Exploring the Causes of Famine

Exploring the Causes of Famine
Natural causes of famine include heavy rain, flooding, and most predominantly which can lead to destruction of crops and desertification, typhoons, again destroying crops, vermin depredations, plant disease and insect infestations. In figure 3 some of the examples of famines caused by physical processes throughout history, why they were caused, and what the consequences were. Figure 3. Examples of Famine caused by natural processes Place and Date of Famine Reason for Famine Consequence Of Famine Egypt 1064-72 Failure of Nile Floods for 7 years, caused unfertile land Thousands believed to have died, cannibalism China 1333-37 Great Famine, Drought 4,000,000 dead in one region; believes to be source of EuropeÂ?s Black Death (plague) Northwest India 1837-38 Drought, locust, as well as war and migration of starving people 800,000 died. Ireland 1845-49 Great Potato Famine caused by Potato Blight (diseased potatoes) 1,000,000 died from starvation and disease, many emigrated India 1866 Poor distribution of Rainfall 1,500,000 died India 1899 Drought 1,250,000 starved, including effects of disease 3,250,000 died India 1965 Drought Due to success of relief operations, thousands died , not millions The Sahel, Africa 1968-74 Drought 30 foreign nations sent food , but aid was badly handled due to corrupt officials , poor roads and lack of advanced planning.
500,000 people died 3,000,000 cattle. Ethiopia 1973 Drought 100,000 died. Emperor Haile Selassie didnÂ?t want to spoil tourist trade so he did not publicize famine, or ask for foreign aid. Bangladesh 1974 Floods covered almost half of the country, destroying crops and stored grain. The government did not distribute large quantities of rice that were available and merchants exported it to India. Thousands died. Somalia 1974 Drought destroyed people and animals In 1975 the U.S.S.R airlifted 120,000 starving nomads and resettled them on collective farms in Southern Somalia. The Sahel 1983-85 Prolonged drought beginning in late 1970Â?s 22,000,000 people endangered in up to 22 countries. Cattle and crops afflicted. Largest Famine in 20th century. It is clear that with these examples of major famines caused by natural factors such as drought or disease that physical processes are of major consequence in terms of famine. The question; Â?is the root cause of famine physical geography?Â? has many problems. On the one hand looking at the amount and huge effect of natural caused famines throughout history it is clear that without humans droughts would still be apparent. But the human influence, such as bad political decisions, (e.g. Emperor Haile Selassie in Ethiopia in 1973), migration or war, make famines real cause human. Pre 20th century, there was little technology or the opportunity of aid, but in the 20th century famines it is clear that, undeveloped countries with unstable governments such as the sub-Saharan countries mentioned are those which are most affected, and developed countries tend not to have many deaths due to droughts, because they have the money and management to deal with it, showing that human factors are having a huge influence. Figure 4 shows some of the human processes which have caused famine. Figure 4. Human causes of Famine. Place and Date of Famine Reason for Famine Consequence Of Famine England 1069 Norman Invasion Cannibalism, many died U.S.S.R (especially Ukraine) 1932-34 Collectivization, forced procurements, destruction of livestock by peasants An estimated 5,000,000 died Greece 1941-43 War. Losses because of increased mortality and reduced birth. Estimates at 450,000 Warsaw Ghetto 1941-42 War. Starvation, Starvation estimated to have directly or indirectly taken 43,000 lives Leningrad 1941-44 War. City besieged for 3 years 1,000,000 died directly or indirectly due to starvation Bengal, India 1943-44 Price of rice driven enormously high due to speculation. Small harvest, meant there was little rice and people couldnÂ?t afford the rice. 1,500,000 died U.S.S.R 1947 Reported by Khrushchev in 1963: Â?their method was like this: they sold grain abroad, while in some regions people were swollen wit hunger and even dying for lack of bread Thousands died Republic Of The Congo 1960-61 Caused by civil war. Refugees had no access to protein Resulted in epidemic of kwashiorkor Cambodia 1975-79 Genocidal policies of the Khmer Rouge regime: massive deportation of urban population by forced march into the countryside without food or shelter. Total disruption of the economic structure of country 1,000,000 died through starvation. These are the major examples of human processes which have caused famine. The most important point to notice with these facts is that pre-20th century there is almost no amount of major famines caused by human influences