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The politics of scarcity : conceptualising the current food security crisis in southern Africa : commentary

Vogel, C   Smith, J

South African Journal of Science   98 (7 & 8) 315-317

January 2002

In June 2002, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced that 12.8 million people in southern Africa were on the brink of starvation in what could be the region's worst food crisis for more than a decade.

Typical of the 'complex emergency' famines of the twentieth century, the current one is rooted in structural vulnerabilities (lack of access to resources and inequitable political and economic conditions) and conjunctural factors ('triggers' that precipitate the famine, such as drought, flooding, or pestilence). Famines are no longer globally analysed merely in terms of lack of food, but are seen rather as the product of a complex set of interrelationships between society, economic development and the environment. This article briefly highlights some of the issues.