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date: 16 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reviews food security in the West African Sahel, exploring the question of why, since the great drought-famines, of the late 1960s and early 1970s, food security and vulnerability to both climatic and market perturbations have not substantially improved and in some respects has deteriorated. Using my book Silent Violence, which was published in 1983, I revisit and review theories of famine and food security as they have been developed in and around African development. Using a village study in northern Nigeria, I argue that the precariousness of rural life can be explained by the shifting political economy of Nigeria and the forms of rural differentiation and inequality associated with, in the Nigerian case, the emergence of oil as the economic backbone of the country. While Nigeria as a petrostate is a special case, the dynamics at work point to general conditions prevailing across the West African Sahel. Since the 1970s there have been important shifts in policy regarding food and famine, and the ruling orthodoxy is now building resilience through the combination of traditional adaptability and decentralized forms of market integration. I investigate the origins and consequences of this approach and whether it can address the looming problems of global climate change.

Keywords: Nigeria, Sahel, famine, food security, resiliency, drought, peasants

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