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Fertile Ground for Conflict

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  • Berman, Nicolas
  • Couttenier, Mathieu
  • Soubeyran, Raphael

Abstract

We investigate how variations in soil fertility affect civil conflicts. We first present a model with heterogeneous land in which variations in input prices (fertilizers) affect appropriable rents and the opportunity costs of fighting. The theory predicts that spikes in input prices increase the likelihood of conflicts through their effect on income and inequality, and that this effect is magnified when soil fertility is naturally more heterogenous. We test these predictions using data on conflict events covering all Sub-Saharan African countries at a spatial resolution of 0.5 x 0.5 degree latitude and longitude over the 1997-2013 period. We combine information on soil characteristics and worldwide variations in fertilizer prices to identify local exogenous changes in input costs. As predicted, variations in soil productivity triggered by variations in fertilizer prices are positively associated with conflicts, especially in cells where land endowments are more heterogeneous. In addition, we find that the distribution of land fertility both within and across ethnic groups affects violence, and that the effect of between-group heterogeneity in soil quality is magnified in densely populated areas. Overall, our findings imply that inequality in access to fertile areas -- an issue largely neglected in the literature dealing with the roots of Sub-Saharan African civil wars -- constitutes a serious threat to peace at the local-level.

Suggested Citation

  • Berman, Nicolas & Couttenier, Mathieu & Soubeyran, Raphael, 2017. "Fertile Ground for Conflict," CEPR Discussion Papers 12211, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:12211
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    Cited by:

    1. Stefano Falcone & Michele Rosenberg, 2022. "Agricultural Modernization and Land Conflict," Working Papers 1314, Barcelona School of Economics.
    2. Nicolas Berman & Mathieu Couttenier & Antoine Leblois & Raphaël Soubeyran, 2021. "Crop Prices and Deforestation in the Tropics," Working Papers hal-03352884, HAL.
    3. Fabien Candau & Tchapo Gbandi & Geoffroy Guepie, 2022. "Beyond the income effect of international trade on ethnic wars in Africa," Economics of Transition and Institutional Change, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 30(3), pages 517-534, July.
    4. Dominic Rohner & Mathias Thoenig, 2021. "The Elusive Peace Dividend of Development Policy: From War Traps to Macro Complementarities," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 13(1), pages 111-131, August.
    5. Heger, Martin Philipp & Zens, Gregor & Bangalore, Mook, 2020. "Land and poverty: the role of soil fertility and vegetation quality in poverty reduction," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 115658, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    6. Alex Dickson & Ian A MacKenzie & Petros G Sekeris, 2018. "The role of markets and preferences on resource conflicts," Working Papers 1819, University of Strathclyde Business School, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    conflict; Fertility; inequality; Land;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • Q34 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Natural Resources and Domestic and International Conflicts

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