite examples from the case studies of such links between
conflict and food security.
Intervention levels. Humanitarian interventions are usually targeted to vulnerable
population groups, and are often delivered through non-governmental channels.
Development interventions aimed at enhancing the service delivery capacity of
governments are often targeted to the national level, with only limited focus on
institutional capacity at meso-level. The case studies provide examples of
opportunities and challenges for strengthening local institutions in crisis contexts and
for building synergies between these different levels.
Partnerships. Where states are fragile there is a tendency for humanitarian aid to be
delivered by circumventing the government, for example through non-governmental
organizations (NGOs). This raises the questions of what the options are for entering in
dialogue with government, NGOs and other partners and how to provide incentives for,
and how to invest in, government capacity-building, particularly at meso- and local
levels. The Sudan Nuba Mountains case is particularly relevant on these aspects.
2 Characterizing food security perspectives and responses in case study
This section is based on the findings that emerged from six case studies undertaken in eastern
DRC, Somalia and southern Sudan as part of a FAO-ESA research project on Institutions and
food security in protracted crises. The case studies were conducted by researchers with
experience in the field. Their aim was to describe and analyse processes in three conflict-
affected and fragile states, which have led to extreme levels of institutional dysfunctionality
and the depletion of assets and have resulted in high levels of human suffering and food
insecurity. In Sudan, between 1983 and 2004 about 2 million people died and 6 million were
uprooted as a result of the conflict between the central government and rebel groups (in
particular the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)) in the southern part of the country
(Russo, 2007). The Congolese wars (1996–1998 and 1998–2003) constituted one of the most
severe humanitarian disasters since the Second World War, involving at least six African
nations and more than a dozen rebel groups; during the conflict, more than 3 million
Congolese died a direct or indirect consequence of armed confrontations (Vlassenroot, 2007).
Following the overthrow of late President Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia was propelled into two
years of large-scale conflict and famine and a humanitarian crisis of historical proportions that
claimed more than 100 000 lives and sparked a mass exodus of Somalis, which by 1999 had
reached an outflow of more than 1 million people, the equivalent of about 15 percent of the
country’s 1990 population (Little, 2007).
The case studies also examine the responses undertaken by the international community
during the conflict and in the post-conflict period to mitigate the effects of conflict and
address the causes of the crisis and food insecurity, and they discuss the operational and
conceptual limitations of such responses.
Box 1 The case studies
The six case studies on which this paper is based are:
Responding to protracted crises: the principled model of NMPACT in the Sudan (Pantuliano, 2007)
describes the impact of the conflict on the Nuba Mountains population and how an alliance between donors,
agencies and local stakeholders based on principles of engagement resulted in coordinated efforts to address the
key determinants of the conflict and of food insecurity.
Policies, practice and participation in protracted crises: the case of livestock interventions in southern
Sudan (Catley, Leyland and Bishop, 2007) describes how programmes to support pastoralist livelihoods in
southern Sudan have been able to introduce innovative, participatory elements that go beyond the traditional
humanitarian framework.
Livelihoods, assets and food security in a protracted political crisis: the case of the Jubba Region,
southern Somalia (Little, 2007) focuses on the importance of assets and institutions for food security and
describes how people and local institutions adapted to the conflict.
Livestock and livelihoods in protracted crisis: the case of southern Somalia (Leyland, Haji-Abdi, Catley and
Hassan, 2007) describes the challenges and lessons learned from pastoralist development programmes in
Somalia and advocates for a pastoralist-centred approach as opposed to more traditional interventions.
Land tenure, conflict and household strategies in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (Vlassenroot,
2007) analyses issues related to land tenure as factors of conflict and food security.
Conflict and food security in Beni-Lubero: back to the future? (Raeymaekers, 2007) presents area-based
case studies in eastern DRC to describe the interaction between institutions, conflicts and food security.
Each crisis (and the resulting food insecurity manifestations) discussed here is unique in most
aspects. In the case of Sudan, the major determinant of the crisis in southern regions has been
the conflict between the central government and basically one rebel group, the SPLA, which
controlled large parts of the country but had, until recently, very limited political legitimacy.
Most of Somalia, on the other hand, remains outside the control of any formal state, while
transient and structural food security problems have been exacerbated by local conflicts. In
(eastern) DRC, food insecurity is largely attributable to the negative effects of militia conflicts
on local institutions and governance, including lack of security.
However, there are also a number of features in common and cross-cutting issues that emerge.
Governance-related issues are at the root of conflicts resulting in food insecurity and assets
depletion and mainstream emergency and humanitarian responses have not adequately
addressed the basic determinants of the crises. In this paper the issues are organized into three
the critical role of institutions;
effects on livelihood systems (adaptation and the limits of resilience); and
limitations and challenges in responses to the crises.
The critical role of institutions
The case studies provide ample evidence of the institutional changes caused by a general,
prolonged lack of governance – which was often at the root of the conflict – and by conflict
itself, and of the impact of these changes on livelihoods and the resilience of food systems.
The resulting papers highlight the crucial importance of the institutional context in mediating,
for better or worse, the food security impacts.
