Nine Meals Away from Anarchy

Venezuela has rapidly devolved into utter chaos as hyperinflation, black outs and lack of basic goods are having ever more serious effects on its inhabitants. Doctors are fleeing the country, people are looting grocery stores and killing cats, dogs and doves for food. 

Hunger destroys social order as desperate people take desperate steps to secure food for survival. If people go hungry for too long a revolution is likely. 

Relying on a ‘just-in-time’ delivery system in a period of financial collapse is like begging for social upheaveal in my mind. There is no redundancy at all if the food supply chain is interrupted, at most grocery stores keep some 3 days of inventory. After that, people start bartering and looting until the situation becomes so unbarable that they revolt or flee to another country.

Lack of food security is also caused by a shifting climate with more extreme weather events (e.g. stronger El Niño, more severe droughts) leading to crop failures and people flooding into already overpopulated cities. Creating social unrest as unemployment and crime grows. A situation that occured in Syria just before the civil war broke out. 

According to the latest Global Food Security Update (March, 2016) by the World Food Programme we can see (in the map below) how hunger hotspots are concentrated around the equator in very dry regions, in areas of conflict and countries vulnerable to changes in rainfall patterns due to El Niño. 

For example, food insecurity in Syria have reached alarming levels as most people struggle to find food or the money to buy food. Some 13.5 million people in Syria require protection and humanitarian aid. In Yemen, 56% of the population, i.e. 14.4 million people, are food insecure. In South Africa 31.6 million people have been affected by the poor rainy season due to El Niño. Ethiopia is also suffering from El Niño-induced droughts and some 10.2 million people are currently in need of food assistance.

Food Insecurity Hotspots (orange), WFP presence (brown). Source: World Food Programme, March 2016

Many commodity exporting countries relying heavily on oil for government income and spending (e.g. Venezuela, Niger, Iraq, Angola) are suffering major economic problems due to peak production, rising extraction costs and lower market prices. This is true also for countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Canada. The less diversified a country is the more vulnerable they are to market shocks.


Out of the ashes into the fire

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