Skip to main content

Malnutrition and conflict in East Africa: the impacts of resource variability on human security

Abstract

Changes in climate, along with anthropogenic pressures, impact vegetation productivity and related ecosystem services on which human security relies. The impacts of these climate changes on society will be experienced both through changes in mean conditions over long time periods and through increases in extreme events. Uncertainties remain on how short-term changes in ecosystems influence human security. Most studies analyzing the relationship between human security and climate are at the country level, ignoring fine-grained spatial heterogeneity in local climatic and socio-economic conditions. Here, we used detailed spatio-temporal information extracted from wide-swath satellite data (MODIS) to examine the impact of interannual variability in ecosystems on malnutrition and armed conflict in East Africa while controlling for other natural and socio-economic factors. The analysis was performed at a subnational and village scales. At the regional level, ecosystem variability was associated with malnutrition. This relationship was not statistically significant at the village level. At both levels of analysis, our results indicated that armed conflicts were more likely in regions with more vegetation. Results suggested that, in East Africa, increased levels of malnutrition were related to armed conflicts. They also showed the importance, in low-income countries, of local economic activity and accessibility to reduce the likelihood of malnutrition and insecurity.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Barnett J (2003) Security and climate change. Glob Environ Change 13:7–17

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Battisti DS, Naylor RL (2008) Historical warnings of future food insecurity with unprecedented seasonal heat. Science 323:240–244

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burnham KP, Anderson D (2002) Model selection and multimodel inference: a practical information-theory approach. Springer, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Central Intelligence Agency (2008) The World Factbook, available at www.cia.gov

  • Collier P (2007) The bottom billion: why the poorest countries are failing and what can be done about it. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  • Comenetz J, Caviedes C (2002) Climate variability, political crisis, and historical population displacements in Ethiopia. Environ Hazards 4:113–127

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • De Waal A (1997) Famine crimes: politics and the disaster relief industry in Africa. Indiana University Press, Bloomington

    Google Scholar 

  • Degomme O, Guha-Sapir D (2007) Mortality and nutrition surveys by non-governmental organizations. Perspectives from the CE-DAT database. Emerging Themes in Epidemiology 4:11

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • ESRI (1993) Digital Chart of the World for use with ARC/INFO: data dictionary. ESRI, Redlands

  • Gleditsch NP (1998) Armed conflict and the environment: a critique of the literature. J Peace Res 35:381–400

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goldstone JA (2001) Demography, environment, and security. In: Diehl PF, Gleditsch NP (eds.) Environmental conflict. Westview, Boulder, pp 84–108

    Google Scholar 

  • Guha-Sapir D, van Panhuis WG, Degomme O, Teran V (2005) Civil conflicts in four african countries: a five-year review of trends in nutrition and mortality. Epidemiol Rev 27:67–77

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hendrix CS, Glaser SM (2007) Trends and triggers: climate, climate change and civil conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa. Polit Geogr 26:695–715

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Homer-Dixon TF (1991) On the threshold: environmental changes as causes of acute conflict. Int Secur 16:76–116

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hosmer DW, Lemeshow S (1989) Applied logistic regression. Wiley, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Howard P, Homer-Dixon T (1998) The case of Chiapas, Mexico. In: Homer-Dixon T, Blitt J (eds.), Ecoviolence: links among environment, population, and security. Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, pp 19–66

    Google Scholar 

  • IPCC (2007) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  • Kevane M, Gray L (2008) Darfur: rainfall and conflict. Environ Res Lett 3:034006

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Linderman M, Rowhani P, Benz D, Serneels S, Lambin EF (2005) Land-cover change and vegetation dynamics across Africa. J Geophys Res 110:D12104

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meier P, Bond D, Bond J (2007) Environmental influences on pastoral conflict in the Horn of Africa. Polit Geogr 26:719–735

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moon BK (2007) A climate culprit in Darfur. The Washington Post

