On food production shocks and conflict

While recent research suggests that climatic shocks at most are weakly and inconsistently related to higher conflict risk, a more subtle and indirect association, working through negative impacts on food production, seems plausible. In a new study that is just released, we investigate the empirical evidence for such a two-step causal process. Studying the entire African continent over the past half century, we find that (unsurprisingly) weather patterns matter a whole lot for local production, with below-normal rainfall generally being associated with lower yields. We find little evidence for the second step, however, as fluctuating incomes from food production correlate weakly with various categories of political violence. The article is freely available here. Enjoy.

Buhaug, Halvard, Tor A. Benjaminsen, Espen Sjaastad, and Ole M. Theisen. 2015. Climate variability, food production shocks, and violent conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa. Environmental Research Letters 10(12): 125015.  [Open Access]

[Update 20 April 2016] The article has been awarded ‘Highly Commended’ by the ERL editors and is included in the ERL 2015 Highlights collection.

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