alone, such as war or politics, which shows that as the world has developed the root cause of famine has changed from being simply down to natural processes such as drought, where in pre-modern times societies has not been able to cope or manage, compared to the modern world where developed countries can now cope and manage, showing that we now have a situation where underdeveloped countries cannot cope and due to world development famines root cause is now, it can be argued, becoming human processes. A Closer Look at a Natural Cause of Famine There are several natural processes which can cause famine but the most predominant cause with the biggest impact (as can be seen in figure 3) is Drought. The main reason for this is that drought can cause many different problems which can have long term effects. Figure 5. Drought What Is Drought? Drought is a temporary feature but it can run for a period of years. It is a period of abnormally dry weather that persists long enough to produce a serious hydrological imbalance. Drought is a moisture deficiency below the normal levels for the environment concerned. Causes Of Drought The itcz moves north and south with a band of rain in it. If it doesnÂ?t move as north or south as usual areas of Africa will not receive there normal summer rain and this can occur for many years. El Nino, the warming of sea surfaces in the eastern Pacific can change rainfall patterns. Areas bordering on Pacific will receive much less rainfall. Causes drought in usa, Canada, Brazil and South Africa. Effects Of Drought Â? Soil and groundwater sources will decline, leading to reduction of the sources of water that produce streamflow. Rivers will eventually dry up. This soil moisture deficit will not meet needs of plants and crops. This intensifies food supply problems. Â? Famine is caused, but usually combined with other factors such as politics, civil war, and economic conditions. This usually occurs in LEDCÂ?s. Â? In MEDCÂ?s droughts cause water-resource problems. Â? In natural environment drought can cause dust storms, wildfires, pests and disease. Example Of Drought Â? Southern Ethiopia and Somalia, 2000 (ledc) Â? In 2000 the itcz did not reach far enough North, and the rains failed leading to another severe drought. Â? Approximately 43% of the population of the area was affected. Â? Led to huge movement and migration of people searching for fresh water and pasture. Migration is usual but not on such large scale. Â? Milk, a main component of peopleÂ?s diet became less accessible Â? Food prices began to rise Â? Lack of food and water meant dramatic livestock losses. Thousands of goats, sheep, cows and camels died Â? Death of livestock meant deterioration in peopleÂ?s nutritional status. Â? Many people went to Â?internally displace person camps, one holding 13,000. Â? Foreign aid was needed as it was estimated that 50% were malnutritioned. Â? 150,000,000 inhabitants had there lives and health threatened by the famine. Case Study of Drought The 1991-92 drought in Zambia Background Zambia, in Southern Africa has a large manufacturing and mining sector based mainly on copper exports. 58% of the population of Zambia live in rural areas and in the 1980Â?s the through rural population growth, the population grew by a million. At this time the country was ruled by Kenneth Kaunda, as a single-party republic. His government had used money from export earning to support industrialisation and growth of maize as a basic food source and export crop. Due to the maize subsidies the country was almost self-sufficient in maize production. However due to the position of Zambia in southern Africa the countries maize production is constantly under threat from droughts, as in 1982-84, Â?89 and Â?90. The 1991-92 droughts (figure7) came at a time of political and economic changes with a change of government in October 1991. Affected Regions Â? The north was least affected. Â? Rural Areas most affected (2million people affected in rural areas) Â? In the cities people maintained their incomes and could buy imported food. [image]The Drought and itÂ?s Impacts: Figure 6 [image]Rainfall Changes The 1991-92 droughts came at the end of a very dry decade: 1970Â?s average rainfall per year = 850mm 1991-92 rainfall = 450mm Figure 7. Shows rainfall for 1991-92 compared to rainfall for 1992-93 in different regions of Zambia. [image] Problems Caused Â? Low rainfall totals just after planting maize in January/February was the main problem Â? Maize production was down 40-100% Â? Later attempts to plant crops failed, leaving many without sufficient food supply and next years seeds. Â? Livestock numbers were reduced by drought and the disease caused by it. Â? However overgrazing was not an issue, as stock numbers had been reduced by East Coast fever. Â? The reservoirs were already low from