Conflict & Food and Water Resources

Our research aims to examine the short- and long-term impacts of conflict on protracted hunger, nutrition, and food rights and justice issues. Our research will also examine the ethical challenges to food and nutrition security in the context of social discrimination and inequity. Most of the work we do in this area focuses in low- and middle-income countries (e.g., semi-arid lands in northern Kenya).


Understanding and addressing moral dilemmas of sedentarisation of pastoralists: Practical ethics of mitigating conflict amongst water and food resource constrained populations in the Northern Kenya Semi-Arid Lands

Principal Investigator Jessica Fanzo, PhD, Principal Investigator, Director, Global Food Ethics and Policy Program, Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics & SAIS

Co-investigator: Elizabeth Fox, Hecht-Levi Fellow, Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University

Pastoralists (nomads who raise livestock on natural pastures) in North-Eastern Kenya are experiencing significant difficulties in preserving their traditional livelihoods due to various factors including population pressure and climate change induced environmental stresses. One way of dealing with these difficulties has been to settle pastoralists. This proposal seeks to better understand the ethical dilemmas posed by government policies of “sedentarisation” in the context of traditional pastoralist practices of transhumance in order to obtain food and water for themselves and their animals. We will study two groups, the Borana Oromo and the Somali, to better understand how two large, but different, ethnic groups are responding to the challenge of sedentarisation and to compare how their specific cultural practices and traditional livelihoods facilitate adjustment to climate change in accessing two key resources – food and water. Using Participatory Action Research as an overarching approach, we will use methods including Geographic Information Systems, e-mobile technology, semi-quantitative ethnographic surveys with photovoice, key informant interviews, and focus groups to (1) identify the constraints, conflicts, and trade-offs of three types of pastoralist livelihoods – sedentary, semi-nomadic and nomadic – within the Borana and Somali ethnic populations (2) develop a guiding framework of ethical considerations that may assist or resolve the constraints, drivers and conflicts of food and water resources amongst these two ethnic populations and livelihoods by developing a guiding ethical framework; and (3) identify government policies and development agency programmatic actions that have the potential to incorporate ethical standards and rights based approaches to address food and water insecurity challenges. This research will be important in informing how to sustainably incorporate the food and water security needs of marginalized populations in a region impacted by significant climate change and conflict.

Related Publications:

H. Swartz. Food Aid vs. Food Assistance in Conflict Areas: The Case of the 2017 Famine in South Sudan (2017) SAIS Perspectives.