Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Nutrition Science and Dietetics


Rick Welsh


Armed conflict, Colombia, foreign policy, land grabs, palm oil, USAID

Subject Categories

Food Science | Life Sciences


Between the 1960s and 1980s, global land dedicated to monocultures for biofuels tripled and continues to increase (Gerber, 2011). While biofuels are considered sustainable alternatives to their nonrenewable counterparts (Pye, 2018), concerns have been raised regarding their environmental impact. Some of these crops, such as soybeans and corn, are known as flex crops, or crops with uses extending beyond the fuel industry and into food and other sectors. Another such crop is African or oil palm (Elaeis guineensis). Palm oil in its various forms is found virtually everywhere, extending from biodiesel blends to food and household items. Plantations have spread expanded from southeast Asia to Latin America in recent years. However, studies have shown that the expansion of oil palm plantations in the Global South has contributed to extensive environmental degradation through deforestation, disease and pest introduction, and extractive monocultures (Alfonso & Liliana, 2011; Delgado, 2013; Selfa et al., 2015; Vijay et al, 2016; Castañheira & Freire, 2017).

This project builds on existing literature discussing the relationship between the growing palm industry in Colombia, one of the top palm oil producing countries in the world, armed conflict, and United States interventions through foreign aid, as the phenomenon may have broader implications for food security and violence. To accomplish this, I use secondary Colombian agricultural census data, USAID disbursement data, and estimated displacement data to determine whether the implementation of Plan Colombia exacerbated conflict affected violence, palm oil hectarage, and increased United States interventions in Colombia. Compiling this information to plot trends over time in addition to conducting a single factor ANOVA for each factor showed that the six-years during which Plan Colombia occurred dramatically increased annual rates of displacement and established significant growth in palm oil hectarage countrywide. Additionally, I delve into the current peace process in Colombia, as the impacts of Plan Colombia are still relevant today.


Open Access

Included in

Food Science Commons



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