We adopt a broad definition of the term “institutions” to encompass processes that occur
outside formal institutions but are relevant to the context of fragile states in conflict situations:
“Institutions are the rules of the game in a society, or more formally are the humanly-devised
constraints that shape human interaction” (North, 1990). The case studies provide examples of
how institutional dysfunctionality started well before the conflict(s) and how it contributed
directly or indirectly to the conflict(s) and to food insecurity. In the case of DRC and Somalia
formal institutions were already undergoing a phase of deterioration prior to the conflict(s)
and were unable to play a role in guaranteeing the access of certain groups to vital natural
resources or basic services. Access to land and institutional issues related to land tenure
emerge from several studies as a crucial factor of conflict and food insecurity. In the case of
DRC, access to land and land tenure issues had already been a factor in poverty and
discrimination prior to the conflict(s). The 1973 General Property Law declared all land
(including land under customary control) property of the state and integrated the traditional
rural order into the urban-controlled modern political system. Consequently, traditional social
order and integration were replaced by a system of social stratification in which proximity to
the political centre was a condition for the accumulation of wealth. Various local wars then
exacerbated conflict, and predatory behaviour in relation to land, and land itself, became
factors of conflict, with politico-military elites consolidating their power bases and rewarding
their supporters by extending control over land.
In Jubba (southern Somalia) also, conflicts and patronage led to the dispossession of land,
particularly that of marginalized and fragile groups such as the Bantu minority (Little, 2007).
In the case of Sudan, the role of formal institutions was so important as to be identified as a
key triggering factor of the conflict. Pantuliano (2007) describes how Government of Sudan
policies affected the level of food insecurity in the Nuba Mountains, first through the
Unregistered Land Act of 1970 (which set the stage for land-grabbing for mechanized
farming schemes) and later through the displacement of Nuba people in “peace village”
policies (see Box 2) and the blockade of humanitarian aid in SPLA-controlled areas. These
measures disrupted traditional farming systems and had a severe impact on the Nuba people
and Nuba agro-ecology.
The case studies also provide evidence and examples of how informal institutions such as
social norms, kinship-based safety nets and regulation of natural resource are relevant to food
security and how they have been particularly affected by the protracted crises. For example,
the regulatory agreement between Arab pastoralists and Nuba farmers in Sudan was disrupted
by the conflict, with direct effects on food security.
Box 2 The impact of the conflict on traditional regulatory mechanisms in the Nuba Mountains
The relation between nomadic Arab groups and settled farmers in the Nuba Mountains has been
characterized by both peaceful co-existence and confrontation. From the perspective of interacting
roduction systems, settled farming and pastoralism are highly complementary. Until the 1970s in different
parts of the Nuba Mountains pastoralists and farmers tried to capitalize on their interaction to maximize the
use of available resources. Arab pastoralists were allowed into the mountains and other farming areas after
the harvest was collected and usually stayed there until the first rains. They grazed their livestock on the
harvested fields, thus fertilizing them, and helped the villagers transport their grain to the market with their
camels. In some cases production and commercial links between farmers and pastoralists developed,
fodder and grazing could be exploited after cultivation and draught linkages were even developed between
them. Pastoral nomadic populations were therefore fully integrated into the sedentary political economy.
However, patterns of political marginalization and economic exploitation of Nuba communities have
caused current relationships in the region to be characterized by conflict rather than complementarity. The
last decade and a half of war has further undermined the viability of previous regulatory agreements.
(Adapted from Pantuliano, 2007)
In Sudan, the breakages of social norms (linked to the conflict) led to more destructive and
ruthless cattle raids, with massive displacements and loss of lives and livelihoods (see Catley
et al., 2007). Both studies on pastoralism observed that the regulatory function exercised by
local institutions over water and pasture were weakened by conflict, and this led to
overexploitation of natural resources and had a negative impact on pastoralists’ livelihoods.
Another crucial element with a direct bearing on food security is the inability of traditional
kinship-based mechanisms to provide social protection in case of massive and prolonged
crises. The 1998 conflict-driven famine in Bahr El Ghazal (Sudan) was identified by some
Dinka groups as the famine of breaking relationships (Deng, 1999; Catley et al., 2007), which
led to social entitlement failure and the supplanting of traditional elder authorities by military
authorities. Similarly, in the Masisi region in eastern DRC, social structure and related
kinship-based mechanisms for land distribution, already worn down prior to the conflict,
eventually collapsed due to it. Many households were increasingly excluded from access to
land and could no longer rely on the mechanisms of distribution and solidarity provided by
the customary social structure (Vlassenroot, 2007).
The case studies also provide evidence that the capacities of local population and local
institutions to adapt and eventually exploit the changing circumstances can mean that
conflicts and institutional changes do not necessarily lead to a negative food security outcome.
The absence of formal institutions and regulatory functions in eastern DRC favoured the
movement of people from Lake Edward to the Virunga National Park. This offered fisherfolk
who had become food insecure because of the depletion of fisheries resources the opportunity
to create an agricultural-based livelihood for themselves (see Box 3).
Box 3 Changing livelihoods in North Kivu (eastern DRC)
Lake Edward was once the fishing reserve of the entire province of North
Kivu, but its halieutic output declined radically, from over 11 000 tonnes per
year in 1954 to 3 000 in 1989. The reasons for this radical decline lie in the
institutional disorganization surrounding the exploitation of Lake Edward:
following independence from colonialism, an amalgam of actors and
organizations (cooperatives, customary chiefs, environmental agents,
regulatory organizations) emerged to compete for access to the lake’s reserves.
