East Africa: Ethnicity and Resources

After looking at the external impacts of religion on the access to food it is now crucial to bring in domestic identity factors to draw more precise conclusions on the Politics of Food within the Region.

Picture6.pngThe politics of food within East Africa calls for an attention on identity factors. Thus, after previously focusing on Religion I will not focus on domestic factors.

Ethnicity within the region creates issues in relation to food. In the states that arguably have more visible ethnic divides, there are clearer effects on politics and preferences owing to these divisions. In states such as Ethiopia and Somalia this is very visible with Somali authorities holding a strong belief that those residing in Southern Ethiopia belong in Somalia, as highlighted by Englebert and Dunne; ethnicity has clearly affected policies of development and access to food because historically the Somali authorities have sort to annex this region, subsequently affecting food security and development domestically and internationally as neither access to food or developmental tools can occur during a state of conflict as Alinovi, Gunter and Luca point out. Such issues were created by the imposition of state boundaries by colonialist powers. The impacts of ethnicity in the region show both a domestic and internationally historic effect on the access to food because evidently ethnicity does cross the colonial borders which I argue affects the ability to coordinate with other nations as desertification hits a certain area. Ultimately, ethnic conflicts particularly in the north of the region have severely affected the coordination of policies to ensure equitable access to food for all. On a micro scale, ethnicity also affects politics domestically as it is likely that politicians belonging to a certain ethnic group will seek to aid this group over others as shown in Burundi by Englebert and Dunne.

Picture7Ethnicity clearly has domestic origins, which therefore leds me to focus on other domestically based factors. In east Africa this means the impact the local environment has on modes of production and uses of land. Resource wise, as research from the CIA world fact book shows, 1/3 of the Kenyan economy is agricultural, in Burundi this equates to 90% and in Ethiopia this equals more than 80% of the populations livelihoods. There is therefore a need to focus on policies that improve agricultural production in order to prevent a food crisis. This is essential owing to the need to prevent threats to human security which under the United Nations Development Program, was defined in 1994 as the need to include freedom from fear and want within a definition of security. With this high reliance on agriculture, climate change clearly does pose a threat toward human security because of the domestic divides between ethnicity and gender as previously discussed which have led to unequal access to food. Therefore, ethnic groups that are discriminated against by government regimes and women, are at a greater risk of suffering when there is limited access to resources owing to climate change. What this means is that internal factors will play a more incremental role in the access to food as agricultural production decreases. This is because much of the economies and internal trade is clearly based on farming in this region as indicated in the data above, thus when production goes down there will be less resources and money available to provide sufficient food, which will lead to inequitable access due to power divisions which will I argue underline any policies of distribution.

In acknowledging these power relationships ethnicity and gender as talked about previously, it is alarming that we see a high incidence of famine in the region,such as in The Ethiopian Famine of 1983-86 which begun as a result of political chaos, strong ethnic ties and crop failure.Picture8

Further issues related to food and politics can be revealed when looking at the recent escalation in Somalia. In this example Ethnicity has been key as the famine is affected only specific regions and therefore only specific ethnic groups within the country.

In focusing on famine what the above shows is that owing to the geography of the region which has meant that it is prone to failed rainy seasons as argued by Miller, the fact that domestically the majority of the countries in this religion rely on agriculture for food production and income shows that climate change poses a major issue to this region. This is particularly true when looking at the effects that this will have on those marginalized within the societies owing to their membership to a particular ethnic group with 2.8 million people in south Somalia facing hunger as shown by Raghavan 2011.

There are however regional differences. Kenya, Zimbabwe and Djibouti, are fairly stable countries, with better access to food resources. Evidently, despite experiencing high levels of economic mismanagement the likelihood of famine is reduced. When considering all of the above factors this is perhaps due to greater levels of assimilation and unification under colonialism due to modes of direct rule and settler colonies that existed within these states. Arguably this meant that their political structures and societal structures were more likely to reduce the effects of ethnicity in particularly. More over each of the aforementioned states lack either a dependent on agriculture (Djibouti), or the Sufism does not form a major part of their culture (Kenya and Zimbabwe), which would suggest owing to my previous arguments that there will be more equitable access to food.

Ultimately in East Africa, due to issues of identity, limited access to food leads to skewed access as well as discriminative legislation which can seriously affect the majority of the population.

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