On the Causes of Famine - Drought, Desertification and Market Failure in the Sudan

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Many natural scientists foster the idea of a degrading environment, caused by over-exploitation of the resources, being the cause of famine and poverty in Africa. In accordance with this, policies aimed at restoring the environment are formulated. This article analyses the main causes of famine, i.e. drought, desertification and the food market, with examples from the 1984-85 famine in the Sudan. The food security situation is scrutinised from both a natural and a societal point of view. It demonstrates the close connection between climatic variation and food production and reveals the myth of desertification. It also demonstrates the role of a malfunctioning market, in combination with an unjust credit system, in causing the famine. While crop production were half the normal, prices were five to six times higher than normal - that was the real cause of the tragedy. In order to find solutions for preventing a return of the 1984/85 situation, the idea of a degrading environment must be abandoned in favour of a more profound analysis of the interrelations between the atmosphere, the biosphere and the society.
Sidor (från-till)395-404
TidskriftAmbio: a Journal of the Human Environment
StatusPublished - 1993

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