Food Aid to Developing Nations May Increase Armed Conflict

January 30th, 2012  |  Source: WSJ Blog

The country is torn by conflict. The people are hungry.

Our natural response is to send food, but in practice that can be problematic. For decades, aid workers, journalists and others have documented cases where food aid has been misappropriated by armed groups who use it to feed their soldiers and buy weapons. Convoy trucks and other equipment are often captured.

Such reports are, in the end, merely anecdotal, and may only represent extreme, outlying cases. Moreover, there are chicken-and-egg problems such as the question of whether the food aid heightened the conflict, or whether the brewing conflict brought in the food aid.

But Harvard’s Nathan Nunn and Yale’s Nancy Qian devised a way sidestep such issues and more directly measure what is happening. Their results are sobering.

The flow of American food aid, the economists found, has a lot to do with the wheat crop. In bumper years, the U.S. government accumulates wheat as part of its price support program. In the following year, the surplus is shipped to developing countries as food aid. This allowed the economists to tease out how the effects of the flow of food to 134 developing countries from 1972 through 2006.

They found that an increase in food aid raises the incidence, onset and duration of armed civil conflict in a recipient country. The problem is particularly acute in countries where there are few roads — giving aid convoys fewer opportunities to circumvent problems — and ones where there are stark ethnic divisions.

Abstract only.

Read the full blog here: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2012/01/30/food-aid-to-to-developing-nations-may-increase-armed-conflict/




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