Herding in Debub Omo, Southern Nations Nationalities and People’s Region, southern Ethiopia (photo on Flickr by CharlesFred).
‘There is a famine in the Horn of Africa. . . . It is at times like this that we get a lot of half-baked commentary about famine. We are told that the problem is drought, or over-population, or global warming. Special interest groups call for more money to be spent on agriculture. Commentators complain that we’ve given aid for decades and nothing gets any better.
‘So here are two things to keep in mind.
‘First, famine is not caused by drought or overpopulation or insufficient food production. As Amartya Sen explained in Poverty and Famines, people go hungry when they cannot access food, because they are too poor or because markets and governments fail. Drought is neither necessary nor sufficient for famine.
Ed Carr says that this insight holds in the current crisis:
‘The long and short of it is that food insecurity is rarely about absolute supplies of food—mostly it is about access and entitlements to existing food supplies. The HoA [Horn of Africa] situation does actually invoke outright scarcity, but that scarcity can be traced not just to weather—it is also about access to local and regional markets (weak at best) and politics/the state (Somalia lacks a sovereign state, and the patchy, ad hoc governance provided by al Shabaab does little to ensure either access or entitlement to food and livelihoods for the population) . . . .
Second, development aid works.
‘Though there is considerable suffering, famine has been avoided in Ethiopia this time so far, and that is because of the safety net programme and disaster management system which has been set up by the Ethiopian government, with help from foreign aid. . . . Ethiopia has suffered drought and famine about every ten years. But now a determined government, backed by foreign aid, has put in place systems which have made Ethiopia made it more resilient and prevented a repetition this time of past tragedies. . . .’
Read the whole blog post at Owen Abroad: Famine and drought, 27 Jul 2011.