Political Economy of International Crisis

Economics 357L

Section IV


The recent starvation in Somalia is only the latest episode in a gruesome history of the last two decades. Starvation, however, is by no means a "natural" element of the human condition. To appreciate the degree to which the 1970s and 1980s have been decades of crisis in world food supplies and prices, they must be contrasted to the optimism of the 1960s. That earlier decade was often known by its UN designation as the Development Decade and in terms of agriculture and food supplies vvvwas also the era of the so-called Green Revolution in agricultural productivity associated with the creation of new, high-yielding varieties of basic food grains (especially wheat and rice). During the period of the Green Revolution, output was rising rapidly and there were widespread hopes that the famines of the past would be eliminated from the future by the wide dissemination of these new, highly productive grains.

Despite the success in raising total output in several parts of the world, however, the Green Revolution soon turned Brown and optimism faded as a series of dramatic increases in food prices and famines emerged to constitute an unexpected sequence of global food crises. While the first dramatic period of these crises was 1971-74, there were recurrences of crisis in the 1980s, and now again in the 1990s, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, to such an extent that famine is beginning to appear as a chronic phenomena. Perhaps most dramatically, this chronic famine is by no means simply a problem of recurrent bad weather, but can be seen to be a political phenomenon in which hunger has been wielded as a weapon by governments against parts of their own populations, and in a closely related manner, high prices have been used to undercut real wages and shift income from workers to business.

For an overview of the first period of crisis in the 1970s you should read my article *"Food, Famine and the International Crisis," from Zerowork #2, Fall 1977 which is included here as the first reading. You will want to re-read parts of this article as you work your way through sections A-E of this collection. Only the material in the last section (F) on the 1980s and 1990s post-dates the period analysed in this first article. You should draw on the material in the packet to evaluate and criticize this first overview and to form your own synthesis.

A. Background: The Development Decade and The Green Revolution

Although I will discuss this period and these events in lectures, the following materials provide useful background the the food crises of the 70s - 90s.

Lester Brown, Seeds of Change, Praeger, 1969. Chapters 1, 2 & 7.

A classic optimistic statement of the virtues of the Green Revolution by one of those actively involved in ints promulgation. Brown, at that time, was a staff member of the Overseas Development Council --a major aid lobby for multinational corporations.

*H. Cleaver, "The Contradictions of the Green Revolution," Monthly Review, June 1972, or in American Economic Review, May 1972, or in S. Weissman (ed) The Trojan Horse, Ramparts Press, 1975.

The first comprehensive critical assessment of the Green Revolution, I wrote this piece as the outcome of the work of a study group set up at Stanford in the late 1960s. That study group was created to investigate the role of social science and natural science intervention in South East Asia which complemented the American war machine in its efforts to contain and harness peasant struggle in that part of the world. Study of such intervention showed how it created new problems as fast as it dealt with old ones --thus the title of the piece. Subsequently I went on to write a Ph.D. dissertation on the historical orgins of these American policies, tracing them back to earlier work in the American South at the turn of the Century and in China between the wars.

B. Genesis of Crisis

1. Roots of the crisis in the First and Second Worlds.

*NACLA, "U.S. Grain Arsenal," Latin America and Empire Report, October 1975. Chapter 1. Food Exports: Bailing Out The Empire. (Summary)

A useful overview of the changes in U.S. policy concerning food production and food trade which underlay the dramatic deals of 1972 and the subsequent events. This piece is especially useful for making the connection between the declining American trade surplus in the late 1960s and subsequent policy changes in agriculture.

Rolando V. Garcia, Drought and Man, The 1972 Case History, Nature Pleads Not Guilty, Pergamon Press, 1981. Chapter 1, Annex on 1972 Soviet Grain imports.

This part of this detailed and comprehensive book provides basic insight into some of the historical and factual background to the Russian role in the food crisis of 1972- 74.

2. Roots of crisis in the Third World.

Richard W. Franke and Barbara H. Chasin, Seeds of Famine, Allanheld, Osmun, Montclair, 1980. Chapter 3: "Planting the seeds of famine: Independence and Dependency."

These selections provide historical background on the famine in the Sahel that shows how politico- economic factors created a situation in which drought would become famine.

Rolando V. Garcia, Drought and Man, The 1972 Case History, Nature Pleads Not Guilty, Pergamon Press, 1981. Chapter 7: "The Roots of catastrophe."

An argument that the roots of famine in the Sahel lay less in natural factors such as the weather and soil conditions, and more in the pattern of colonial and neo-colonial exploitation which created an ecologically fragile system.

C. Food Crisis: Famine and Response in the 1970s

W.R. Aykroyd, The Conquest of Famine, Chatto & Windus, London, 1974. Chapter 2: "The Effects of lack of food."

This chapter from Aykroyd's book provides a detailed description of the physiological and psychological effects of starvation on human beings. It is necessary reading to grasp the human impact of the food rises of the 1970s and of the present period in which hundreds of thousands of persons starved or are starving to death.

Rolando V. Garcia, Drought and Man, The 1972 Case History, Nature Pleads Not Guilty, Pergamon Press, 1981. Chapter 5: "Responses to Drought-induced National Disasters."

This chapter reviews the multinational response to drought and famine in the 1970s from the initial aid and relief to the World Food Conference of 1974.

*Donald F. McHenry and K. Bird, "Food Bungle in Bangladesh," Foreign Policy, #27, Summer 1977. Available through ERes. Summary

Description of the corrupt government handling of food aid in Bangladesh --read as a sequel to Rothschild's description of Treasury Department decision making on Bangladesh aid.

Lester R. Brown, "The Next Crisis? Food," Foreign Policy, #13, Winter 1973-74. Student Summary

A response to the food crisis by one of the architects of the Green Revolution. The optimism is gone and Brown is very much within the new "scarcity" literature of this period.

*Bill Christeson, "Neither Food Nor Peace: U.S. Food Policy in Bangladesh," Pacific Research, X(4), Fourth Quarter, 1979. ERes. Summary

Overview of U.S. food policy and local corruption causing famine and widespread death in Bangladesh, compare with McHenry and Bird.

Garrett Hardin, "Carrying Capacity as an Ethical Concept," in G. R. Lucas, Jr. and T. W. Ogletree (eds) Lifeboat Ethics, Harper and Row, N.Y., 1976.

Hardin was a leading spokesperson for "lifeboat ethics" the hardline response to the food crisis which argued that feeding starving people only made things worse.

D. The Question of "Food Power"

NACLA, "U.S. Grain Arsenal," Latin America and Empire Report, October 1975, Chapter 2: "The Food Weapon: Mightier than Missiles."

Looking back from the "food power" debate then going on, NACLA reviews some of the history of the use of food as a weapon, including P.L. 480, Vietnam, Chile, Korea and the Mideast.

Stephen S. Rosenfeld, "The Politics of Food," Foreign Policy, #14, Spring 1974.

Brief, concise and good survey of the politics of food in the early 1970s: of trade, of destabilization (Chile) and propaganda.

"U.S. Food Power: Ultimate Weapon in World Politics? BusinessWeek, 15 December 1975. [pdf version], Student Summary

"Food: Potent U.S. Weapon," US News and World Report, 16 February 1976.

These two articles are typical of the kind of discussion that surrounded US food policy in the wake of the oil boycott and World Food Conference. They are examples of the kind of crude real-politik thinking that crops up regularly. (See quote from Hubert Humphrey {1957} p. 65 Zerowork #2, footnote 28.)

Emma Rothschild, "Food Politics" "Food Politics," Foreign Affairs, January 1976. Student Summary

Rothschild's piece in F.A. was a sober anecdote to the cruder views reported above. She locates the politics of food in the economic space of food trade and aid with a more exact analysis of the real situation in the 1970s and before.

Robert L. Paarlberg, "Lessons of the Grain Embargo," Foreign Affairs, Fall 1980.

Despite the kind of recognition displayed in Rothschild's article, four years later President Jimmy Carter responded to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan with a series of sanctions that included an embargo on grain sales to the USSR. This article evaluates the embargo and its results.

E. Austerity, Hunger and North Africa (Prelude to the Debt Crisis of the 1980s).

1. Case Study #1: Dossier on Egypt, 1976-1977

"Egypt: Sadat Faces a shaky Financial Future," BusinessWeek, October 25, 1976, p. 49.

Pre-explosion run-down on the Egyptian government's problems with their international creditors, including the IMF. The article mentions that its "lenders" told Egypt to "cut food imports and reduce domestic subsidies on medical care, transportation, food and other goods by $1 billion a year." "Sadat," the article goes on to say, "is worried that any restriction will spark violence among his 38 million people, many of whom still live on the verge of starvation."

"Egypt: If the poor should do more than grumble," The Economist, November 13, 1976, pp. 83-85.

Pre-explosion sketch of the Egyptian situation including tensions between poor and rich, debtors and creditors.

"Those Patient Egyptians Lose their Patience," The Economist, January 22, 1977, pp. 59.

"Sadat's Darkest Hour," Newsweek, January 31, 1977.

"Egypt: The Sound and Fury of the Poor," Time, January 31, 1977.

"Egypt: If Belt Tightening Fails, What Next?" BusinessWeek, February 7, 1977, p. 42.

Four short reports on the austerity measures put in place under pressure from IMF and Arab lenders, the explosion which resulted and the rescinding of the measures.

Grant M. Scobie, Government Policy and Food Imports: The Case of Wheat in Egypt, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Research Report #29, December 1981.

H. Alderman, et. al., Egypt's Food Subsidy and Rationing System: A Description, IFPRI Research report #34, October 1982.

Grant M. Scobie, Food Subsidies in Egypt: Their Impact on Foreign Exchange and Trade, IFPRI Research Report #40, August 1983.

J. V. Baun and H. de Haen, The Effect of Food Price and Subsidy Policies on Egyptian Agriculture, IFPRI Research Report #42, November 1983.

These four reports provide background to the explosion in Egypt in 1976. The selections included in the readings constitute only a small part of the reports themselves, much of which are concerned with the development and application of technical econometric models.

2. Case Study #2: Dossier on Tunisia, 1984

"Tunisia: Bread Riots," Africa Research Bulletin, December 15 - January 14, 1984. "Bourgeuiba and the Bread Riots," Newsweek, January 16, 1984, p. 27; "Bourguiba Lets Them Eat Bread," Time, January 16, 1984, p. 44; "Riots in Tunisa and Morocco force government concessions," Africa Report, March-April 1984, p. 38.

Articles on Riots in response to doubling of price of bread in response to IMF pressure to abolish food subsidies. "When the word came that the government was raising the price of bread by over 100%, the facade of stability cracked. Riots erupted last week, starting in outlying regions and spreading to the streets of Tunis, the capital. As mobs composed of mainly teen-agers and young men in the 20s rampaged through city streets, smashing shop windows and attacking post offices and banks, President Habib Bourguiba, 80, declared a state of emergency." . . . Bourgiba announced that he was reversing the price hike. The cost of bread would drop immediately from 18 cents to 8 cents, he declared . . . Once again, thousands took to the streets, this time in frantic celebration. . . The food subsidies, which would hae cost the government an estimated $236 million in 1984, were a sensible target for austerity measures and had been suggested by the IMF and the World Bank . . ."(Time, 1.16.84)

*David Seddon, Riot and Rebellion: Political Responses to Economic Crisis in North Africa (Tunisa, Morocco and Sudan) Discussion Paper No. 196, School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia, October 1986. [pdf version]

Analysis of the origins of social upheavals in three countries in response to austerity measures in 1984-85. Argues sources of uprisings lay less in organized political opposition than in spontaneous popular disaffection with policies aimed at lowering consumption.

*Harry Cleaver, "Letter to David Seddon", March 23, 1990. [pdf version].

This letter was written in response to a request by David Seddon for comments on the above piece. The letter seeks to deepen Seddon's analysis by asking questions about the social and political forces that led to the government's imposition of austerity measures in 1984-85.

F. Famine and War in the 1980s: AFRICA

While Africa is by no means the only place where food shortages and famine ravage peoples around the world, it certainly contains some of the most dramatic cases of such problems. I have selected four case studies to illustrate these problems and then included other materials on problems elsewhere on the continent and on international responses to these widespread crises. In each case the food crisis is revealed to be essentially political in nature. Even in those areas where governmental authorities can point to drought as a "natural" source of crisis, study reveals that Mother Nature has been given a helping hand in converting simple drought into politically complex hunger. Sometimes the state has acted to impose hunger as one means of dealing with general economic problems (e.g. Tunisia), sometimes it has done so within the context of a civil war based on ethnic/economic differences (Ethiopia, Sudan), and sometimes it is a foreign state which is financing a military/nutritional terrorism to achieve its own political ends (Mozambique). In each case the situation is never merely "national" or "local." Always there are international players involved, usually through the provision (or withholding) of economic/political/military aid. These apparently "local" problems of hunger must thus be grasped within an international context -- within the political economy of international crisis.

1. Case Study #1: Dossier on Ethiopia in the 1980s and 1990s

The case of Ethiopia is one of the most instructive in Africa. Not only are its recurrent famines good examples of how politics turn drought into starvation, but a comparison of the famines of the early 1970s with those of the 1980s shows how the ideology of the state has meant little for the mass of the people. In the 1970s the government of Ethiopia was Western oriented and backed by the United States --and it starved the people. In the 1980s a new government of Ethiopia proclaimed itself "socialist" and was Soviet backed --and it too starved the people.

"Ethiopia: Catastrophic Drought," Africa Research Bulletin, February 15 - March 14, 1983. (6761-6762)

Drought and civil war bring famine.

"Africa's Drought: Aid to Ethiopia," Africa Research Bulletin, March 15 - April 14, 1983.(6796-7)

Conflicts over aid in midst of civil war complicate famine relief.

"Ethiopia: Too Little -- Too Late," Newsweek, November 12, 1984.

Story on slowness of Western Powers to act to help famine victims.

"An African Nightmare," Newsweek, November 26, 1984.

Long, detailed story of famine, political causes and responses of donor nations, e.g., US unwillingness to help Soviet ally.

"Ethiopia: Thanks for Nothing," Newsweek, December 24, 1984.

The slow response, West and East, to famine.

Dan Connell, "Millions May Starve, but Ethiopian Regime Bids to Control," Wall Street Journal, January 10, 1985.

Emphasis on political nature of famine and Ethiopian government's role.

Gary Putka, "U.S. to increase Secret Food Aid for Ethiopians," Wall Street Journal, January 1985.

U.S. said to aim food at rebel areas in Ethiopia. (Naturally ignores the fact that American ally M.H. Salassie used to do the same.)

"Murder by Hunger," Wall Street Journal editorial, January 10, 1985.

Outrage at socialist use of famine.

A. Deming et al., "Israel: An Exodus From Ethiopia," Newsweek, January 14, 1985.

Israel supports Soviet backed Mengistu to 1. get Ethiopian Jews out, 2. limit Arab influence in Red Sea area.

"Ethiopia: Farmers Flee 'Villagisation,'" Africa Research Bulletin, Vol. 23, #2, March 31, 1986 (8113).

Peasants flee Ethiopian effort to use famine crisis to relocate people for social control. Ethiopian plan is reminiscent of "strategic hamlets" in Vietnam set up by Americans.

"Aid Agency Pulls Out," Africa Research Bulletin, Vol.23, #4, May 31, 1986. (8193)

World Vision pulls back after being attacked by anti-government guerrillas in Tigre.

"Somalia's Refugee Crisis," Africa Research Bulletin, Vol.23, #4, May 31, 1986. (8193-4)

Somali government keeping Ethiopian refugees penned in camps for fear of inability to assimilate them.

"Ethiopia: 'Villagisation' brings problems," Africa Research Bulletin, Vol. 23, #4, May 31, 1986. (8194-5)

More on resistance to relocation schemes.

Clifford D. May, "Ex-Official Asserts Famine Grows in Ethiopia," The New York Times, September 16, 1987.

Article about news of famine and congressional bill to ban import of Ethiopian coffee to US in response to role of Ethiopian government in fostering famine for political purposes.

"Drought and Famine: Emergency Aid for Refugees; Ethiopian Crisis Grows," Africa Research Bulletin (Economic Series) V. 24, N. 8, September 30, 1987, pp. 8816-7.

Famine (plus war etc) leads to exodus from countryside and growing populations of refugees. Crop failure in Eritrea and Tigre. Locust continue to be a threat.

"Aid shipments for Ethiopia could resume," Daily Texan October 29, 1987.

"Drought and Famine: CILSS Sahel Predictions, FAO Appeal for Ethiopia" Africa Research Bulletin (Economic Series) V. 24, N. 9, October 31, 1987, p. 8854.

Interstates Committee to Fight Drought in The Sahel (CILSS) weather and poor distribution as source of hunger problems in many areas. FAO called, on Sept. 26th, for massive donations of food aid for Ethiopia in wake of second year of drought.

Sheila Rule, "A Vast Drought Disaster Threatens Ethiopia Again," The New York Times, November 12, 1987.

Report from the front on hunger and the civil war.

"Ethiopia: Rebels Destroy Food Aid," Africa Research Bulletin (Political Series) V. 24, N. 10, November 15, 1987, p. 8673.

Eritrean People's Liberation Front attacked UN food relief convoy destroying 23 lorries and burning 360 tons of food on October 23rd..

"Drought and Famine: Locust Invasion Threat, Ethiopian Aid Jeopardised," Africa Research Bulletin (Economic Series) V. 24, N. 10, November 30, 1987, pp. 8883-5.

Huge swarms of locusts have moved across the Sahara from Chad, Niger and Sudan into Algeria and Morocco. EPLF continued attacks on relief convoys (2 in Nov.) while refugees begin to move again.

Sandra Steingraber, "Resettlement and Villagization -- Tools of Militarization in S.W. Ethiopia," Cultural Survival Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 4, 1987. (Winter)

Vivid description of the politics of hunger in Ethiopia. This is an important article which you should be careful to read.

Robert D. Kaplan, "False Images of Ethiopian Famine," The Wall Street Journal, January 6, 1988, p. 15.

This op-ed piece (by a man who has just written a book on the African famine) evokes the history of civil conflict in Ethiopia from Mussolini's conquest to the present. Kaplan emphasizes the guerrilla side of the war and relief efforts which have generally gone unreported in the Western Press.

Patrick Moser, "On Famine's Brink," and Michael Yellin, "Eritrea: The Food Weapon," Africa Report, January- February 1988.

Two articles on the current famine/civil war in Ethiopia. Along with a discussion of drought and famine, are comments on resettlement and villagization, which are continuing, despite a brief halt under donor pressure.

"Famine Returns"; "Aid Agencies Speak Out"; "What the Russians Say," African Business, February 1988, pp. 10-15.

Three connected articles on the current famine in Ethiopia that begin with an interview of an Ethiopian official, Tamerat Kebede, who ran the resettlement programme of 1984/85. Kebede discusses agricultural policies: land tenure, pricing etc. The second article quotes a number of relief agencies on Ethiopian policies. They are generally very critical. The third relates the contents of a Russian report critical of Ethiopian policies. The Russian report was obtained by Christopher Clapham, University of Lancaster, who has just written a book on Ethiopia.

Paul Lewis, "West to Resume Farm Aid to Ethiopia," The New York Times, February 6, 1988.

Sheila Rule, "Ethiopia Rebels Report Victory, Capture of 3 Russians," The New York Times, March 27, 1988.

Sheila Rule, "Ethiopia's President Admits the Rebels Are Forcing 'Grim Battles,'" The New York Times, April 1, 1988.

Sheila Rule, "Ethiopia's Curbs on Aid to Hungry Imperil 2 Million," The New York Times, April 29, 1988.

"Ethiopia: Rebel Offensive," African Research Report, March 15, 1989.

"Ethiopia: Food Production Forecast," African Research Report, March 31, 1989.

"Ethiopia: Attempted Coup Foiled," African Research Report, June 15, 1989.

Note Chronology in this article.

"Ethiopia: Rebels Willing to Talk," African Research Report, August 15, 1989.

"Drought and Famine: Ethiopia Faces Shortages," African Research Report, October 31, 1989.

"Ethiopia: War and Famine," African Research Report, December 15, 1989.

Geraldine Brooks, "New Famine Sweeps Ethiopia as Civil War Keeps Taking Its Toll," The New York Times, Jaunary 17, 1990.

"Relief Groups to Cross Rebel Lines in Ethiopia," The New York Times, January 19, 1990.

Elaine Sciolino, "U.S. Officials Suspect Israelis Sent Ethiopia Cluster Bombs," The New York Times, January 21, 1990.

Jane Perlez, "Polish Crew Tells of 3-Week Ordeal After Red Sea Attack," The New York Times, January 23, 1990.

Flora Lewis (op ed) "Ethiopia Peers West," The New York Times, January 30, 1990.

Jane Perlez, "Trying to Bolster Non-Arabs Israel Widens Aid to Ethiopia," The New York Times, February 7, 1990.

Jane Perlez, "Insurgents in Ethiopia Begin Anti-Government Offensive," The New York Times, February 10, 1990.

"Rebels in Ethiopia Claim Capture of Red Sea Port," The New York Times, February11, 1990.

Jane Perlez, "Prisoner No. 14279: Forlorn Pawn in Ethiopia's Long and Ruinous Civil War," The New York Times, February 19, 1990.

Paul Lewis, "Aid Groups Plead to Stall Famine," The New York Times, March 1, 1990.

2. Case Study #2: Dossier on the Sudan (late 1980s)

Gary Putka, "The Tragedy of Sudan's Spreading Starvation is that it is caused by Man's Errors, Not Nature's," Wall Street Journal, January 21, 1985.

Famine for both locals and refugees from Ethiopia (see above) in 1984-1985, with a discussion of the relief efforts and some of their shortcomings. This provides a little background for the upheaval in Khartoum discussed in the following article.

*David Seddon, Riot and Rebellion: Political Responses to Economic Crisis in North Africa (Tunisa, Morocco and Sudan) Discussion Paper No. 196, School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia, October 1986.

Same article as the one listed under the crisis in Tunisia.

Carol Berger, Sudan After Nimeiry," Africa Report,30:4, July/August 1985.

"Famine Stricken Sudan Says It Will Export Food," The New York Times, December 10, 1986.

"I'm sure some will say that this is ridiculous," the Prime Minster of the Sudan is quoted, "but I think in terms of our production we are in a better situation than we every were before. We're going to export food this year." Ridiculous is hardly the word for it! We know who these exports will starve (those in the South), who do you suppose will get the export revenues?

Sheila Rule, "After the Briefest Respite, Africa Faces Starvation Again," The New York Times, December 20, 1987.

Brief survey of areas of famine/war: Ethiopia, Mozambique, Angola, Sudan, Somalia. Discussion of need for new policies to favor agricultural development.

"War and Drought Are Bringing Famine in Sudan," The New York Times, January 3, 1988.

Another case of civil war combining with drought to cause famine. In this case the revolt in the black/christian/animist South against the arab/Muslim ruling majority in the North.

"Hungry Sudanese Refugees Straining Ethiopian Camps," The New York Times, May 1, 1988.

From Ethiopian refugees in the Sudan, to Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia, everywhere we find people starving as a byproduct of civil war. These refugees are from Sudan's South fleeing government attacks.

"More Fighting Brings Hunger to Sudan," The New York Times, October 3, 1988.

Government blocks aid to refugees and other starving people in the South, to keep food out of hands of rebels -- and it probably sees the entire southern population as "rebel."

"Sudan, Racked by Famine, Agrees to $100 Million U.S. Food Airlift," The New York Times, October 13, 1988.

"Sudan: Army Ultimatum," Africa Research Report, March 15, 1989.

"Sudan: Starvation Relief Plan,"Africa Research Report, March 31, 1989.

"Sudan: Operation Lifeline," Africa Research Report, April 30, 1989.

"Sudan: Rebels Call Ceasefire," Africa Research Report, June 15, 1989.

"Sudan: Military Coup," Africa Research Report, June 15, 1989.

Margaret Novicki, "John Garang: A New Sudan," Africa Report, July-August 1989.

Interview with leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.

"James P. Grant, "Averting Disaster," Africa Report, July-August 1989.

"Sudan: New Regime Lacks Steerage Way," Africa Research Report, August 15, 1989.

"Sudan: Peace Talks Break Down," Africa Research Report, September 15, 1989.

"Sudan: Post-coup Purge Underway," Africa Research Report, October 15, 1989.

"Sudan: Dr. Garang's Frontline Tour," Africa Research Report, November 15, 1989.

"Sudan: Abuses Concern Donors," Africa Research Report, November 30, 1989.

"Sudan: Fighting Escalates," Africa Research Report, December 15, 1989.

"Hundreds Reportedly Slain in Sudan," The New York Times, January 7, 1990.

"The Sudanese government has unleashed Arab militiamen against African tribesmen, killing between 300 and 1,500 African villagers in one attack and many others in a series of raids."

"For the Sudan, Famine is Almost as Certain as Civil War," The New York Times, February 4, 1990.

Breakdown in relief efforts as both government and rebels block food aid to starving population.

Emily Wax, "In Sudan, Death and Denial: Officials Accused of Concealing Crisis as Thousands Starve," Washington Post, June 27, 2004.

3. Case Study #3: Dossier on Mozambique

"Southern Africa: Disastrous Drought," Africa Research Bulletin, January 15- February 14, 1983. (6731-3)

Drought together with debt service problems, terrorism and export limitations combine to produce starvation.

"Mozambique: Preparing for Sacrifice," Africa Research Bulletin, July 31, 1986. (8276-77)

Collapse in agricultural output caused more by South African supported guerrillas than by drought or bad policy.

"Emergency Food Airlift," Africa Research Bulletin, Vol. 23, #7, August 31, 1986. (8316)

Starvation due to civil war.

"Mozambique: Crisis Compounded," Africa Research Bulletin, Vol.23, #10, November 30, 1986. (8432-3)

Guerrilla attacks disrupt agricultural production and helps drought to "murder" people as WSJ said about Ethiopia.

Serge Schmemann, "Mozambique Rethinking Its Dreams," The New York Times, February 19, 1987.

See especially inset on "400,000 facing starvation."

"Hunger as a Weapon," Africa Research Bulletin (Economic Series) V. 24, N. 2, March 31, 1987, p. 8587.

Hunger as weapon wielded by the South African backed guerrilla group: they have burned grain stocks, ambushed food relief convoys, destroyed government marketing posts.

"Drought and Famine: FAO Warning,"Africa Research Bulletin (Economic Series) V. 24, N. 4, May 31, 1987, pp. 8660-1.

Famine in Mozambique and Somalia.

"Homoine Massacre," Africa Research Bulletin (Political Series) V. 24, N. 9, August 15, 1987, p. 8561.

Besides using famine as a weapon the South African backed guerrillas also simply murder people on a large scale. "More than 380 peasants have been massacred...one of the worst single incidents of MNR activity in the past seven years...It recalls the Wyriamu massacre by Portuguese troops in the final days of the colonial period."

"Sheila Rule, "Seemingly Endless War is Strangling Mozambique," The New York Times, January 25, 1988.

Sheila Rule, "Mozambique: Few Escape Fury of War," The New York Times, February 12, 1988.

Sheila Rule, "The Guerrilla Fight in Mozambique Also Takes a Toll on Zimbabwe," The New York Times, February 21, 1988.

Sheila Rule, "Mozambique Confronts Health Crisis," The New York Times, March 13, 1988.

"Mozambique: Partial Success of Amnesty," Africa Research Report, September 15, 1988.

"South Africa: President Visits Neighbors," Africa Research Report, September 30, 1988.

"Mozambique: Economy picks up," Africa Research Report, September 30, 1988.

"Mozambique: Rebels Reject Mediation," Africa Research Report, March 15, 1989.

"South Africa-Mozambique: Rebels Supplies Continue," "South Africa-Mozambique: Mutual Assurances," Africa Research Report, April 15, 1989.

"Mozambique: Plan to End War," Africa Research Report, June 15, 1989.

"Mozambique: Move from Marxism," Africa Research Report, August 15, 1989.

"Mozambique: Kenya Peace Talks," Africa Research Report, September 15, 1989.

"Karl Maier, "A Program for Peace (Mozambique)," Africa Report, September-October 1989.

Christopher Wren, "Among Mozambique's Toll: Hungry, Desperate Children," "U.S. Medical Workers Seized in Mozambique," "U.S. Calls for Inquiry," The New York Times, October 29, 1989.

Allen F. Isaacman, "The Path to Peace (Mozambique)," Africa Report, November-December 1989.

5. Other Problems of Hunger in Africa

"Political Perils in Africa's Drought," BusinessWeek, April 25, 1983.

Roger Wall, "Niger: Politics and Poverty in the Sahel," Africa Report, May - June 1983.

"Ghana: Food and the Nation," West Africa, 11 July 1983.