Another problem was the absence of an efficient protection mechanism to
prevent the lake being overexploited, which resulted in widespread use of
illegal fishing techniques.
Confronted with this decline in local production, the population started
cultivating rice, maize, soya, bananas and manioc in the northern part of
Virunga National Park. Due to its favourable location, the park offered a
perfect alternative for the production of subsistence and commercial crops.
Paradoxically, the war thus greatly facilitated an economic alternative to Lake
Edward’s declining potential. Rather than continuing to suffer from
diminishing production, the population of Lake Edward gradually reclaimed its
access to Virunga National Park, ‘thanksto the absence of a rigid regulation
(Adapted from Raeymaekers, 2007)
In Jubba, Somalia, local institutions adapted to the conflict; local markets continued to
function during the conflict and were extremely relevant to food security (see Box 4) (Little,
2007). These findings on markets were confirmed by other studies. Another commonly-held
assumption was contradicted by the study of Beni Lubero in the DRC, where it was found that
farmers confronted with acute crisis situations do not always withdraw into subsistence
farming (Raeymaekers, 2007).
Box 4 Rural markets in protracted crisis situations
In a protracted emergency it is easy to misjudge the extent to which markets remain operational. There are
numerous examples of well-intentioned NGOs providing emergency services and assistance in southern
Somalia on the assumption that functioning markets were not present. For example, in the 1990s, free seed
distribution was provided in Somalia when many local farmers were already accessing these inputs through
private channels. Despite the misperception that markets cease functioning in a conflict, Jubba residents
continue to rely heavily on them both to sell commodities and to purchase food. Consumption and
expenditure patterns prior to 1991show that herding and agro-
astoral groups relied on the market for about
40 percent of their food needs during the year as a whole, and up to 70 percent during the long dry season.
The largest single expenditure item was grain, which constituted as much as 70 percent of food purchases
during the long dry season. The Food Security Analysis Unit for Somalia (FSAU) livelihood profiles show
that there is still a similar dependence on market purchases for subsistence needs. With increased human
population growth and the declines in per capita livestock holdings, the dependence on non-
astoral products
in the diet has increased.
Settled farmers in the Jubba Valley also depend on the market to purchase food, although not to the extent
that pastoral groups do. During good production years prior to 1991 they purchased about 20 percent of their
grain needs from the market. Currently in a normal year households of mid-level wealth living in the riverine
area rely on purchases for 30 to 40 percent of their food.
Evidence seems to indicate that in practice in Jubba most markets have remained operational and
accessibility problems for individuals are due to poverty (low purchasing power) or high prices due to
political distortions.
(Adapted from Little, 2007)
Nonetheless, as we will discuss in the next sections, international responses to the crises have
focussed mainly on life-saving and short-term livelihoods protection measures. They have
scarcely recognized the importance of institutional issues and have failed to support those
institutional processes that could have mitigated the effects of the crises.
The effects on livelihood systems: adaptation and the limits of resilience
A feature distinguishing short-term shocks (such as floods or droughts) from protracted crises
is the impact they have on people’s livelihoods. While the impact of short-term shocks can be
of a temporary nature and mitigated by people’s coping strategies, in the case of protracted
crises the effects tend to be of a more structural character. Unlike natural catastrophes,
protracted crises are often characterized by conflicts as well as by an absence of public
services, including security, health, education and regulations in the productive and trade
sectors – all of which may lead to the sustained erosion of the livelihoods of specific groups,
resulting in structural vulnerability.
All six case studies showed that conflict and governance-related protracted crisis situations
caused considerable erosion of household and community assets and led to substantial
changes in the livelihoods basis of the affected populations. A number of cross-cutting issues
and common trends emerged in relation to livelihoods.
Firstly, there were several common types of losses that affected people’s key assets, which
occurred due to lack of security that should have been provided by the state or by local
institutions. One prime example is the substantial reduction or disappearance of livestock
from people’s livelihoods basis, as in Nuba in Sudan and Jubba in Somalia (and illustrated in
detail by the case studies on pastoralism in Somalia and southern Sudan). Insecurity of land
tenure provoked a change in cropping patterns in eastern DRC and the Nuba Mountains,
while loss of labour opportunities occurred in most areas researched. Changing levels of
access to markets, with a general worsening of the terms of trade for pastoralists and
agropastoralists (as in Jubba) and also in some cases for farmers (as in eastern DRC) are also
common features of crises.
Secondly, it appears that most changes in livelihoods bases that occur in prolonged crisis
situations are not short term in nature. Typical traditional coping mechanisms, such as shifting
of crop patterns or gathering of fruits and wild leaves, Davies (1993) defines as “short-term,
temporary responses to declining food entitlements, which are characteristic of structurally
secure livelihood systems”. Instead, in the six case studies these changes were of an adaptive
nature, both in negative and positive terms, and showed that farmers and other vulnerable
groups do have long-term visions of the crises and are in certain circumstance able to exploit
the “opportunities” offered by some crises. Farmers displaced by the conflict and afflicted by
dwindling access to cultivated land due to population pressure moved from central to western
Lubero, where conditions were better, at least for the time being. In Jubba, pastoralists and
agro-pastoralists gradually moved toward agriculture as a normal response to population
demands and volatile grain prices.
