Food or Consequences: Food Security and Its Implications for Global Sociopolitical Instability Christopher B. Barrett Cornell University Seminar presented to Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Harvard University October 23, 2012 Background Food systems successes in 1940s-80s enabled dramatic poverty reduction and better global standards of living >6(5) billion people have adequate calories (nutrients) today, up from only about 2 billion 50 years ago. Public/private ag research and policy reforms (esp. in China) led to productivity growth far outpacing demand growth, increasing land/water efficiency use and steadily/sharply lowering real food prices through mid-2000s. Lifted hundreds of millions from poverty. Successes enabled population growth, urbanization and income growth … and induced a dangerous complacency. Background FAO Real Food Price Index 25 20 200 15 150 10 100 5 50 6 mo. lagged std. dev. 250 0 1/1990 1/1991 1/1992 1/1993 1/1994 1/1995 1/1996 1/1997 1/1998 1/1999 1/2000 1/2001 1/2002 1/2003 1/2004 1/2005 1/2006 1/2007 1/2008 1/2009 1/2010 1/2011 1/2012 FAO Real Food Price Index (2002-4 = 100) Complacency led to underinvestment, food output growth slowing behind accelerating demand growth, and recent food price spikes. OECD/IFPRI/FAO all forecast food prices 5-20% higher than 2012 levels for the next decade as demand growth continues to outpace supply expansion worldwide. Social unrest High Food Prices Associated w/ Social Unrest Food Prices and Food Riots (Death Tolls) High food prices are (causally?) assoc w/ social unrest/ food riots (Bellemare 2011, Lagi et al. 2011, Arezki & Brueckner 2012). Many gov’ts think of food security as staple food price stability. Hence ‘urban bias’ But omitted factors matter … Source: Lagi et al. (2011) Food security worries can spark public protest when mixed w/sense of broader injustices. Social unrest High Food Prices Also Spark Resource Grabs High food prices also fuel – and reflect – demand for land, water, genetic material, etc. ‘Land grabs’ can help sow domestic discontent Ex: Madagascar 2008/9 Resource grabs can feed international tensions, too: - Marine fisheries - Water - ‘Gene grabs’/IP anti-commons - Oil and minerals An unclear relationship The food security-sociopolitical stability relationship remains poorly understood and oft-oversimplified. Inferential challenge: Correlated common drivers (e.g., climate, land/water competition, large-scale migration) make it difficult to tease out causal links. But strategically important question on which policymakers are already acting. So unfortunately we cannot wait for analyses that satisfy the highest scientific standards. Especially important b/c key food security stressors include gov’t, firm and donor policy responses intended to foster food security, but that also have important spillover effects. An unclear relationship Instability’s adverse effects on food security are fairly well established, both at macro and micro scales. For example: - 18/20 countries receiving the most humanitarian (incl. food) aid since 2000 have experienced internal conflict. - In 1990, 5/12 reported food crises in Africa were “protracted” (i.e., 8/past 10 years). By 2010, leapt to 19/24! Protracted, complex emergencies are the ‘new norm’ in humanitarian response, not short-term disaster relief. Sociopolitical crisis is clearly a cause of food insecurity … but it increasingly seems a consequence as well. Don’t really need added reason to seek peace. But perhaps do need added push to pursue food security? An unclear relationship There are 3 main connections that run from food security concerns to sociopolitical stability: 1. Food markets: Spontaneous, largely-urban sociopolitical instability within states arises from food price shocks, with urban food consumers the primary agitators. … 2008/11. Note: price shocks largely proximate causes of sociopolitical unrest. Real issues are pre-existing grievances and lack of adequate social safety nets or government policies to buffer the effects of market shocks. High prices can unite/mobilize the already-angry vs. the state or ethnic minorities (e.g., food traders) perceived to hold/exercise power unjustly. Symbolic/subjective more than substantive role: Mainly working class urban rioters, not the most food insecure rural or slum dwellers. So it’s not about welfare impacts per se. Furthermore, (the threat of) transitory food insecurity seems more likely to spark unrest than chronic food insecurity. An unclear relationship 2. Rural resources: Slower-evolving, structural pressures due to (largely rural) intra-state resource competition over land, water, labor and capital and the byproducts of such competition (e.g., chaotic internal migration, outbreaks of zoonoses, etc). Farmers/farm workers the main agitators, although international NGOs/ firms are important external agents (e.g., over GMOs, “land grabs”, etc.). Typically unrest about distributional questions and power. More likely to mutate into social and/or guerilla movements than is urban unrest from price shocks, that can be exploited by pre-existing movements. An unclear relationship 3. Global commons: Prospective inter-state tension (partly) fuelled by trans-boundary competition over resources – fisheries, water, genetic material – or over contested policy with significant spillover effects – e.g., export bans, FDI policy, zoonotic disease control. Multinational private actors commonly play a significant role (e.g., external investors, fishing fleets). These are the least common (and prospectively most dangerous) sorts of conflicts because of direct, early state engagement. Food or consequences Reasonable hypotheses that food insecurity can spark sociopolitical unrest add a key reason to guard against renewed complacency about the evolving/ intensifying global food security challenge. Must focus on Africa and Asia! Food security challenge Mounting challenges as food demand and supply will evolve significantly (and to some degree, predictably) with major effects on: - Prices, including price volatility - Induced technological change - The natural environment - Humanitarian response State, firm and consumer behavior must and will adapt to these structural changes. Both these stressors and resulting behavioral responses can foster social unrest and conflict. Demand Drivers Main Demand-Side Drivers • Population – slowing rates of growth, but large absolute growth, almost all of it in urban/peri-urban areas of developing countries. • Urbanization – esp. in developing countries, demand for purchased food increases faster than aggregate demand as rural people migrate. • Income Growth – fastest in