Hunger Games: Food Security and Strategic Preemptive Conflict

Abstract

A growing number of studies draw linkages between violent conflict and food scarcities. Yet, evidence suggests that at the subnational level conflict is likely to revolve around food resources abundance. In focusing on conflict waged by groups to prevent their rivals from securing food resources, this paper offers a theory to understand the relationship between food security and violent conflict. I develop a formal model that incorporates three actors: civilian producers who grow crops, raiders, and defense forces. Equilibrium and comparative static results show that violent conflict is more likely in regions with an abundance of food resources. The model is validated at the subnational level using new high specificity spatial data on staple crop production for the years 1998-2008, and used to forecast conflict for 2009- 2010. In line with theoretical expectations, food resources have a positive and statistically significant effect on the strategic behaviors of different actors.

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