Civil society organizations have made important contributions in supporting the adaptive
capacities of vulnerable groups and strengthening resilience. However, the opportunities they
create are often ignored, if not undermined, by the international community. In Walungu,
DRC, the only organizations playing a role in land disputes (the main cause of conflict) are
informal community-based chambres de paix (peace councils). Local Nuba organizations in
Sudan discouraged negative short-term approaches such as unrestricted food aid distribution,
which could have eroded the overall resilience of food systems. Kinship support also played
an important role in strengthening resilience in the case of the Nuba. In Somalia, transfers of
money from Somalis living outside the country (estimated at 22.5 percent of gross domestic
product (GDP)) play a crucial role in the economy and in the protection of Somalia
households, a role that is normally ignored or underplayed in needs assessments and
vulnerability analyses undertaken by external actors. However, as noted previously, social
safety net mechanisms tend to break and lose effectiveness as crises progress and/or increase
in intensity (on the DRC, see Vlassenroot, 2007; on southern Sudan, see Catley et al., 2007).
While the considerable adaptive capacities of local population and institutions was a constant,
one matter of concern is the overall resilience of the society and more in particular of food
systems – that is to say, the “measure of a system to remain stable or to adapt to new situation
without undergoing catastrophic changes in its basic functions” (Pingali, et al., 2005). For
example, the agricultural exploitation of Virunga National Park in DRC is already being
affected by environmental degradation. Furthermore, this alternative livelihoods strategy
faces obstacles from the same “institutional” factors from which the benefiting households
(former fisherfolk) tried to escape, namely the “environmental services” that were complicit
in the destruction of Lake Edward’s productive output. In Sudan, Nuba farmers also adapted
their farming systems to the conflict situation by concentrating cultivation practices in the
more secure hilly areas. However, such a system is likely to have negative repercussions on
the agro-ecology of the area, given that the traditional pre-conflict farming system comprised
three separate pieces of land: the house farm, the hillside farm and the “far” farm in the clay
plains, cultivated with long season sorghum and groundnuts.
Responding to protracted crises: limitations and challenges
In the contexts discussed here (southern Sudan, eastern DRC and southern Somalia), where
state and government presence has been almost non-existent, international assistance has been
the main – and sometimes the only – source of public transfer to support immediate needs and
provide a few essential services aimed at specific vulnerable groups. In Sudan, development
assistance dropped dramatically due to the economic boycott;
while in the southern part of
the country controlled by the SPLA/M, the perceived lack of legitimacy of the SPLM meant
that the only form of transfer was in the form of humanitarian assistance channelled through
international agencies and NGOs. During the conflict the international community was
Overseas development assistance (ODA) peaked in 1985 at US$1 900 million but dropped to US$100 million
in 1996 (Lehtinen, 2001), to be replaced by humanitarian aid.
perceived as taking over many of the normal government functions,
focusing mainly on
short-term responses and very few essential services.
In such a context, very rarely have international responses addressed the underlying and
longer-term causes of food insecurity. The interventions have focussed mostly on addressing
the effects or immediate causes of food insecurity rather than their determinants. This is
probably due to the fact that humanitarian aid is virtually the only instrument available during
conflict-related protracted crises and, as several authors correctly argue, its main focus should
continue to be humanitarian (see Buchanan-Smith and Christoplos, 2004). However in such a
context there remains a clear gap in knowledge and adequate instruments to address the
longer-term determinants of the crises by, for example, supporting local formal and informal
institutions, livelihood strategies and positive adaptive mechanisms adopted by the population
in the face of the crises. The case studies provided details on the issues discussed below.
Short-term responses dominate
Responses to crises have been dominated by short-term interventions based on humanitarian
principles (“neutrality” and “saving lives” in particular) undertaken outside state structures,
and characterized by funding horizons of between six months and two years, with high
volatility of aid flows. There is a marked tendency to focus on food availability (food aid and
immediate agricultural recovery measures) rather than on the access and stability dimensions
of food security. The DRC and Jubba studies pointed out the emphasis on agricultural
rehabilitation through distribution of free seeds and tools, while in the case of Sudan food aid
represented nearly 60 percent of all humanitarian assistance (Russo, 2005).
Another dominant feature is the absence of adequate linkages between the short-term time
frame of the interventions and the long-term issues that need to be addressed. Free
agricultural inputs were distributed in Jubba where local markets were functioning, which
could have a potential negative impact in the longer term. By Lake Edward in the DRC, freely
distributed fishing equipment further exacerbated the fisherfolks’ problem of overexploitation
of the fish and the subsequent depletion of coastal reserves.
“In 1998…the huge amount of assistance provided, coupled with weak civil administration, has meant that
within a brief period Operation Lifeline Sudan became the de facto government.” (Deng, 1999))
In Sudan, faced with limited funding horizons, alternative response strategies based on
longer-term and locally-based perspectives were undertaken that required that a common
understanding be reached and an alliance forged between all stakeholders through a buy-in
process. The Nuba Mountains Community Empowerment Project (NMPACT) was based on a
number of principles of engagement to be adhered to by all agencies. It promoted inclusion in
the coordinating structure of the two warring factions through their humanitarian agencies,
creating the basis for a sustained peace process at the local level. This approach marked a
substantial shift with respect to Operation Lifeline Sudan,
which was based essentially on the
humanitarian principles of “neutrality” and “impartiality” and so avoided entering into peace
building processes involving the warring factions. Within that framework, NMPACT
promoted coordinated efforts based on key priorities identified by the Nuba, which led to
development of a common plan of interventions made up of a combination of short-term and
long-term measures addressing both immediate and longer-term issues.
