For the first time, study confirms: “There is a link between thirst, hunger and conflicts”

Italian researchers from the Milan Polytechnic and American researchers from the University of California at Berkeley have analyzed the link between extreme events, people’s safety and nutrition

There is a connection between thirst
hunger and conflicts between people, extreme hydrological events affect the human security starting from‘diet. This is the confirmation that comes, for the first time in scientific literature, from a study by researchers at the Milan Polytechnic and the University of California at Berkeley who examined the complex link between drought and conflicts in Central America. The study is published today in the prestigious journal ‘Nature Water’. In their work, the researchers explored – for the decades from 1996 to 2016 – how the availability of water affected agricultural production and food security and investigated the link between drought-induced food insecurity and the emergence of conflicts in the region.

The study thus offers insight into how ‘climate and water availability may interact with human well-being and social unrest through food security’. The research also highlights “the importance of strengthening the resilience of rural communities in developing countries to prevent the escalation of social tension”. The researchers point out that Central American cities are notorious for their high murder rates and urban violence linked to the proliferation of young street gangs known as maras. Furthermore, rural communities are threatened by the canícula, a dry season that occurs in July and August, and its severe impacts on agriculture, which constitutes the main source of food supply and income in this region of the world.

Martina Sardo, PhD candidate at the Politecnico di Milano and lead author of the study, points out that in the study, “for the first time in the literature, food security is explicitly considered as a central mechanism in the chain linking water scarcity caused by drought and the conflict” he explains “We also analyzed – continues Sardo – how internal food trade can influence the level of food security from production areas to food consumption areas, such as cities”.

Researcher Rulli: “Stable conditions of peace are more influenced by favorable socio-economic conditions”

Maria Cristina Rulli, professor of Hydrology and coordinator of the Lab Glob3ScienCE (Global Studies on Sustainable Security in a Changing Environment) of the Politecnico di Milano, indicates that the research team has “declined food security both in biophysical terms, i.e. in terms of availability of for the production of food and their stability with respect to hydrological extremes, both in socio-economic terms relating to access to resources and therefore to food”.

Rulli then highlights that “the combination of a physically based and spatially distributed agrohydrological model with a complex statistical model that correlates availability and access to water and food, socio-economic indicators and conflict, shows that decreases in water availability and access and food explain the flaring up of the conflict while stable conditions of peace are more influenced by favorable socio-economic conditions”. The researcher also adds that “conflicts in a given place can also be influenced by water scarcity conditions that occur in distant places.

This explains “how the internal food trade can strengthen and spatially expand the water-food-conflict nexus” concludes the teacher Maria Cristina Rulli. The study is: “Exploring the water–food nexus reveals the interlinkages with urban human conflicts in Central America” ​​by Martina Sardo, Ilenia Epifani, Paolo D’Odorico, Nikolas Galli, Maria Cristina Rulli. (by Andreana d’Aquino)