Crop and Conflict: Exploring the impact of Inequality in Agricultural Production on Conflict Risk
59 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2019
Date Written: June 24, 2019
Recent attempts to find a robust empirical correlation between climate variability, crop production and civil conflict risk have been quite inconclusive. In this paper, we argue that the ambiguity in empirical findings may be partly due to a general tendency to treat agricultural production in absolute terms, while neglecting the importance of the relative deprivation triggered by unequal distribution in crop yields across locations and between groups. To test this hypothesis, we rely on high-resolution global gridded data on the local yield of four main crops for the period 1981-2017, and calculate the level of inequality in crop production by means of a Gini index using the grid-cell information on yearly crop yields both at the country level and between identity based groups (regional and ethnic). In addition, for each level of spatial disaggregation, we compute the Gini coefficient using information on crop production from rural grid-cells only. Our results reveal a strong and robust association between crop inequality and the probability of conflict outbreak. This effect is particularly pronounced in the case of inequality among rural areas. Climatic variability, on the other hand, is shown not to increase significantly the destabilizing effect of crop inequality. We also find that akin ethnic competition and discrimination along ethnic lines represent good predictors of conflict outbreak, especially in the case of ethnic conflicts, and when the between-group inequality in crop production is calculated along ethnic boundaries.
Keywords: Agriculture, Inequality, Climate Change, Conflict
JEL Classification: D74, Q54, Q18, F51
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