The pastoralist programme in southern Sudan aimed at addressing the vulnerability of
pastoralists with multi-year interventions tackling those longer-term issues necessary for
protecting and strengthening pastoralists’ herds. It included capacity-building, cost recovery,
involvement of local institutions and direct engagement with the knowledge and know-how of
the beneficiaries (including pastoralists and traditional healers). This helped to strengthen
local capacities, establish the basis for a sound and locally-controlled policy framework and,
to a certain degree, provide for the sustainability of the interventions.
In both of these cases, the interventions moved away from traditional mainstream emergency
frameworks: they extended the use of humanitarian aid beyond mechanisms focused strictly
on “saving lives”, instead supporting ways to decrease vulnerability. Identifying, designing,
and implementing this type of intervention required complicated and difficult processes
involving donors, local people and technical agencies. The process also required
understanding multi-dimensional problems, complex and evolving contexts and longer-term
strategic implications. The programme designs were characterized by the high degree of
Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) was a coordinating mechanism that includes all the major United Nations agencies
(UNICEF, WFP, FAO, OCHA and WHO) and some NGOs. OLS was the first humanitarian programme established through
a tripartite agreement (between the Government of Sudan, the SPLM and the United Nations) inside a foreign country to
provide relief to war-affected and internally displaced people. It was established in 1989 following a devastating famine
flexibility required by the evolving context, while they needed to respect both limited time
frames and the scope for initiatives considered acceptable for humanitarian actions.
Development paradigms are not always the answer
In protracted crisis contexts, mainstream longer-term programmes based on developmental
paradigms (e.g. sustainability, participation, cost recovery) may not necessarily provide an
alternative to humanitarian interventions. The agricultural support initiatives undertaken in
the DRC or Somalia were focussed essentially on infrastructure rehabilitation and agricultural
production and did not appear to offer long-term solutions to the structural and institutional
causes of food insecurity. The rigid application of development paradigms such as
“sustainability” or “participation” have sometimes been applied uncritically, failing to take
into account the context within which the activities were undertaken. In Somalia, for example,
some humanitarian and development agencies eager to promote participation worked with
local groups that represented militia factions rather than households and communities,
because the agencies had inadequate knowledge of clan politics in Somalia (Little, 2007).
Formal and informal policy contexts are not always taken into consideration
A cross-cutting issue (well illustrated by these case studies) is the weak linkage between the
policy environment and the responses undertaken. Clearly, in these contexts, formal policies
may be of little relevance due to weak institutional capacities and to the fact that they often
come from governments whose capacity for policy implementation is limited and that are
directly involved in the conflict. Therefore for the purposes of this paper we use the broader
definition of policy as “a purposive course of action followed by an actor or a set of actors”
(Anderson, 1994). The term can include formal donor and government policies, written
declarations of intent or plans and more informal policy, which might not be written down but
is apparent in certain decisions and actions. In a context characterized by poor governance,
such informal policy may be more relevant than any formal policy.
Underlying policies can be revealed in the humanitarian community’s programming or the
responses of local institutions and communities in specific contexts. In Sudan during the 1998
Bahr el Gazhal crisis, clan and kinship structures refused to accept the targeting mechanism
promoted by donors aimed at reaching those the outsiders perceived as most vulnerable (e.g.
households headed by women, internally displaced people) and instead used a redistribution
mechanism within the community (Harrigin, 1998; Deng, 1999). These actions reflected a
“policy” on the part of local communities that perceived food aid as a common good to be
used to strengthen long-term kinship ties and strengthen social capital over the longer term,
rather than to address the short-term needs of a part of the community.
There is a marked tendency on the part of the international community to ignore or downplay
the underlying policy environment and formal or informal policy processes, whether because
of concerns for humanitarian principles or lack of adequate in-depth analysis. This can have
repercussions for the long-term perspectives of the actions undertaken. The Area
Rehabilitation Scheme experience in the Nuba Mountains (See Box 5) was supported by the
humanitarian community, in spite of the fact that it was instrumental to the Government of
Sudan’s policy of depopulating areas under SPLM/A control and was consequently a factor in
the conflict.
Box 5 The ARS initiative: supporting disaster-producing policies
The Area Rehabilitation Scheme (ARS) in Kadugli (Nuba region, Sudan), implemented by the centra
Government of Sudan with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was to
support agricultural rehabilitation in order to tackle the problem of inadequate food production, to “
the road for sustainable development” and “reduce dependence on emergency assistance in areas affecte
by civil strife”.
The approach and strategy of the ARS were intensely criticized by an external review (Karim et al.,
1996). The review observed that the objectives of the ARS included supporting the local peac
administration to “resettle returnees in peace villages and then promote agricultural development to
strengthen their attachment to land”. The review team concluded that given that the Nuba
had bee
dispossessed of their land, the strategy suggested a disturbing ignorance of local realities and that th
programme represented a de facto accommodation by the United Nations of disaster-
roducing policies
of the Government of Sudan.
