One of the most direct effects that conflict has on hunger is also the most tangible. In conflict-affected countries, approximately 60% of people live in rural areas. Agriculture is their source of both food and income.
This means that entire communities are vulnerable to the effects of conflict.
In the Central African Republic, 80% of the population relies on subsistence agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods. This is a devastating number when you consider that the country is more than a decade into a civil war with no sign of peace. Fighting has destroyed villages, land for crops and livestock, irrigation infrastructure and crops. Fighting often closes roads and points of access, which prevents others from getting to their fields. If they make it to their farm, it may be too late: militant groups often take crops to feed themselves.
Even if the land and crops are safe and families don't flee their homes, running a farm is a labour-intensive job. Civilian injuries during conflict are common, and can often leave people unable to work the land, sometimes for the rest of their lives.
Suppose a family is able to safely remain at home during a conflict. They're able to till the land and reap a decent harvest. What then? If they're unable to go to market due to conflict-related closures, that can also disrupt a delicate food system. In rural communities, neighbours often rely on one another for their income as well as for a diverse diet. Close the market, and the system is likewise shut down. Without formal storage facilities, this also means that much of the food harvested will go to waste, rotting before it can be eaten.
Conflict makes day-to-day life unpredictable, which can also lead to economic instability.
Even relatively wealthy families, like those living in Burundi during the country's civil war, may hedge their bets in response.
In Burundi, farmers of all economic situations switched to low-risk, low-return crops. Likewise, farmers in Colombia during the country's five-decade civil war switched from profitable crops like coffee and fruit trees to options that are more seasonal and subsistence-based. The goal was to survive rather than thrive. Such crops allowed for quicker harvests and immediate results, but they also hurt incomes and diets for generations.
The economic impacts of a conflict also mean inflation. Food not only becomes scarcer, but also more expensive. Black markets thrive in these conditions and offer a double-edged sword: On the one hand, they are sometimes the only way people can eat. On the other hand, they also open people up to more risk and greater shocks if the prices become unmanageable or supplies run dry.