Work in Progress


Climate Shocks and Food Resilience: Assessing the Effectiveness of Traditional Adaption Strategies for Smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa

with Roos Haer and Marcel Birulés

Around one in four people can be considered moderately or severely food insecure around the globe. By impacting on agricultural production, climate change is likely to increase nutritional insecurity and the vulnerability of local livelihoods, particularly in sub-Saharan African states. Attempts to promote local access to nutritious food and farmers’ climate resilience through agricultural intensification have largely failed across most African countries thus far. Scholars as well as international and civil society organizations have increasingly called for more focus on alternative farming and food systems based on agroecological practices that have the potential to mitigate the negative effects of extreme weather events on local populations. So far, however, we lack systematic evidence on what agroecological strategies are most effective in reducing smallholders’ food vulnerability. Focusing on Tanzania, our paper assesses the extent to which particular traditional agricultural practices (including crop diversification, intercropping, crop-livestock systems, agroforestry), as well as local tenure regimes increase food security of farmer’s exposed to extreme weather events. Empirically, we combine temperature and rain data with information on farming practices and food consumption provided by the Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) for more than 25,000 individuals. Our research design relies on a combination of coarsened exact matching and a differences-in-means approach.

Access Denied: Land Alienation and Pastoralists’ Conflicts

with Cécile Richetta

Conflicts involving pastoralists in West, Central and East Africa have been on the rise in the past two decades. In this paper, we provide a consistent theoretical underpinning of how land alienation may contribute to pastoral conflict. Using the Armed Conflict Location Event Dataset, we employ a narrow identification strategy of relevant events, and subsequently test the impact of different types of land alienations (large-scale agriculture, industrial mines, and conservation areas) on pastoral conflicts. To uncover both the underlying and proximate causes of these conflicts, we combine a disaggregated quantitative comparative design of 50km-by-50km cells covering West, Central and East Africa over the period 2002 to 2018, with a qualitative analysis of conflict-event descriptions. Our quantitative results show that land alienation is an underlying cause of pastoral conflicts, and that its effect spills over large distances. The analysis further reveals that particularly the expansion of large-scale farming increases the likelihood of pastoral conflicts, alongside other factors such as proximity to armed conflicts and state infrastructural reach. Our qualitative results uncover the prevalence of non-state armed groups in pastoral conflicts, and of cattle raids as the most common proximate cause of conflicts. We further show how actors and proximate causes vary geographically. With our theoretical framework and mixed-method research design, we bridge a gap between macro-level and micro-level studies, contributing to shed more light on the causes of pastoralist conflict, a type of violence that has received scant attention by the geospatial literature. 

Foreign Aid and Deforestation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Comparing the Environmental Impact of Chinese and Western Aid

with Paweł Komendziński and Valentin Gaier

How does foreign aid affect deforestation levels? Although previous research has shown that international assistance may be linked to poor environmental outcomes, we lack a proper understanding on the impact of different donors and aid modalities on forest coverage. Chinese development activities have particularly been associated with negative socio-environmental and political consequences. Does Chinese aid promote more local deforestation compared to foreign aid from other donors? The purpose of this paper is to provide a comprehensive empirical comparison of Chinese and Western assistance in terms of their impact on deforestation in sub-Saharan Africa. It does so by combining geolocated data from AidData with new high-resolution satellite imagery on land use provided by the European Space Agency. Relying on difference-in-differences estimates and a near-exclusive usage of geographically based controls, we are able to compare aid-driven deforestation trends on a 0.1×0.1-degree grid-cell level for the years 2000-2014. Our preliminary results provide some evidence of a poorer environmental record of Chinese aid. However, the effect seems contingent on a series of intervening factors, such as geographical proximity to protected areas, type of assistance (official development-like, less-concessional or other) and the intended purpose of funding (infrastructure improvement, social development projects, support for agriculture).

The Role of Traditional Political Institutions in Promoting Food Security and Climate Change Adaptation in sub-Saharan Africa

with Cécile Richetta and Katharina Holzinger

The promotion of food security is a key challenge for African states exposed to climate variability. Scholars have increasingly studied how institutions and land governance may affect households’ access to food and climate adaptive capacity. However, the role of customary governance systems in addressing food insecurity remains largely unexplored.

In this study, we investigate how traditional political institutions affect the food security of individuals facing climate risks in sub-Saharan Africa. We claim that regions hosting traditional authorities that exert responsibilities over land use and management show greater food security and adaptive capacity compared to regions in which customary leaders have no power over land decisions or regions governed exclusively by statutory officials. We further maintain that customary officials will guarantee access to nutritious food and further climate resilience particularly under certain leadership accountability mechanisms that encourage collective deliberation and inclusiveness.

To test our claims, we match novel geo-referenced data on traditional political institutions with information provided by the Demographic Health Surveys and the Afrobarometer survey as well as climate data from the Global SPEI database for a total of 22 sub-Saharan countries. Using individuals as our unit of analysis, we will rely on an instrumental variable approach and advanced matching techniques.