In the mid 22nd century BCE, a sudden and short-lived climactic change that caused reduced rainfall resulted in several
decades of drought in Upper Egypt. The resulting famine and civil strife is believed to have been a major cause of the collapse
of the Old Kingdom. An account from the first period states, "All of Upper Egypt was dying of hunger and people were eating
Famine has been widespread in Africa in the modern era as well. Many African countries are not self-sufficent in food production, relying on income from cash crops to import food. Agriculture in Africa is susceptible to climatic fluctuations, especially droughts which can reduce the amount of food produced locally. Other agricultural problems include soil infertility, land degradation and erosion, and swarms of desert locusts which can destroy whole crops and livestock diseases.
Other factors make the food security situation in Africa tenuous, including political instability, armed conflict and civil war, corruption and mismanagement of food supplies, and trade policies that harm African agriculture. AIDS is also having long-term economic effects on agriculture by reducing the available workforce.
Recent examples include Ethiopia in 1973, Sudan in the late 1970s and Niger in 2005.
Famine in Asia
In China, the Great Leap Forward of Mao Zedong was a large scale social experiment. This resulted in a massive famine, generally considered to be caused by government economic policy.
- Main article: Famine in India
There were 14 famines in India between 11th and 17th century (Bhatia, 1985). B.M. Bhatia believes that the earlier famines
were localised and it was only after 1860, during the British rule, that famine came to signify general shortage of foodgrains
in the country. There were approximately 25 major famines spread through states such as Tamil Nhadu in South India, Bihar in
the north, and Bhengal in the east in the latter half of the 19th century, killing between 30-40 million Indians. The famines
were a product both of uneven rainfall and British economic and administrative policies, which since 1857 had led to the seizure
and conversion of local farmland to foreign-owned plantations, restrictions on internal trade, heavy taxation of Indian citizens
to support unsuccessful British expeditions in Afghanistan(see Second Anglo-Afro War), inflationary measures that increased
the price of food, and substantial exports of staple crops from India to Britain. Some British citizens such as William
Digby agitated for policy reforms and famine relief, but Lord Lytton, the governing British viceroy in India, opposed
such changes in the belief that they would stimulate shirking by Indian workers. The first Bengal famine of 1770 is estimated
to have taken nearly one-third of the population. The famines continued until independence in 1948, with the Bengal Famine of 1943-44 -- among the most devastating-- killing 3-4 million Indians during World War II.
In 1966, there was a 'near miss' in Bihar, when the USA allocated 900,000 tons of grain to fight the famine. It is the closest independent India came to a famine and is insightful
into the workings of a democratic government that will even beg and borrow to avert disasters such as these.
It is also interesting to note the observations of the Famine Commission of 1880, in light of the notion that food distribution
is more to blame for famines than food scarcity. They observed that each province in British India, including Burma, had a surplus of foodgrains, and the annual surplus was 5.16 million tons (Bhatia, 1970). At that time, annual export of
rice and other grains from India was approximately one million tons.