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Living on a Spike

The human face of global food price rises is often missing amongst the abstract discussions of macro-economic trends and global food price indices. In order to understand the impact of the rise in global food prices through much of 2010 and into early 2011, Oxfam and research partners from the Institute of Development Studies spoke to people effected in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya, and Zambia. The research shows how economic shocks of this kind increase and perpetuate inequality, producing consistent patterns of ‘weak losers’ and ‘strong winners’. Key findings show that poor people do not merely cope by working harder, eating less and living more frugally. They also respond politically: they contest official explanations of the causes, and criticize their governments for failing to act effectively. They also analyze the causes of the problems they face as political problems, identifying a lack of responsiveness, corruption and collusion as among the sources of the problems they face.