To Cultivate Peace: Agriculture in a World of Conflict

By
Nils Petter Gleditsch and Indra de Soysa

In this article we examine the post–Cold War pattern of conflict with a focus on the role of agriculture. In developing countries, the primary sector of the economy is dominant. Closely linked to basic human needs, it is directly affected by environmental degradation and by violence. The agricultural sector is subject to strong governmental intervention in most countries, and can easily suffer from capricious politics. The conditions of food production and distribution is a good arena for observing the interaction of politics, economics, and environmental issues as they influence violent conflict – how it is generated, how it is escalated, how it is contained, and how it is resolved. We conclude that the rehabilitation of agriculture is a central condition for development, reducing poverty, preventing environmental destruction, and for reducing violence. Poor conditions for agriculture hold grave implications for socio-economic development and sustainable peace. We also see good governance as crucial in building healthy conditions for agriculture, and thus in breaking the vicious cycle of poverty, scarcity, and violence. The central issues are not merely technical: they relate directly to the way human beings organize their affairs and how they cope with natural and man-made crises.

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