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The 2008 food price crisis had a devastating impact on poor Guatemalans, pushing an estimated 450,000 people into poverty. This was followed by a year of widespread crop failure and a subsequent food emergency, affecting up to 2.5 million people. Hunger is endemic in Guatemala, which has the highest rates of child malnutrition in Latin America. Despite this, the policy response to the food crisis has been uncertain, unconvincing, and ultimately disappointing.

This case study considers the forces and factors that underlie and explain the weak response of the Guatemalan government to the widespread problems of hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. It demonstrates how the concentration of land and power among a small elite skews resource flows and policy dramatically in their favour, with disastrous results for ordinary Guatemalans. Despite this, social movements continue to campaign and lobby for a rural policy that will combat the structural causes of poverty and hunger.

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