"Ghana: Food and the Nation - 2," West Africa, 18 July 1983.

David Robbins, "Drought Plagues Southern Africa," Africa Report, July-August 1983.

Conflicts between South African white development projects and the needs of black people for water and food.

"Mali's 'Food Strategy:' Private Sector's Hold," West Africa, 15 August 1983.

"Mali Economy: Agricultural Potential Hit By Drought," West Africa , 30 January 1984.

"The Enduring Drought," and "Waking up to an African Famine," West Africa , 13 February 1984.

"The Gambia: Drought, drought, go away," West Africa , 20 February 1984.

"Ghana: Food and the Nation," West Africa , 11 July 1984 and 18 July 1984.

Howard Schissel, "Sahel's Uncertain Future," Africa Report, July - August 1984.

Kenneth Hacket, "Will the Tragedy be Repeated?" Africa Report, July - August 1984.

"Drought and Famine: Locus Threat Continues," Africa Research Bulletin (Economic Series) V. 24, N. 1, February 28, 1987, pp. 8547-8.

Brief survey of threats to food supplies.

"Drought and Famine: Inadequate Rainfall," Africa Research Bulletin (Economic Series) V. 24, N. 7, August 31, 1987, p. 8782.

Drought and War cause famine in the Sahel and Angola.

"Food Riots in Zambia; Borders are Closed," The New York Times, December 10, 1987.

Food riots in response to 120% increase in food prices resulting from government abolition of corn subsidies as part of deal with IMF.

6. The Response to Africa's Famines

There have been many responses to the famines in Africa, as some of the above articles make clear. The responses have ranged from national (public and private) and international agency food aid to intellectual interventions, to changes or lack of changes in the domestic and international policies of countries not threatened by famine. The following articles give some examples of these different kinds of responses.

Carl K. Eicher, "Facing up to Africa's Food Crisis," Foreign Affairs, Fall 1982.

An agricultural economist's call for long term solutions both in terms of policy and agricultural research.

"Africa's Drought: Special Task Force," Africa Research Bulletin, May 15 - June 14, 1983. (6869-70)

Special Task Force is of FAO in Rome. Map of drought/famine areas.

Carol Lancaster, "Africa's Economic Crisis," Foreign Policy, #52, Fall 1983, pp. 149-166.

"World Bank: Africa's Bleak Future," Africa Research Bulletin, September 15- October 14, 1983.

"Reaganomics, African Style," BusinessWeek, October 8, 1984.

Push for free enterprise and contraction of government initiative.

"Club du Sahel: New Approach," Africa Research Bulletin, October15 - November 14, 1983.

Gary Walker and Frank Ballance, Africa's Developing Crisis: Looking Beyond the Famine, Overseas Development Council, Policy Focus, July 1984.

"Acreage of Idle Farmland Could Approach Record Next Year," The New York Times, November 10, 1987.

Farm land continued to be idled by government policy while people starve.

"Drought and Famine: 1986 Food Aid Needs," Africa Research Bulletin, Vol. 23, #2, March 31, 1986. (8112- 3)

Eleven million threatened by famine and the UN to close its emergency office for Africa. This splits UN relief agencies.

"'Marshall Plan' for Food Aid," Africa Research Bulletin (Economic Series) V. 24, N. 8, September 30, 1987, pp. 8811-12.

French call for an end to low priced sales of food to countries such as the USSR, Japan or Saudi Arabia and the allocation of such food to countries in dire need.

Jean Marie Brown, "Soviets Return to the U.S. Grain Market: Purchases May Aid Farmers, Hurt Consumers," The Wall Street Journal, January 6, 1988.

USDA sees USSR buying some $1.9 billion in soybeans, wheat, corn and other commodities. This will raise prices, help farmers, and hurt consumers but it is not expected to lead to even bigger sales in the future. The Soviets are thought to be buying soybeans to fatten cattle to increase meat availability -- a sign of strength of Soviet workers.

James Brooke, "After Chernobyl, Africans Ask if Food is Hot," The New York Times, January 10, 1988.

Third World as World's Garbage Dump. Substantiated cases of Europeans dumping radioactive food aid on Africans leads to wave of outrage and unsubstantiated accusations.

"You're Looking at the Biggest Threat to our National Security," - -advertisement

Supplementary Materials

Pitirim A. Sorokin, Hunger as a Factor in Human Affairs, University Presses of Florida, Gainesville, 1975.

An interesting book by a Russian sociologist, especially chapter 3 on "Changes in Human Behavior During Starvation," and Chapter 10, on "Hunger, Riots, Insurrections and Revolution." Most, though by no means all, of the material is drawn from the Russian famines of 1918 and 1921.

James Trager, Amber Waves of Grain, 1973.

The story of the Russian grain deal of 1972 and some of the consequences. A bit naive on the relation between the grain traders and the company.

M. Glantz, The Politics of Disaster, Praeger, 1976, especially Wiseberg piece. OECD, Development Cooperation, 1976 Review, November 1976, pt. VIII.

