Rebel Recruitment in a Coffee Exporting Economy
Recent literature in the political economy of civil war has pointed to the importance of (changes) in the economic environment for the understanding of conflict dynamics. Three channels, negative income shocks, the presence of exportable commodities and indiscriminate violence inflicted on one’s community are considered as drivers of conflict. This paper studies these channels with a new fifteen-year panel of community level data on Burundi whose coffee sector is intimately intertwined with the civil war. We find that indiscriminate violence inflicted at the start of the civil war (1993) continued to affect recruitment throughout the entire civil war. We also find that decreases in the producer price of coffee increases recruitment. Aiming to distinguish the resentment aspect from the opportunity aspect in low producer prices, we perform robustness tests with different specifications and with year-province rainfall shocks affecting overall agricultural income, not just coffee. Results indicate that it is the opportunity cost mechanism that drives increased recruitment.
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