Alexander Vadala: Achieving SDG2: Political Aspects of Pastoral Vulnerability Among the Afar in Ethiopia
In Food Ethics, 2019. Edited by Dan Banik
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 relates to ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture. The SDGs mention only a few political indicators and SDG2 in particular is largely devoid of political considerations to end hunger and achieve food security. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen famously observed the absence of famine in democracies, suggesting that a democratic system provides checks and balances that prevent famine. His observation has elicited further debate and triggered empirical studies in recent years.
Going beyond Sen’s hypothesis, this essay examines other political factors that would explain vulnerability to famine and that need to be addressed more explicitly in SDG 2 and similar initiatives. By taking the case of pastoralists in the Afar region of Ethiopia, this research explores selected political determinants of vulnerability to famine. The Eritrea-Ethiopia war and the ensuing border closure have had a detrimental effect on the livelihood of pastoralists in Afar – many pastoralists were deprived of a market and a reliable source of income. In addition, Afar pastoralists were sidelined from the informal salt sector on which they used to rely. The state facilitated this expropriation, leaving pastoralists even more vulnerable to famine. I argue that political considerations are crucial in successfully ending hunger and achieving food security. The essay uses a qualitative case study design and is based on a PhD dissertation.