The impact of conflict-driven cropland abandonment on food insecurity in South Sudan revealed using satellite remote sensing

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Armed conflicts often hinder food security through cropland abandonment and restrict the collection of on-the-ground information required for targeted relief distribution. Satellite remote sensing provides a means for gathering information about disruptions during armed conflicts and assessing the food security status in conflict zones. Using ~7,500 multisource satellite images, we implemented a data-driven approach that showed a reduction in cultivated croplands in war-ravaged South Sudan by 16% from 2016 to 2018. Propensity score matching revealed a statistical relationship between cropland abandonment and armed conflicts that contributed to drastic decreases in food supply. Our analysis shows that the abandoned croplands could have supported at least a quarter of the population in the southern states of South Sudan and demonstrates that remote sensing can play a crucial role in the assessment of cropland abandonment in food-insecure regions, thereby improving the basis for timely aid provision.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Food
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)990-996
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note


Funding Information:
We acknowledge the support of DFF-Danish ERC Support Program (grant number 116491, 9127-00001B). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. We also acknowledge the WFP for providing in situ data for the study. Finally, we acknowledge the contribution of N. Keuler from the University of Wisconsin-Madison for consultation on statistical analysis.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

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