What Our Analysts Are Reading – January, 2021

Navanti’s data collection and analysis are based on networks of on-the-ground researchers from all walks of life: journalists, academics, and humanitarian workers, to name a few. Our analysts also keep abreast of open source reports to inform their work. Below, these analysts have summarized and contextualized the most important pieces they have read and listened to over the past month.

Food Security

The concept of “food security” relies on the organizing principle of international solidarity between states to address issues of food shortages. However, it does not take into account ways to prevent the impoverishment of local populations. The concept of “food sovereignty,” on the other hand, supports local production and gives food producers the agency to define agricultural policies and food priorities. In fact, access to food and food production are political issues underpinned by several themes that strike at the heart of the tension between food security and food sovereignty. In Morocco, for instance, the government’s Plan Maroc Vert 2020 has left many small-scale farmers unable to secure capital to properly irrigate their farms, at the benefit of large agricultural exporters competing on the international market whose labor is unable to sustain a living above poverty levels. Similar dynamics are at play in Tunisia, where subsistence farmers find themselves outside of state-backed policies and are raising their voices to call for greater food sovereignty. — Ritimo

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (USDA ERS) projected that 200,000 Jamaicans would be food insecure by the end of 2020. The January 2021 International Food Security Assessment, 2020–2030: COVID-19 Update and Impacts on Food Insecurity report determined the actual number of food insecure exceed pre-pandemic estimates by 100 percent, equating to nearly 400,000 people, almost 13 percent of the population.

A survey published by the World Food Program (WFP) in September 2020 confirmed the growing food insecurity in the country was primarily driven by COVID-19 restrictions and related economic conditions. More than half of the survey respondents indicated that their ability to pursue a livelihood had been significantly impacted by the pandemic due to concerns about leaving home because of movement restrictions, the “high price of livelihood inputs” and reduced demand for their goods. Nearly three-quarters of respondents reported a job loss or a reduction in income. Market access was also impacted by movement restrictions.

To combat the growing food insecurity in Jamaica driven by demand-side constraints, the country’s Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries has aggressively targeted supply-side solutions through agricultural production and reallocation strategies. Farmers have been exempted from curfews and movement restrictions in order to enable them to keep producing, and community-farming initiatives have been encouraged. A $1.7 million stimulus package was introduced by which surplus fruits and vegetables were purchased from farmers struggling to sell their produce and redistributed into communities with reduced food access. Another $240,000 grant from the Food and Agriculture Organization allowed the ministry to purchase excess produce from farmers and reallocate to children-in-need through an undertaking with UNICEF. In addition, several private sector organizations have promoted higher food autonomy through community garden grants. These programs offer signs of progress towards reversing the trend of pandemic-related food insecurity in Jamaica. — Forbes

Arabian Peninsula

In late December 2020, a joint Republic of Yemen Government (ROYG)-Southern Transitional Council (STC) unity government was welcomed to the temporary capital of Aden by a barrage of Houthi missile fire that tragically killed 26 civilians and civil servants in addition to wounding over a 100 more. Despite hopes that this shocking event would unify the new government and spur a renewed focus on countering Houthi offensives, tensions between the two parties have risen throughout January 2021 over diverging visions of political equality and military integration. — Al Khaleej Online

Fuel shortages in Sana’a city caused long waits at city fueling stations in January 2021. In addition to facing long waits at fuel queues, civilians also reported that black market fuel traders were charging exorbitant prices to take advantage of the heightened demand. Civilians have blamed the Houthis for fabricating the shortage in order to increase profits on black market fuel sales. Regardless of the truth of these claims, these shortages have negatively affected day to day civilians and crippled the transportation industry and other economic activities. — Al Mushahid


North Africa The Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) – previously and better known as Libyan National Army (LNA) – are a divisive actor. Khalifa Haftar’s forces have been variably described as everything from legitimate forces of the Libyan state, to a ragtag alliance of militias, to a Ponzi scheme. According to Chatham House’s Tim Eaton, the term “hybrid armed actor” best reflects the LAAF’s complex ties to state institutions and simultaneous de facto control of territory through informal bargaining processes. Eaton contends that thinking about the LAAF through the lens of hybridity can help policymakers more effectively engage with the LAAF and Haftar. — War on the Rocks

This article discusses the historical roots of the crisis in Mali’s Mopti region before turning to a modern challenge: in the face of government absence, jihadist groups have begun to serve as peace brokers in many areas, resolving resource conflicts between largely Dogon farmers and Fulani herders. The authors argue that in order to achieve lasting peace, international security partners should begin by identifying local peace agreements already in effect and consider how to include jihadists in these agreements. — Danish Institute for International Studies

The insecurity experienced in Nigeria is universal. From the south-south to the northeast region, personal safety is threatened as a response to economic, political, and ethnic marginalization. Marginalization is especially severe in the northwest of Nigeria, where kidnappings for ransom are a daily occurrence and have been highlighted by the abduction of an American in October and more than 300 school children in December. Despite non-violent origins, responses to insecurity in Nigeria’s northwest have largely been militaristic, intensified marginalization, and reproduced a cycle of insecurity. Removing themselves from that cycle to reevaluate how state actors interact with bandits is Ahmad Gumi, who is working with marginalized communities and trying to reintegrate them into Nigerian society. In this interview he speaks to the complicated dynamics of insecurity in northwestern Nigerian, as well as what should done about it. This framework, like the problem it is evaluating, can be universal. — Daily Trust

The central government of Kenya has adopted preventive measures that have offered more sustainable solutions to counter terrorism in Kenya. Key security actors, including the national and local government, civil society organizations, international organizations, development partners, and local communities, have garnered experience and capacity dealing with violent extremism and radicalization. As a result of this improved collaboration, the country has enjoyed greater security and reduced terror attacks. However, the counties that lie in the north eastern and coastal parts of the country require additional engagement given their high risk of terrorism. Informal settlements in the urban counties of Nairobi and Mombasa, such as Kibera, should not be overlooked. Military interventions and counter-terrorism efforts by foreign partners could be counter-productive and should be considered cautiously. — Institute for Security Studies

Embattled Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni faces major criticism from Western allies following an election marred by violence and corruption. Prior to the elections, Museveni instituted an internet ban, deployed the military, and violently shut down any protests. Post election, his administration continued to ban all opposition including a temporary expansion of the internet ban, as well as expanding harassment of political parties, politicians, civil society groups. After claiming victory, Museveni’s sixth term in office remained under scrutiny, with his challenger Bobi Wine attempting to overturn the election results in court. Museveni’s behavior has not only attracted international attention, but it has opened the door for further investigations into other avenues of his administration, including his use of aid and his treatment of refugees. The United States supplies $970 million in aid, which may now be at risk depending on the US’s response. — The New York Times


Independent Russian news media outlet Proekt’s investigation into the unofficial and semi-official prisons in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) in eastern Ukraine uncovers the inner-workings of the DNR’s arbitrary system of justice. With commentary from former prisoners and their family members, the article offers a deeper look into how prisons in the DNR operate based off of allegations of espionage and extortion schemes. — Proekt Media

Georgia Today explores Georgia’s place in the Caucasus following the Nagarno Karbakh conflict. The nation has long maintained a noncommittal stance towards the contested area, but the recent outbreak in hostilities has shown how precarious Georgia’s regional position is. The country stands in the most expedient path for the belligerents to receive shipments of aid and weapons and much of its infrastructure was in harms’ way. Georgia will have to reassess its policy towards its neighbors. — Georgia Today