Agriculture, Climate Change and Local Livelihood

The work of various influential scholars, including Barrington Moore or Max Weber, stress the importance of considering agrarian structures when trying to explain socio-economic and political development. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the great majority of the population still lives in rural areas and a large share of citizens is employed in the agricultural sector.

Trying to understand how different agrarian systems (e.g. different land ownership patterns, tenure systems and modes of cultivation) shape countries’ development and individuals’ wellbeing is a key objective of my research. In my PhD thesis, I for example showed that the notorious neglect of public education in Brazil and other Latin American states can be traced back to an agrarian history characterized by plantation-style agriculture.

I have also investigated the relationship between climate and food insecurity. Relying on historical county-level data, we have analyzed the long-term effects of weather variation on food riots in England. We found evidence for adaptation processes. In addition, our research highlights that the impact of climate variability on social conflict was highly heterogenous across time. Currently, I am particularly interested in the social consequences of agrarian transformation in sub-Saharan Africa. Among other topics, we are investigating how large-scale land acquisitions affect local levels of interpersonal and institutional trust.