Causes of Food Insecurity in African and Other Third World Countries


The majority of the severest food crises after the second half of the 20th century were caused by a combination of several factors. The most common causes of food insecurity in African and other Third World countries were:

Drought and other extreme weather events. The comparison of the severest food crises in the later history reveals that all were preceded by drought or other extreme weather events. They resulted in poor or failed harvests which in turn resulted food scarcity and high prices of the available food.

Pests, livestock diseases and other agricultural problems. In addition to extreme weather events, many failed harvests in African and other Third World countries were also caused by pests such as desert locusts. Cattle diseases and other agricultural problems such as erosion, soil infertility, etc. also play a role in food insecurity.

Climate change. Some experts suggest, that drought and extreme weather in regions affected by food crises in the recent decades could be a result of climate change, especially in the West and East Africa which have problems with recurrent extreme droughts.

Military conflicts. Wars and military conflicts worsen food insecurity in African and other Third World countries. They may not be directly responsible for food crises but they exacerbate scarcity of food and often prevent the aid workers from reaching the most affected people.

Lack of emergency plans. History of the severest food crises shows that many countries were completely unprepared for a crisis and unable to resolve the situation without international aid.

Corruption and political instability. In spite of criticism lately, the international community has always send help in the form of food supplies and other means which saved millions of lives in the affected regions. However, the international aid often did not reach the most vulnerable populations due to a high level of corruption and political instability in many Third World countries.

Cash crops dependence. Many African and Third World governments encourage production of the so-called cash crops, the income from which is used to import food. As a result, countries which depend on cash crops are at high risk of food crisis because they do not produce enough food to feed the population.

AIDS. The disease which is a serious public health concern in the sub-Saharan Africa worsens food insecurity in two ways. Firstly, it reduces the available workforce in agriculture and secondly, it puts an additional burden on poor households.

Rapid population growth. Poor African and Third World countries have the highest growth rate in the world which puts them at increased risk of food crises. For example, the population of Niger increased from 2.5 million to 15 million from 1950 to 2010. According to some estimations, Africa will produce enough food for only about a quarter population by 2025 if the current growth rate will continue.