developing countries, with major implications for commodity composition of diets and trade. (Marginal food demand income elasticity in low-income countries is 5-8 times that in the US.) • Diversion of food to feed and biofuels production Demand Drivers Demand-side pressures will be considerable … and largely immutable (except wrt biofuels). Will likely lead to: - major intra- and inter-national migration of people - Increased reliance on national and global markets and firms for trade in and storage of food (and perhaps water) - Increased stress on existing food production and distribution systems, with possible implications – via food markets, rural resources and global commons channels – for sociopolitical stability. Supply Drivers Main Supply-Side Drivers • Land and water scarcity – Little untapped arable land and significant soil degradation in many regions, plus growing water scarcity. Increased competition for land/water w/ scant capacity to expand the agricultural frontier other than in Africa or South America. • Climate Change – Shifting climate patterns, especially volatility and extreme events, force greater and changing trade patterns and reinforce North-South differences. Of particular concern in South Asia/MENA. • Technology – Slowing growth in yields (< ∆ demand). Rapid spread of biotechnology. Growing pressure to address land and water scarcity as well as evolving pest and pathogen pressures, especially with climate change. Supply Drivers Land Acquisitions - Higher food prices and growing land scarcity (esp. in Asia), are fuelling sharp increases in land investment. - Land acquisitions in Africa in 2009 totaled 39.7 mn ha (> agricultural land in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland combined!). Farmland investment a major asset class now. - Contentious b/c can displace marginalized rural peoples; terms often opaque, esp. w/weak land governance. - Ex: 2008 Daewoo deal to lease 1.3 mn hectares led to overthrow of government in Madagascar. More to come? Supply Drivers Max Potential Value of Agricultural Output (US$/ha) Source: Deininger, Arezki & Selod, 2011 4 regions:-little land for expansion/low yield gap - Asia, Europe, Australia, MENA -land available but low yield gap – much of the Americas -big yield gap but little land available – most populous SSA/C.America -big yield gap/land available – sparsely population SSA countries (e.g., DRC, Angola, CAR, Madagascar, Mozambique, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia) Supply Drivers Land Competition While the possibility for unrest exists, conflict due to ‘land grabs’ remains largely hypothetical (except Madagascar) By constrast, very real conflict emerges as competition intensifies among alternative uses: - Mining and farmland/pastureland: developed and developing countries both! - Livestock vs. crop production: Cain and Abel. Nile basin. - Environmental conservation vs. agriculture: Amazon and Congo basins especially Supply Drivers Much of the growth will come from continued rapid expansion of use of GM crops. But transgenics esp. controversial as move from cotton to food crops in LICs/MICs (e.g., India). Supply Drivers Productivity growth must occur near demand growth b/c 85-90% of food consumed in the country where it is grown. Food productivity growth in Africa/Asia is critical. Policy Responses Policy responses can cause new pressures, perhaps relieving local tensions but undermining stability elsewhere or sparking interstate tension: Production systems interventions: • Foreign land investments: near for transparency • Riparian diversions: Nile, Niger, Brahmaputra/ Ganges, Indus basins all sites of significant latent stress • Expansion of fisheries: area growing by 1◦ lat/yr, 2/3 of world’s continental shelves ≥ max sust. yield already • Rapid peri-urban livestock intensification: considerable cross-border risk of zoonoses (Rift Valley fever, avian/ swine flu) and animal pathogens (FMD .. UK in 2001). • Firm and gov’t efforts to capture IP – ‘gene grabs’ • Limits on GM food crops (e.g., India) Policy Responses Potentially problematic policy responses (cont.): Distribution systems interventions: • Export bans and import restrictions that thin global markets: Attempts to insulate domestic mkts from global price shocks amplifies int’l market price volatility • Securitization of humanitarian response and decline of international food assistance resources • Controls over foreign direct investment in food marketing/ processing channel (e.g., India) • Biofuels policy and resulting distortions in ag markets • Farm policy and market spillovers – esp. in China (real farm subsidies grew 2002-10 from Y100Mn to Y123Bn!) w/massive potential to destabilize maize, rice, soy mkts if 95% self-sufficiency policy gets relaxed to stem inflation. Policy Responses Other policy responses relieve stress: • Increased investment in, accelerated development/release of improved cultivars and livestock breeds • Improvement of ICT/transport that makes trade and relief distribution cheaper and more responsive. • Reduced post-harvest loss through improved storage, processing, dist’n tech/institutions. • Social protection policies / reliable safety nets (e.g., PSNP/NREGS) - food riots don’t strike everywhere that people are vulnerable to price increases. A key implication is that protest movements that agitate for social protection may help, not hinder, stability. Summary Past success proves the potential of food systems to reduce human suffering and maintain social stability. This challenge can be met. But structural demand and supply patterns for food pose major challenges. Climate change and growing land/water scarcity make it harder now than it was in the 1940s-80s. Failure to meet this challenge may lead not just to widespread food insecurity, but also to social unrest, magnifying unnecessary human suffering. Must focus most attention where the challenges and the risks will be greatest : in Africa and Asia. Summary The means by which food security is achieved, and for whom, matters fundamentally to the relationship between food security and sociopolitical stability. Food security achieved via greater productivity per worker/ha/m3, reduced post-harvest loss, improved food distribution systems and/or social protection policies directly reduces sociopolitical instability. Conversely, local food security achieved through measures that have adverse spillover effects – increased natural resources exploitation or beggarthy-neighbor trade, market, NRM, or IP policies – can have adverse sociopolitical effects that ultimately aggravate underlying food security stress. Thank you Thank you for your time, interest and comments!