The state, inequality, and the political economy of long-term food aid in Sudan

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Inequality is a major determinant of access to food in Sudan, with power, wealth and services concentrated within a central Sudan elite, leaving much of the country marginalized, impoverished and suffering repeated emergencies. This article discusses how food aid both contributed to the state’s exclusionary development process and tried but failed to assist crisis-affected populations in its peripheries. In the 1950s, food aid explicitly aimed to support the state but from the late 1980s, emergency food aid bypassed the state and its manipulation led to economic and political benefits for the Sudan government and its closely-aligned private sector. By the 2000s, the Sudan government controlled international food aid and established its own food aid apparatus, which it could use to further its political and military goals. New resilience-based food technologies developed in the aftermath of the 2008 food crisis, and applied in Darfur, have unintentionally facilitated the government’s strategies. This article argues that the ‘actually existing development’ resulting indirectly from food aid has benefited the government and private sector but has left most people facing a protracted emergency.

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Susanne Jaspers

Research Associate in Sociology, Politics and International Studies at University of Bristol, UK
Susanne Jaspars is an Honorary Research Associate at the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies at the University of Bristol, where she has just completed her PhD in Politics.Her thesis is on the history and politics of food aid in Sudan. She also has an MSc in Human Nutrition.Susanne has worked in the field of humanitarian aid for thirty years as practitioner and researcher, mostly in the Horn of Africa.She worked for Medecins sans Frontieres (Holland), Oxfam-GB, UNHCR, WFP and others.During this period she also carried out applied research on key issues she was confronted with as a practitioner, for example the role of nutrition in famine situations, the manipulation of food aid in conflict, and the challenges of targeting the vulnerable. Prior to starting her PhD, Susanne worked as a Research Fellow in the Humanitarian Policy Group at the Overseas Development Institute, leading its research on food security and livelihoods.She has published a number of books, academic articles and policy reports, and is on the editorial board of Disasters journal.Her research interests are the social and political aspects of food security, livelihoods and nutrition in situations of conflict, famine and humanitarian crises and response.

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