The thesis that environmental scarcity leads to violent conflict in many parts of the developing world has become ascendant in the literature and has gained much publicity in policy circles in the last decade. According to students of environmental scarcity and conflict, the most conflict-prone renewable resource is fresh water. Indeed, Lake Victoria (the world's second largest fresh water lake, shared by three African countries and affecting or affected by nine others in the basin) exhibits the conditions one would expect, based on the literature, to pro duce conflict, and sooner rather than later. However, based on research includ ing fieldwork conducted in June-July 2000, our findings indicate that while en vironmental degradation is evident in the magnitude expected to trigger conflict, violent conflict has not occurred. This paper seeks to explain why this is so, which may suggest how developing nations can avert the supposed trajec tory into violent conflict.

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