  • Nordås R, Gleditsch NP (2007) Climate change and conflict. Polit Geogr 26:627–638

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nordhaus WD (2006) Geography and macroeconomics: new data and new findings. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 103:3510–3517

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Parry M, Rosenzweig C, Iglesias A, Fischer G, Livermore M (1999) Climate change and food security: a new assessment. Glob Environ Change 9:51–67

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Percival V, Homer-Dixon T (1998) Environmental scarcity and violent conflict: the case of South Africa. J Peace Res 35:279–298

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Raleigh C, Urdal H (2007) Climate change, environmental degradation and armed conflict. Polit Geogr 26:674–694

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rockström J, Steffen W, Noone K, Persson A, Chapin FS, Lambin EF, Lenton TM, Scheffer M, Folke C, Schellnhuber HJ, Nykvist B, de Wit CA, Hughes T, van der Leeuw S, Rodhe H, Sörlin S, Snyder PK, Costanza R, Svedin U, Falkenmark M, Karlberg L, Corell RW, Fabry VJ, Hansen J, Walker B, Liverman D, Richardson K, Crutzen P, Foley JA (2009) A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461:472–475

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rosegrant MW, Cline SA (2003) Global food security: challenges and policies. Science 302:1917–1919

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rowhani P, Linderman M, Lambin EF (2010) Global interannual variability in terrestrial ecosystems: sources and spatial distribution using MODIS-derived vegetation indices, social, and biophysical factors. Int J Remote Sens (in press)

  • Sachs J (2006) Ecology and political upheaval, Scientific American, accessed online at www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=ecology-and-political-uph

  • Schaaf CB, Gao F, Strahler AH, Lucht W, Li X, Tsang T, Strugnell NC, Zhang X, Jin Y, Muller JP, Lewis P, Barnsley M, Hobson P, Disney M, Roberts G, Dunderdale M, Doll C, d’Entremont R, Hu B, Liang S, Privette JL (2002) First operational BRDF, albedo nadir reflectance products from MODIS. Remote Sens Environ 83:135–148

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Scheffer M, Carpenter S, Foley JA, Folke C, Walker B (2001) Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems. Nature 413:591–596

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schimel D (2006) Climate change and crop yields: beyond Cassandra. Nature 312:1889–1890

    Google Scholar 

  • Schmidhuber J, Tubiello FN (2007) Global food security under climate change. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 104:19703–19708

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sen A (1983) Poverty and famines: an essay on entitlement and deprivation. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  • Strand H, Carlsen J, Gleditsch NP, Hegre H, Ormhaug C, Wilhelmsen L (2005) Armed Conflict Dataset Codebook. International Peace Research Institute, Oslo

    Google Scholar 

  • Theisen OM (2006) Other pathways to conflict? Environmental scarcities and domestic conflict In Paper presented to the 47th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, San Diego, CA, pp. 22–25 March 2006

  • UNDP (2007) Human Development Report 2007/2008. United Nation Development Programme

  • UNEP (1992) World Atlas of Desertification, UNEP/GEMS and GRID, Nairobi, Kenya

  • UNEP (2007) Sudan Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment. United Nations Environment Programme

  • Young H, Osman AM, Aklilu Y, Dale R, Badri B, Fuddle AJA (2005) Darfur—livelihoods under Siege. Feinstein International Famine Center, Tufts University, Medford, MA, USA

  • Zhang DD, Brecke P, Lee HF, He Y, Zhang J (2007) Global climate change, war, and population decline in recent human history. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 104:19214–19219

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Pedram Rowhani.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Rowhani, P., Degomme, O., Guha-Sapir, D. et al. Malnutrition and conflict in East Africa: the impacts of resource variability on human security. Climatic Change 105, 207–222 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-010-9884-8

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-010-9884-8

Keywords

  • Gross Domestic Product
  • Food Insecurity
  • Land Degradation
  • Ecosystem Productivity
  • Enhance Vegetation Index