Building Climate and Conflict Resilient Livelihoods and Food Systems: Insights from East Africa

Emma Whitaker and Alexandra Steinkraus
Posted on: 6/07/2023 - Updated on: 6/07/2023

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This paper frames WFP’s programming in climate resilience, livelihoods and food security within the climate security discourse. It aims to offer insights into action and investments for WFP’s work in East Africa to support climate and conflict informed food systems, and livelihoods that support resilience, ultimately contributing to peace and security.

The Horn of Africa is experiencing a historic drought. Now in its fifth failed rainy season, with a sixth projected to fail in early 2023, 26 million people are expected to enter crisis levels of food insecurity or worse in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. Climate change is exacerbating humanitarian crises and leading to increased mobility, displacing millions each year throughout the Horn of Africa. There is clear evidence of the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events ahead, as well as confident projections of slow-onset climate events including increases in the number of very hot days expected across East Africa, resulting in the expansion of cropland areas exposed to drought, and increasingly variable rainfall patterns.

Countries experiencing protracted crisis or high risk of famine, are often simultaneously affected by violent conflicts and the impacts of extreme climate change events. International geo-political crises further compound these issues by disrupting supply chains, driving record high food prices, and in 2022, triggering a global crisis adding to the 657 million people projected to be undernourished by 2030. The conflict in Ukraine in particular, continues to contribute to escalating fuel prices, driving inflation and increasing the costs of transport, food and imports.

Across East Africa, the local food basket average per capita monthly price has increased by 55.6 percent, and the price of imported wheat has increased by 58.4 percent since before the conflict in Ukraine. Nutrient rich foods like beans, milk and sorghum are also less affordable than a year ago. In these contexts, the impacts of climate change create additional barriers for the poorest households to cope and adapt, which can increase competition over resources, exacerbate grievances and escalate local conflicts. For example, poor harvests, water scarcity and increasing need for pastoralists to move further afield to find fodder can lead to increased resource competition and intercommunal conflict.

The barriers posed by climate change are also amplified for women, as climate hazards are associated with increased violence against women, girls and vulnerable groups,like children and the elderly.8 Food and hunger are increasingly being instrumentalized as weapons of war, where geopolitical ambitions are confronted with the limits of the current food production and distribution systems, resulting in very real and often fatal implications. The cascading consequences of these global forces has made food and livelihood security a priority for policy makers and practitioners, notably for their important role in supporting sustainable peace and resilience.

For more than 60 years, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been embedded in communities most in need, to bring-life saving assistance and support sustainable and resilient livelihoods. In East Africa, WFP works to tackle structural vulnerabilities as well as address shocks from conflict or climate. WFP aims to effectively utilise its comparative programmatic advantage across East Africa, to ensure the continued functionality of sustainable food systems, strengthening resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stressors from climate-related disasters, economic crises, and conflicts.


Whitaker, E. and Steinkraus, A. (2023). Building climate and conflict resilient livelihoods and food systems: Insights from East Africa. adelphi, World Food Programme.

Affiliated Organizations

World Food Programme, adelphi

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