The influence of emergency food aid on the causal disaster vulnerability of Indigenous food systems

Guy Jackson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Emergency food aid is the dominant humanitarian response to food insecurity precipitated by disasters. There is a significant literature on food aid effectiveness (e.g., bolstering food security, targeting, modality selection) in various disaster contexts. Additionally, there are some studies on the potential disincentive effects on agricultural production among other unintended consequences. However, there has been no explicit research on the possible effects of emergency food aid on the causal disaster vulnerability of Indigenous food systems. This research, based within the remote Bedamuni tribe of Western Province, Papua New Guinea, addresses this gap. The Bedamuni first received emergency food aid in response to the 1997 El Niño drought, followed by the 2015/16 El Niño and February 2018 Highlands earthquake. We identify first sustained contact (1962), the subsequent establishment of a mission (1968), and the societal changes that followed as more pronounced drivers of vulnerability. However, emergency food aid exacerbates several key determinants of vulnerability such as declining self-efficacy and adaptive capacity, in addition to encouraging unsustainable food system practices. This paper argues for a more holistic understanding of causal vulnerability in food systems and renewed critique regarding the use of emergency food aid in rural Indigenous contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)761-777
Number of pages17
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020
Externally publishedYes

Cite this