(Adapted from Pantuliano, 2007)
In Sudan there were also cases of utilization by warring factions of food aid provided within a
humanitarian framework; in some cases, the food aid was utilized to reach consensus and feed
militias but in others it was used to discriminate against “hostile” groups by curtailing their
access to assistance (Russo, 2005). Thus its use was more reflective of an underlying policy
of war and conflict than of humanitarian principles.
Governance issues are of key importance in delivering assistance
The issue of how to achieve improved operational coordination among parties and
organizations seeking to provide assistance in protracted crises and humanitarian emergencies
has received persistent attention from analysts in recent years (Macrae, 2002). Coordination
mechanisms are identified as key factors of success and failure in the responses undertaken in
various countries. The two DRC case studies point to the complete lack of coordination
mechanisms as a key shortcoming of external interventions. In both Sudan and Somalia there
were formal coordinating structures for international assistance, though Operation Lifeline
Sudan and the Somalia Aid Coordination Body had very different mandates.
The existence of a formal coordination mechanism is a condition that is necessary but not
sufficient to improve the effectiveness of aid delivery. Coordination mechanisms need to be
strengthened by agreed-upon enforcement mechanisms and should be based on shared basic
operational principles, clearly spelt-out partnership arrangements and common frameworks
for humanitarian and long-term interventions. (See, for example, Pantuliano (2007) and
Leyland, et al. (2007) concerning the codes of conduct developed by stakeholders working in
the pastoralist sector.)
Local partners and governments are often excluded from the development of humanitarian
responses because they may be perceived as a party in the conflict. One of the attributes of
good practice in long-term development initiatives – and a governance issue – is the
involvement of local partners and institutions in the definition and implementation of
responses, yet such involvement appears to be the exception rather than the rule in most
interventions studied. In the DRC local partners often simply execute the projects defined by
donors and are generally marginalized, while those initiatives with long-term perspectives and
identified by local stakeholders as important (such as the land dispute committees) receive
very little external support. In Somalia there is a large number of Islamic civil society
organizations that have significant potential for providing access to services (such as water,
education, vocational training and health) and for providing a popular political alternative to
Somali clannism, violence and state collapse – but they are ignored by traditional donors.
In contrast, in Sudan there were systematic efforts to involve national and local stakeholders
(including NGOs, pastoralist associations and government services) in establishing priorities
and implementing responses, with important and positive consequences. The Nuba
Rehabilitation, Relief and Development Organisation (NRRDO), a local NGO, helped
international partners set the rules of the game on the basis of Nuba priorities (as described in
Pantuliano, 2007).
Local partners were an essential component of the more successful interventions to address
longer-term needs in DRC, Somalia and Sudan, but the identification and involvement of
local partners remains a highly debated issue among both humanitarian and development
camps (see for example Longley and Maxwell, 2003; Slaymaker, Christiansen and Hemming,
2005; HPG, 2006). It is particularly difficult to make decisions regarding local partner
involvement in the absence of adequate analysis.
Analysis is often inadequate
An issue that emerges over and over again is the general inadequacy of the analysis on the
basis of which decisions and responses are made. The case studies show food insecurity to be
on the whole a manifestation of the social and political construct. This reconfirms the
essentially political nature of famine and food emergencies (see Sen, 1981; and de Waal, 1993)
and the need to incorporate the institutional, policy and livelihoods dimension of the crises
into food security responses (Devereux, 2000). Yet most of the mainstream analytical tools
utilized, particularly in the DRC and Sudan, have treated food insecurity as triggered basically
by natural hazards such as crop failure, or at best as livelihoods crises at the household level
caused by external factors. There are some experiences in Somalia that represent a notable
exception to this trend.
The current analytical frameworks remain substantially sectoral and on the whole geared
towards the identification of the basic needs of the affected populations, generally focussing
on food deficits and key livelihood protection actions. However, the crises we studied have
been characterized by institutional dysfunctioning or collapse and the disruption or collapse of
livelihoods, with an overall reduction in the society’s resilience. Further complicating matters
is the fact that in some cases, the interaction of institutional breakdown and conflict has
provoked the development of new, non-state centres of authority that consolidate themselves
around alternative patterns of social control, protection and profit. Understanding such
interactions requires a certain level of politico-economic analysis, which has sometimes been
undertaken, but tends to remain confined mostly to academic circles, with little impact on the
policy process.
In the DRC in particular, information analysis has been very limited and focussed mostly on
immediate needs assessments; there are very few studies on nutrition and food economy, little
analysis of land tenure issues, and no research on the dynamic nature of food systems.
Furthermore, most of the analysis undertaken has been geared towards identifying needs that
correspond to the capacities of intervening agencies to deliver specific goods, rather than to
adequate analyses for addressing both immediate and underlying causes. Cases in point are
the fishing equipment supplied for Lake Edward (Raeymaekers, 2007) and free seeds and
veterinary medicines supplied in Somalia (Leyland, et al., 2007).
In practice what emerges is that mainstream analysis has led to the prioritization of
investments dominated by humanitarian and emergency paradigms. While responses that
would have helped address, and sometimes prevent, some of the determinants of food
insecurity – such as land tenure insecurity, natural resource (mis)management, poor local
capacities, insecurity of fragile groups – have represented only a tiny percentage of external
assistance. However, broadening the scope of analysis is highly challenging due to the
absence of reliable and current information, the continuous and sudden changes of highly
volatile contexts and response frameworks limited mostly to humanitarian responses.
