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Agricultural Investment: Foreign Aid for Global Prosperity

A group of kids picking up pieces of grain that fell from a relief truck. Photo by Michael S. Williamson

Activities to support resilient livelihoods must be combined with peacebuilding, conflict resolution efforts, and investment in food security.

High global food prices and the disruption of the global food supply chain due to the war in Ukraine could trigger riots and violent conflicts among those going hungry in developing countries.

One in ten people in the world do not have enough to eat, while millions have been pushed into poverty and hunger by the impact of extreme weather events and the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The continuation of this conflict, already a tragedy for those directly involved, will be catastrophic for the entire world, particularly those already struggling to feed their families.

It is time for governments, development organizations, military, and intelligence communities to broaden their definitions of “security”—and serve to emphasize that one of the best investments we can make in global stability and prosperity is to help people who can’t feed themselves or their families.

Food Insecurity as a Harbinger for and Result of Conflict

Food insecurity, defined as a lack of consistent access to adequate food, affects the lives of millions of people across the world. Almost 60 percent of the world’s 811 million hungry people live in areas affected by armed violence, including Somalia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Syria, and Yemen. The list goes on.

The unchallenged consensus is that war and conflict are development issues: conflict ravages local economies, often leading to forced migration and disease outbreaks, the collapse of social trust, and acute food insecurity.

But food insecurity isn’t just an outcome of conflict—it also contributes to causing it.

Causal and substantive links exist between food security and violent conflict, spanning from individual to global levels. Known as the “conflict trap,” food insecurity is often the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” in fragile countries. Hunger produces desperation that causes communities to act on existing grievances, cleaving society along pre-established lines.

The relationship between conflict and food security often creates a vicious cycle as food scarcity leads to market disruptions, whic