dry years, so there was minimal water supply. Â? Flow on the River Kafue was at its lowest since 1905. In 1992 peak flow reduced from an average of 820 to 100 m3/s. Â? Power generation was reduced to 30% of capacity at Victoria Falls and Kafue Gorge. Â? This resulted in power rationing in urban areas and industry. Â? In rural areas, streams and wetland areas dried up quickly Â? In 1992-93 rainfall bought quick recovery to natural vegetation and wildlife but the effects on people were longer term. Drought Response And Management Â? The drought stripped rural families of there livestock and seed stock. There was losses of 30-100% of income. Â? People sold what they had before the relief maize came. Â? There was increased gathering of fruits, vegetables and insects for food. Â? The government informed aid donors and in March 1992 food-aid pledges were received from governments and international organisations. Â? Enough food was received by August to prevent famine. This was a similar situation to the Ethiopian drought of 1973 which became a famine, as Emperor SelassieÂ?s government did not inform aid donors. They done nothing and this bad management caused famine. Â? Non-government organizations such as Food For Work (ffw) distributed maize to 2million people, mostly those without cash or resources. Â? In return the people (mostly women) worked on self-help schemes such as road repair and school building, while the men engaged in income earning activity The case study above gives a perfect example of how much a drought can affect a country the people in it, but with good management from the government, a famine which would have been caused due to this physical process can be avoided, even in less developed countries. This case study compared to the aforementioned Ethiopia famine which was a drought but due to bad management by Emperor Haile Selassie it tuned into a famine killing 100,000. Zambia could have gone the same way but was managed well, and few died, which gives a strong argument against the notion of physical processes being the core reason for famine. Figure 7. Shows rainfall for 1991-92, 1992-93 and the 30 year mean in different regions of Zambia. Figure 8. Shows the areas in Africa affected by drought 2002-3 A Closer Look at a Human Cause of Famine Having examined a predominant natural process which can cause famine it is now necessary to examine a human cause. One of the principal causes is desertification; the diminution or destruction of the biological potential of the land, often resulting in Â?desertÂ? like conditions. It is caused by human and natural processes but it is the human processes which make it desertification and cause famine. Figure 9. Explains what desertification is. Figure 9. Desertification What Is Desertification? Desertification is Â?land degradation in drylands resulting from human actionsÂ? It is the loss of soil and its productivity in arid and semi arid (less than 250mm rainfall per year) regions of the world because of overuse by man. It undermines food production and contributes to malnutrition and famine. The Extent Of The Problem Â? 20million km2 of land degraded each year Â? Affects 280 million people Â? 110 countries have drylands, desertification could affect 900 million people Â? areas suffering are Africa, China, Pakistan, Australia Â? UN claims $45 billion will be need each year for 20 years to reclaim degraded land. Â? Symptoms of desertification are soil erosion, loss of vegetation, salinisation and dune formation. What Causes Desertification? There are natural and socio-economic processes: Natural Â? Drought Â? High temperatures which cause high rate of Evapotranspiration. This means there is a high rate of moisture loss from soils. Â? Infrequent and often intense periods of rainfall which compacts soil increasing there erodibilty. Socio-Economic Â? Overgrazing Â? this occurs when herd sizes exceed the carrying capacity (number of cattle that can graze sustainably This can cause: â?º Vegetation changes (drought-resistant species replace edible species) â?º Soil quality reduced (grazing animals break down soil structure) â?º Health of livestock and there productivity decreases. Â? Overcultivation Â? occurs when increasing food production is needed: â?º to support increasing populations â?º When rural people are encouraged to grow Â?cash cropsÂ? for sale in city markets and for export. Â? Deforestation Â? forest is cleared for agriculture or fuel wood. This leads to reduced shade and greater desiccation of the soil and lower water table. The soil becomes stickier and thus more erodable Â? Inappropriate Irrigation Practices Â? Fertility is reduced through salinisation (build up of salt around roots of plants) and water logging (caused by poor drainage and salinisation) Figure 10. Map of Arid and Semi-arid climates of the world. Figure 11. Shows the suggested causes of land degradation Causes Reasons Natural Disasters Degradation due to bio geophysical causes, Â?acts of God.