October 8, 2020 | By Michele Lowe

Featured Commentary - Food security, political instability, and America on the hook: the case of Cameroon

For the last 100 years, food has been used as both a weapon of war and in some cases the driving force behind it. Hunger, in particular, has been at the heart of many of the revolutions of the past. Just over a decade ago the Arab Spring was launched because of the rising price of food. It is therefore understood by many that food, and fear of hunger, can overthrow regimes, shift political power, and even change the course of a nation. But how does food insecurity and the potential unrest it drives impact America? The west African nation of Cameroon is a perfect example of how food insecurity can undermine a stable regime and change the balance of power in an entire region critical to US foreign policy objectives.

Led by 87-year-old President Biya since 1981, Cameroon is seen in Africa as a stalwart of stability in an unstable neighborhood. But all is not rosy in Cameroon today. As has happened across the world, rising food costs and resulting food scarcity often drive human conflict. In fact, conflict in Cameroon threatens the entire sub-region because of food insecurity. With an ongoing insurgency in the Anglophone regions, Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa in the Far North, and non-state rebel intrusions from Central African Republic, Cameroon faces significant deficits in its ability to protect and feed its population. As the largest donor across all sectors in the sub-region – health, military assistance, and food – the United States logically would be expected to lead any response efforts to an unfolding breakdown of the humanitarian situation. It is important that Americans understand how interconnected stability in Cameroon is to the sub-region and ultimately to U.S. taxpayers. 

Surrounded by conflict-laden countries, Cameroon hosts over 430,000 refugees. The bulk of assistance is from the United States through the United Nations World Food Program, which provides millions of U.S. dollars of shelter and food to these refugees. In addition, Cameroon is a key trading hub to exporters around the globe. Cameroon plays a role as the regional “food highway”. Many of Cameroon’s neighbors are dependent on its open borders, open ports, and open roads for their trade. Its landlocked neighbors receive much needed food and fuel imports through Cameroon’s main port, Douala.

>>>Read more at Agri-Pulse. 


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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| By Roger Thurow

Our New Gordian Knot

Fifty years ago Dr. Norman Borlaug recieved the Nobel Peace Prize for cutting the "Goridan knot" of population and food production. Now the planet faces another seemingly intractable problem: how to nourish the planet while preserving the planet.