These two sources describe the famine and relief efforts in the Sahel as well as the reconstruction efforts respectively. Also see Franke and Chasin.

F. M. Lappe and J. Collins, Food First, 1978.

Susan George, How the Other Half Dies, 1978.

Two similar books that critique food politics and the usual explanations of hunger from both a factual and a liberal/radical perspective. They are useful reading for those who still think hunger is "caused" by overpopulation.

Stephen Green, International Disaster Relief, McGRaw-Hill, 1977.

CFR's 1980s Project Report on famines of 1970s and proposals for policy changes. Especially note recognition of "political phase" which often purposefully blocks aid to victims (e.g., Chapter 6).

D. Gale Johnson, et. al., Reducing Malnutrition in Developing Countries, Triangle Paper #16, Trilateral Commission, 1978.

The 'food report' by the Trilats. Surprisingly, a simple rehash of policy positions common during the heyday of the Green Revolution. Compare to L. Brown's(1969) and my article (1972).

Dahlia Rudavsky, "The Grim Reapers: The Trilateral Commission Takes on World Hunger," in Trilateralism (Holly Sklar ed.)

Radical critique of Triangle Paper #16.

Susan George and Nigel Paige, Food for Beginners, Writers and Readers, London 1982.

Susan George, Ill Fares the Land: Essays on Food, Hunger and Power, Institute for Policy Studies, Washington, D. C., 1984.

Anders Wijkman and Lloyd Timberlake, Natural Disasters: Acts of God or Acts of Man? an Earthscan book, New Society Publishers, Philadelphia, 1984.

Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues, Famine: A Man-made Disaster? Vintage Books, New York, 1985.

Lloyd Timberlake, Africa in Crisis: the Causes, the Cures of Environmental Bankruptcy, an Earthscan book, New Society Publishers, Philadelphia, 1986.

J. Larry Brown and H. F. Pizer, Living Hungry in America, New York: Macmillan 1988.

Robert Pear, "Counting the Hungry -- a Contentious Census," The New York Times, November 15, 1987.

Supplementary Material on War and Famine in Africa Edgar O'Ballance, The Secret War in the Sudan: 1955- 1972, Hamden: Archon Books, 1977.

Richard Sherman, Eritrea: The Unfinished Revolution, New York: Praeger, 1980.

Fred Halliday and Maxine Molyneux, The Ethiopian Revolution, London: New Left Books, 1981.

Mesfin Wolde Mariam, Rural Vulnerability to Famine in Ethiopia, 1958-1977, New Delhi: Vikas, 1984.

Jason W. Clay and bonnie K. Holcomb, Politics and the Ethiopean Famine, 1984-1985, Cultural Survival Report 20, Cambridge: Cultural Survival, 1986.

Tony Barnett & Abbas Abdelkarim (eds) Sudan: State, Capital and Transformation, New York: Croom Helm, 1988.

Lionel Cliffe, The Long Struggle of Eritrea for Independence and Constructive Peace, London: Spokesman, 1988.

Edmond J. Keller, Revolutionary Ethiopia: From Empire to People's Republic, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.

Alexander de Waal, Famine that Kills: Darfur, Sudan, 1984- 1985, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989.

Celia Dugger, "Supermarket Giants Crush Central American Farmers," New York Times, December 28, 2004.

Alexei Barrionnuevo, "Mountains of Corn and a Sea of Farm Subsidies," The New York Times, November 9, 2005.

Tom Philpott, "The Revolution Will be Criticized: Why the new "Green Revolution" in Africa may be misguided,"

Babette Stern, "Mexico: Corn Feeds Discontent," Liberation, January 18, 2007.

Elizabeth Becker, "U.S. Cutting Food Aid Aimed at Self-sufficiency," The New York Times, December 22, 2004.

Timothy Egan, "Big Farms Reap Two Harvests with Subsidies a Bumper Crop," The New York Times, December 26, 2004.

Michael Wines, "Niger's Nomads Agonize as Livestock Die," The New York Times, August 7, 2005.

Tim Weiner, "In Corn's Cradle, U.S. Imports Bury Family Farms," The New York Times, February 26, 2002.

Herve Kempf, "Feeding Nine Billion Earthlings", Le Monde, Saturday March 10, 2007.

Mark Thirlwell, "Food and the Spectre of Malthus" , The Financial Times, February 26, 2008.

National Corn Growers' Association webpage.

Wikipedia Entry on Ethanol Fuel that includes some discussion of controversies, including corn-for-ethanol vs corn-for-food.

iGreens, Ethanol from Corn - burning both money and oil, webpage of a British environmental group that presents some arguments about ethanol costing more to produce (energy-wise) than it provides.

Stacey Rosen and Shahla Shapouri, "Rising Food Prices Intensify Food Insecurity in Developing Countries", in Amber Waves February 2008 - a publication of the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The study from which this article is Food Security Assessment, 2006.