Â? Population Change Degradation occurs when population growth exceeds environmental thresholds or decline causes collapse of adequate management. Underdevelopment Resources exploited to benefit world economy or developed countries leave little profit to manage or restore degraded environments. Internationalism Taxation and other forces interfere with the market, triggering overexploitation. Colonial Legacies Trade links, communications, rural urban links, cash crops, poor management in the past. Inappropriate Technology and Advice Promotion of wrong strategies and techniques will result in land degradation. Ignorance Linked to inappropriate technology, a lack of knowledge leads to degradation. Attitudes PeopleÂ?s or institutionsÂ? attitudes blamed for degradation. War and Civil Unrest Overuse of resources in national emergencies and concentration of refugees leading to high population pressures in safe locations It is clear to see here that although desertification itself does have natural processes that can cause it to happen, such as drought and high evapotranspiration it in itself is a human process because the human processes react with the physical processes to create desertification rather than a dry spell which would pass when the rains return. Case Study of Desertification The Sahel Region of Northern Africa The Sahel Region of Africa is a transitional zone between the Sahara desert in the north and Savannas in the south. Background Â? Since the 1940Â?s 650,000km2 of land have turned to desert in The Sahel region. Â? Average annual rainfall is low Â? between 100mm and 200mm per year. Most rain occurs between June-September Â? Natural vegetation is xerophytic (drought-resistant). Â? Much of agriculture is nomadic pastoralism. Â? Farmers who usually rotate crops have been forced to stop allowing there soil fallow periods due to population pressure. They have thus been forced to use less fertile land. [image][image]Figure 12. Desertification in the Sahel. Natural Reasons Â? Population pressure has increased, for example EthiopiaÂ?s population has grown 300% since 1950. Â? Climate has varied considerably over time in the Sahel region. River deposits and relicit soils indicate moisture levels were once much higher. Â? There are short term decadal changes such as drought. The 1968-74 droughts were the worst in Northern Africa for 150 years. This led to the death of between 50,000 and 250,000 people and 3.5 million goats, camels, sheep and cattle. Human Reasons Â? Civil war in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. Â? [image]Population Growth leading to population pressure causing Â? Sedentary (inactive) nomads Â? These factors interact and lead to vegetation decline and removal of moisture from soil and local environment. Â? In 1950 5-12 ha were needed to support each cow. By the 1980Â?s stocking rates had risen to 2-6 ha per cow, exceeding carrying capacity of land, causing soil erosion and degradation. Year round grazing prevented these areas from recovering. Consequences Â? In 1973-74 drought resulted in the death of about 100,000 people mostly through starvation Â? 3.5 million Cattle died. Â? The process was repeated in the 1980Â?s Â? Many deaths were due to lack of drinking water, as well as lack of food from soil. [image][image] Figure 13. The Sahel region extends across Africa along the southern edge of the Sahara. Looking at this information about desertification in The Sahel Region of Africa one observation to be made is that when drought occurs, and this reacts with the many human causes the outcome is desertification or soil degradation. In turn this creates famine, and as well as this and other consequences described in figure 10, it also causes drought to occur and have a much more damaging effect, because there is not enough soil moisture utilisation to sustain society and farming as the land is becoming desertified. It is a Â?vicious circle, (figure11.) and thus the ability to recover the land gets more and more difficult. Figure 14. The Â?ViciousÂ? Circle of Desertification Drought, war and civil unrest, population growth and pressure etc. [image] [image] The only way to break the circle or slow down the process of desertification is through foreign aid and improved sustainable management. When drought occurs again, with little soil moisture meaning there will be even less crops grown causing famine to be more of a likely prospect. [image][image]Desertification, soil degradation, lack of soil moisture Famine, death, disease, loss of livestock, crops, desertified un-arable land. war case study? Analysis of Famine Â? Africa Having examined different causes of famine, and