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Fertile Ground for Conflict

Listed author(s):
  • Berman, Nicolas
  • Couttenier, Mathieu
  • Soubeyran, Raphael

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.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 12211.

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Date of creation: Aug 2017
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:12211
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  1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:97:y:2003:i:01:p:75-90_00 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Paswel P. Marenya & Christopher B. Barrett, 2009. "State-conditional Fertilizer Yield Response on Western Kenyan Farms," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(4), pages 991-1006.
  3. Paulo Guimarães & Pedro Portugal, 2010. "A simple feasible procedure to fit models with high-dimensional fixed effects," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 10(4), pages 628-649, December.
  4. Manuel A. Hernandez & Maximo Torero, 2013. "Market concentration and pricing behavior in the fertilizer industry: a global approach," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 44(6), pages 723-734, November.
  5. Mathieu Couttenier & Raphael Soubeyran, 2014. "Drought and Civil War In Sub‐Saharan Africa," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 124(575), pages 201-244, 03.
  6. Anirban Mitra & Debraj Ray, 2014. "Implications of an Economic Theory of Conflict: Hindu-Muslim Violence in India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 122(4), pages 719-765.
  7. Samuel Bazzi & Christopher Blattman, 2014. "Economic Shocks and Conflict: Evidence from Commodity Prices," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(4), pages 1-38, October.
  8. repec:cup:apsrev:v:108:y:2014:i:02:p:319-336_00 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Giacomo Luca & Petros Sekeris, 2012. "Land inequality and conflict intensity," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 150(1), pages 119-135, January.
  10. Joan Esteban & Debraj Ray, 2011. "A Model Of Ethnic Conflict," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 496-521, 06.
  11. Michael L. Ross, 2004. "What Do We Know about Natural Resources and Civil War?," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 41(3), pages 337-356, May.
  12. Mwesigye, Francis & Matsumoto, Tomoya, 2016. "The Effect of Population Pressure and Internal Migration on Land Conflicts: Implications for Agricultural Productivity in Uganda," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 25-39.
  13. repec:eee:deveco:v:127:y:2017:i:c:p:133-152 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Nils B. Weidmann & Jan Ketil Roslashd & Lars-Erik Cederman, 2010. "Representing ethnic groups in space: A new dataset," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 47(4), pages 491-499, July.
  15. repec:cup:apsrev:v:105:y:2011:i:03:p:478-495_00 is not listed on IDEAS
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