There are, however, a number of notable exceptions to this situation. The design of NMPACT
was based on a comprehensive survey to define the Nuba’s people short- and long-term
priorities. In Somalia, the FAO-supported FSAU has gradually expanded the scope of its
analysis; a forum approach encourages partners to share analysis and engage in building
consensus, thus favouring interactive communication with decision-makers (Hemrich, 2005).
Its recent development of the Integrated Food Security and Humanitarian Phase Classification
has provided an opportunity for a shared and commonly agreed analysis, providing the
platform needed for a multidimensional analysis aimed at informing responses to address the
immediate and underlying causes of food insecurity. (See Flores and Andrews, paper for this
3 Conclusions
Food insecurity in conflict-related protracted crises is still understood as synonymous with the
immediate food needs of the most vulnerable groups, while the underlying causes of food
insecurity are either forgotten or sidelined. Yet, the case studies discussed here illustrate how
the impacts of protracted crises on food security differ from those of shorter emergencies and
how such crises call for different analyses and a different set of responses.
The protracted nature of the crises discussed tends to have long-term negative impacts on
people and institutions that can hardly be addressed by mainstream short-term humanitarian
and emergency responses. The studies showed that conflicts are often the ultimate
manifestation of long-term institutional dysfunctioning such as lack of adequate public
services and adequate basic regulatory functions, and that therefore the process of erosion of
livelihoods commenced well before the outbreak of the conflict. This highlighted the
importance of institutions as a potential determinant of crises but also as a factor of resilience.
In many circumstances, people and organizations affected by crises have been able to
organize themselves and adapt to the new environment irrespective of any external support
provided. The case studies showed how people and local institutions continue to have long-
term perspectives even in very volatile contexts, and that their adaptation mechanisms have
followed patterns and modalities that are not perceived, understood or supported by external
agencies. Information gathered and analysis used did not integrate the knowledge on local
institution and policies necessary for supporting longer-term programmes (including peace
processes) when appropriate.
The studies also showed that within a humanitarian framework, the failure to consider the
institutional and policy contexts (in order to avoid the risk of “politicization” of the response)
sometimes led to the promotion of interventions that fuelled the very determinants of the
conflict. Given this context some of the innovative and institutionally sensitive interventions
described in the case studies appeared to be the exception rather than the rule, and were the
result of ad hoc initiatives rather than of systematic approaches.
Furthermore, given the context of conflict and the related humanitarian framework, the rare
interventions that took policy and institutional issues into account focussed their attention for
the most part at the local and decentralized level. They did not address institutional and policy
issues at the country level that will need to be addressed for the longer term. The case studies
also showed the inherent fragility of the basis of people’s livelihoods and food systems in
contexts where government institutions were unable or unwilling to provide a minimum
level of social protection and economic development, or to ensure a proper policy
Given these conditions, the current structure of aid is changing to address the need for flexible
funding in those countries where the political situation is evolving from conflict toward peace,
in order to address the longer-term needs inherent in unstable political environments. Several
donors have developed initiatives to promote peace processes in post-conflict situations
(Lockhart, 2005). However, during conflict-related crises the humanitarian response
framework continues to be virtually the only intervention mechanism, which often
undermines those initiatives that require longer-term perspectives.
There is an obvious lack of aid instruments and conceptual and operational frameworks to
address food security in conflict-related protracted crises and fragile states. On the one hand it
remains indispensable to ensure neutrality for immediate responses that protect the most
vulnerable. On the other hand, it is crucial to take into account institutional and policy
dynamics that can support processes to rebuild resilience; create opportunities for
strengthening the livelihoods of affected population at the very early stages of the crisis; and
develop an adequate basket of interventions to address a variety of needs.
The main conclusion of the research work in DRC, Somalia and Sudan is that the crises
analysed by the six case studies had a long-term impact on food security and showed a multi-
dimensional structure involving different temporal and causal dimensions. It is thus of
paramount importance to understand and address simultaneously both immediate needs and
the institutional, policy and livelihoods dimensions of crises – to decrease vulnerability while
building viable and resilient mechanisms in the affected societies.
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and do not indicate concurrence by FAO.
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... Exploitation of soil fertility through current farm management practices is threatening the food security and rural poverty in many countries of Sub-Saharan Africa (Stephens et al. 2012;Vanlauwe et al. 2010). A number of solutions to the observed constraints have been proposed (Alinovi et al. 2007;Stephens et al. 2012;Lobell et al. 2008;Chao-Hui 2011). However, many of these options require relatively high capital inputs, well-functioning infrastructure and perfect or near-perfect market conditions for effective implementation. ...