how these causes take out their effect on famine it is now necessary to look in to at further depth a continent wide famine, which has been caused due to several of the reasons already given. The case study of Africa particularly Ethiopia is a good example to use because not only has famine been caused, it looks as though it will have a long term lasting effect due to civil unrest, disease and erratic weather. Primary Causes Â? The Ethiopian famine is due to combined effects of drought, war, bad governance, corruption and erratic weather. Â? In province of Tigre, the conflict between Addis Ababa and guerrilla movements left the peasants at the mercy of the drought, causing famine. Â? In regions that are susceptible to harsh weather, the ravages of war and abuses of army, agricultural production has been disrupted and rural societies devastated. Â? In the conflicts famine has become a weapon and food-aid a Â?trump cardÂ? wielded to silence opposition. Â? For 10 years Ethiopia has been victim to chronic food shortage and dependent on food-aid. Â? Although the hostile climate, harshness the soil and Â?archaicÂ? nature of peasants has added to famine crisis, it is mainly war that has caused famine to happen when combined with drought. [image]Figure 15. African/Ethiopian Famine Case Study Consequences Â? Ethiopian authorities opted for shock treatment, a radical transformation of rural Ethiopia Â? with resources from aid organizations they uprooted a large portion of rural population and relocated them into new collective structures. Â? 600,000 people were forcibly transferred to northern and southern regions and 3million peasants were forced to abandon their land. Â? 38 million Ethiopians are threatened from starvation this year. [image] [image] [image][image]Secondary Causes Â? After 1984-85 famine the disease aids is combing with war, poverty, bad governance, corruption and erratic weather to cripple the ability of regions of sub-Saharan Africa from ever recovering from famine. Â? 38 million Africans are threatened by starvation due to food shortage. Â? Brenda Barton, the World Food Programme spokeswoman said Â?we are seeing a redefinition of famine, of humanitarian crises as we know them.Â? Â? The UN describes influence of aids as Â?new variant famine,Â? and population loss due to aids are wrecking agriculture, economy and health systems. aids Statistics Â? 29 million are affected with hiv in sub-Saharan Africa, this is about 70% of the worlds total Â? 9% of adults in region of 633 million are infected, but in some places it can be up to 40% Â? In these countries life expectancy is below 30 Figures 16-17. Â? In the last 20 years aids has killed more than 8million farmers and orphaned 4.2 million children. Further Consequences Â? The pandemic of aids which came to knowledge in the 1980Â?s has given a new type of famine. It has reacted with the famine due to drought and civil war and given a famine that is Â?out of control.Â? Â? The UN says 300million people in Africa (51% of sub-Saharan pop.) live on less than one dollar a day. Â? The World Bank estimates this to rise to 345million by 2015. Â? Renny Nancholas of Red Cross said Â?no one organization is ever going to dent such a huge crisis.Â? Â? In Zimbabwe the government has devastated agriculture by seizing farms in violent land reform. Fertile land lays fallow Â? 7million people are in danger of starvation. Foreign Aid Â? In Chimbombo, 55 miles north of Lusaka, ZambiaÂ?s capital, a US- government sponsored aid group the Cooperatie League Of The usa teaches subsistence farming techniques for dealing with drought and increasing crop yields. Â? 500 of the farmers have increased their yield fivefold. Â? Humanitarian groups all over Africa use food-aid to pay for agricultural improvements, and try to maintain farming. Â? Â?We need a unified strategy and we donÂ?t have one.Â? Â? Brenda Cupper, program director for the aid group care. Figure 16. The effect of aids on life expectancy in selected African countries compared to life expectancy changes in developed countries. 1970 1998 Males Females Males Females Zambia 46 49 36 36 Uganda 45 49 39 40 Zimbabwe 50 53 36 36 1970 1998 Males Females Males Females Japan 71 76 77 83 Italy 69 75 75 82 UK 69 75 74 79 usa 68 75 73 79 Figure 17. Graph shows the declining life expectancy in selected sub-Saharan countries compared to the increasing life expectancy in developed countries. What these statistics and graph show is the clear difference in movement of life expectancy. The underdeveloped countries which face problems of drought, famine, and aids find there life expectancy rates rapidly deceasing, while developed countries that do not face such pressures find there life expectancy rates steadily rising.

Exploring the Causes of Famine 8 of 10 on the basis of 2137 Review.