Food Security is a National Security Issue

It is said a hungry man is an angry man. There is a huge relationship between food security and national security. Hunger can lead to rebellion and instability in countries. Conflicts can also lead to food shortages. Governments have being toppled due to food related crises in the world. In 2007/2008, the world experienced a global food crisis caused by droughts in major grain producing nations, a surge in oil prices leading to high costs of production and hedge funds speculation of food prices. The crisis led to riots in various countries including Burkina Faso and the removal of the Haitian prime minister.

Closer home in Sudan, there have been antigovernment protests since December 2018, after the government tripled the price of bread. Although analysts claim that anger and rebellion has been building up over Al Bashir’s rule, the decision to increase the price of bread triggered the protests which later spread to the capital Khartoum.

In 2010 wild fires consumed 25% of the world’s third largest producer of wheat- Russia. It is also the global leader in wheat exports since most of China’s and India’s output is consumed locally. The Russian government banned exports to ensure the local population had enough. This led to food shortages in some Middle East countries where wheat is a staple food providing a spark for the Arab Spring in 2011. Tunisia was the first country to experience the protests due to food inflation. They became intensive after a young hawker whose goods had been confiscated by municipal security authorities set himself on fire marking the end of President’s Ben Ali 23 year old rule as the protests spread to Egypt.

The conversation about food security is now shifting upwards to food sovereignty where the latter takes into account the autonomy over production methods, distribution and other processes of food and agricultural in general. A case in point is Qatar which used to depend on food imports from or through Saudi Arabia and Egypt. With the closure of its only land border with Saudi Arabia and isolation by other neighbours such as Egypt, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates, Qatar has restructured its food system with boosts in local production and new allies.

Currently, there is a youth bulge especially in developing countries. This ballooning population coupled with lack of opportunities has a potential to destabilize nations. Societies with huge populations of young unemployed males having been observed to have higher crime rates and are susceptible to extremist and radical groups. Nowhere, is the problem seemingly bigger than in Africa where 65 % of the population is classified as youth. With Kenya leading in youthful population and unemployment rate in the region, policy makers should be concerned what dangers lay ahead.

It is then, in the strategic interests of governments to invest in agricultural food production not only as measure to solve food insecurity and reduce poverty but also promote peace, security and national sovereignty.

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