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This paper discusses the economic potential in terms of income changes that may result from conversion to low-external-input agriculture (LEIA) organic farming in a Kenya’s catchment area. A spreadsheet model applying the gross margin and net present value analysis was developed to estimate economic returns to labour and land of alternative smallholder cropping systems in the East Mau Catchment. The income and costs over a 10-year horizon associated with current cropping practices of a typical farm household cultivating 1.12 hectares of maize–bean intercrop, Irish potato, carrots, tomatoes, cabbages and kales mix were characterized based on field work conducted in 2008–2010. An “average” smallholder LEIA organic farm was simulated based on the conventional one, and its income discounted. A comparison was then made of the two farm types. Results indicate annual net present value returns to cropped land average Ksh 21,878/ha ($ 267/ha) and Kshs 22,561/ha (€ 275/ha) in 2010 values for conventional and prototype LEIA organic farming systems, respectively. Net returns are particularly sensitive to crop yields and price and cost of fertilizers and seeds. Further efforts should be made to provide an economic analysis of other LEIA organic farming practices such as composting, double digging and agroforestry in terms of additional labour costs resultant. The model can be extended to build more scenarios on the role of price premiums. Additionally, further research should be done to exploit the socio-demographic factors affecting the adoption of low-external-input systems.
... For activities requiring engagement with the private sector -whether buying and selling agricultural or other products, selling labor, meeting consumption needs etc. -the approach will aim to strengthen relations between households and individuals on the one hand and the private sector on the other. This may involve direct support to businesses to re-establish themselves, though, as examples from the livestock trade in Sudan (Alinovi et al., 2007) and from the seeds industry provided by Sperling and others make clear, business is remarkably resilient in the face of disorder. More commonly, the types of intervention it requires will include: ...
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This chapter provides an understanding that the fundamental issues underlying the problem of state fragility in sub-Saharan Africa are not as straightforward as they may appear. This is partly due to the way the roles of African governments are understood and theorized. Some authors hold that the triggers of fragility in the region are mere reoccurrences of what life has always been in its habitable spaces; and, hence, of little cause for global concern. While others recognize the global dimensions to the woes of this crisis-ridden region, they have pointed to the contestations surrounding the ‘state’: what it is, and what has been its role in the making/unmaking of fragility. They have questioned the proactive ability of the African state in the building of resilient communities that can cope with the impact of fragility. This introductory chapter argues that the postcolonial state in Africa cannot be dismissed because of its role in the making of some of the fragility indicators: conflicts, political instability, poverty, pandemics, corruption, household food insecurity, gender inequality and [child labor]. It should also be seen as a resilient actor, with a central role in the case management of the incidences of economic, social and political fragility.
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This book focuses on the indicators of fragility and the resilience of state-led interventions to address them in sub-Saharan Africa. It analyzes the ‘figure’ of fragile states as the unit of analysis and situates the study of fragility, governance and political adaptation within contemporary global and local political, economic and socio-cultural contexts. The chapters offer an indispensable, econometrically informed guide to better understanding issues that have an impact on fragility in governance and nation-building and affect policy-making and program design targeting institutions in various circumstances. These issues, as they relate to the indicators of fragility, are the contexts and correlates of armed conflicts on statehood and state fragility, the poverty-trap, pandemics and household food insecurity, and child labor. Case studies from across 46 sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries are assessed to offer clear, broad and multidisciplinary views of what the future holds for them and the international donor communities at large. Regarding state-led interventions, the authors utilize insightful statistical methods and epistemologies to explain the correlates of behavioral language frames and conflict de-escalation on battle-related deaths across the conflict zones within the sub-region, the regional and country-level interventions to end child labor, the institutional frameworks and interventions in the advancement of food security and health. This book will be of interest to scholars of economics, development, politics in developing countries, Area and African Studies, peace, conflict and security studies.
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The study is based on a tour of member states of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the Horn of Africa, undertaken by the author in September and October 2009. The objective was to create an inventory of existing policy measures and interventions which enhance food security. The author held meetings with representatives of the governments, donor organisations and other interested parties in Djibouti, Ethiopia, the Sudan, Kenya and Uganda. In conclusion, five types of policy food security are described, arising from a set of four policy goals.
Somalia represents one of the most complex and protracted political crises in the world today. The political and institutional environment is so dynamic that information and analysis becomes obsolete very quickly. Writing about it is like trying to focus on a rapidly moving, blurred target: each of the several times that I drafted this introduction, in late 2006, political events forced me to rewrite large sections of it, and the situation continues to evolve quickly even as I write (in early 2007). It is likely to have moved in new directions by the time this chapter is being read, probably challenging large parts of what is written here. During 2006 alone, the country, without a central government since 1991, saw the movement of an exiled Transitional Federal Government (TFG) from Nairobi, Kenya to Baidoa (southern Somalia); the rise and quick collapse of a loose US-backed alliance of militias and warlords called the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Anti-Terrorism; the consolidation and control of almost all of southern and central Somalia under the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC); and the invasion by Ethiopian troops and the imposition of the TFG in Mogadishu (in December). It is too soon to forecast whether the TFG will be able to consolidate and pacify the competing factions of Somalia, and to overcome popular support for the UIC and the re-emergence of warlord-based politics. Thus this overview limits itself to the key economic, social and political aspects of Somalia during the period from about 1995 to 2005, before the recent political changes of 2006.
ECDPM would like to thank Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Belgian Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) for their financial support. ECDPM would also like to thank the Horn of Africa Unit in Brussels, the EC Delegation in Khartoum, ECHO in Khartoum and Nairobi for their support for the field study and all the interviewed officials in embassies and donor agencies, as well as local actors, for their constructive contribution. The study describes the situation in Sudan before June 2001.