Monday, June 2, 2014

U.S. food aid and civil conflict

An article (via) in the current American Economic Review finds U.S. food aid "increases the incidence and duration of civil conflicts." A commenter in the thread at the linked blog questions the data analysis. In any case, I think it's true, as the linked post says, that U.S. food aid is generally more concerned with disposing of domestic grain surpluses than anything else. In an overhaul of U.S. development assistance, the food aid program should be one of the first things to be reformed. (Are there political obstacles? Of course. There are obstacles to everything. That's no reason not to raise the issue.)


hank_F_M said...


One of the annoying little facts of fighting a war is that the average adult eats two pounds (dry weight) of food a day. A thousand men is one ton a day every day. The forces in the field are usually larger and have non-combatants who need to be fed.

Fortunately for a bunch third world thugs, but not for peace, the nice people in international aid programs bring in large amounts of food packed for easy transport. Some of it, at gun point or by bribery or extortion gets diverted from the refugees it is intended to support. Reportedly the aid organizations allow for the loss in their planning. . Please excuse the sarcasm.

Basically the food aid enables the war. But if the aid were stopped cold turkey many refugees would starve berore the combatants were forced to surrender or break up or go home. I present the dilemma, better minds than mine will have to figure out the solution

The point you bring up about using food aid to dispose of surplus production in the US, EU and other palaces is valid and deserves similar sarcasm, but I do not think it has a very direct relation to enabling wars in the third world.

LFC said...

I haven't read the Am. Ec. Rev. article, and I noted that one of the commenters in the linked thread questioned the analysis. But I'm fairly sure some diversion of food aid by combatants does happen. (Whether it's a major factor in enabling civil wars is another question.)