War on cropland in Tigray causes famine

Tigray (large view)


(15-05-2024) Stanford and Ghent University researchers investigated the abandonment of cropland during the Tigray war in northern Ethiopia. They found a direct causal link between the war and the famine there.

The researchers focused on the well-cultivated land area in the highlands of Tigray (above 1,200 m) in 2021. Using satellite images, they detected a significant net loss of 543 km² of well-cultivated land, which remained fallow. Field observations confirmed this. Moreover, they found a strong causal relationship between the number of conflict incidents (battles, mass killings, bombings) and net loss of cropland area. When considering only conflict incidents that occured during the growing season, the relationship is even stronger.

Moreover, the team, which is strongly rooted in Tigray, identified vast uncultivated croplands in districts from which large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) had left. The researchers also counted the kilocalories lost due to the loss of productive croplands: the missed volume of staple crops could otherwise have fed at least 90% of the IDPs in Tigray.

This unique study illuminates the impact of the Tigray war on arable land, correlating the loss of cultivated land with the intensity of conflict incidents and the proportion of IDPs.


Jan Nyssen


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