Work in Progress

Land Deals and Social Fabrics: The Impact of Large-Scale Land Acquisitions on Social Trust in sub-Saharan Africa

with Alexander Leibik

The livelihoods of rural populations in sub-Saharan Africa are closely tied to small-scale farming and other types of land use. In recent years, private investors as well as governments have shown a growing interest in large-scale acquisition of arable land across the continent. While authors have started to analyze the local economic impacts of such investments, their socio-political as well as psychological consequences remain poorly understood. This paper investigates how changes in land ownership patterns caused by large-scale land acquisitions affect the level of trust among rural communities. We maintain that the transition from community and individual-smallholder land ownership into large-scale investor property has a negative impact on this particular dimension of social capital. To test our hypotheses, we rely on georeferenced information on land deals, tenure systems as well as survey data from Afrobarometer at the individual level of analysis. Employing a quasi-experimental design based on different matching techniques and difference-in-means estimations, our models show that the global land rush indeed disrupts local social fabrics and social cohesion by reducing interpersonal as well as institutional trust. Moreover, or findings indicate that the negative effect of agrarian transformations on local trust levels is particularly strong among women.

Foreign Aid and Deforestation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Are Chinese Projects Particularly Harmful?

with Pawel Komendziński

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. In particular, Chinese development activities have recently come under scrutiny due to their alleged negative socio-environmental and political consequences. While some recent articles do find evidence for increased deforestation in areas receiving aid-like Chinese assistance, the analyses have so far been either descriptive or confined to selected countries. Moreover, it is largely unclear whether the environmental record of Chinese aid significantly differs from that of other donors. The purpose of this paper is to provide a comprehensive empirical comparison of Chinese and Western foreign aid 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-difference 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) taken as a comparison.

The Impact of Large-Scale Land Acquisitions on Communal Violence in sub-Saharan Africa

Communal violence between non-state actors such as farmers and herders are on the rise within various African countries. According to a neo-Malthusian logic, these types of conflict stem from competition over scarce resources.  Pressures on land due to population growth, agropastoral expansion, mining activities or climate change are believed to fuel agropastoral violence. This paper investigates the extent to which large-scale land acquisitions exacerbate conflicts between agriculturalists and pastoralists in sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, it explores the conditions under which land deals may cause communal violence. We maintain that the so-called land rush increases the risk of farmer-herder conflicts by sharpening land scarcity and disrupting traditional grazing routes of nomadic pastoral groups. Relying on geocoded information on land deals, land use and land governance patterns as well as data on communal violence, our preliminary models show that large-scale land acquisitions have indeed intensified agro-pastoral clashes.

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

with José Mogollón and Roos Haer

Around one in nine people are undernourished worldwide. Climate change will increasingly affect food and nutritional security by impacting agricultural production. Scholars and policymakers alike have identified various adaptation and coping strategies to mitigate climate change. So far, however, we lack systematic evidence on whether some of these proposed strategies indeed reduce smallholders’ vulnerability and ensures nutritional security. Focusing on selected sub-Saharan African countries, such as Tanzania, our paper will assess the extent to which particular agricultural practices (such as crop diversity, integration of crops and livestock, agroforestry), job diversification and local institutional conditions (including access to common land and different tenure systems) increase a household’s nutritional resilience. For this purpose, we will rely on a difference-in-difference approach combining georeferenced climate information with survey panel data from the Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS).