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Sustained drought, vulnerability and civil conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Peace and Conflict Research.
2014 (English)In: Political Geography, ISSN 0962-6298, E-ISSN 1873-5096, Vol. 43, no SI, 16-26 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

With climate change projections indicating a likely future increase in extreme weather phenomena, it is an urgent matter to assess the effect of drought on civil conflict. However, studies of this relationship so far provide inconclusive findings. One reason for this inconsistency is that existing research has not sufficiently taken into account the local vulnerability and coping capacity that condition the effect of drought. In particular, the exposure to sustained droughts undermines alternative coping mechanisms of individuals. Moreover, reliance on rainfed agriculture for income and food provision renders individuals particularly vulnerable to droughts. Based on these observations, I suggest that areas experiencing sustained droughts or depending on rainfed agriculture are more likely to see civil conflict following drought as individuals in these regions are more likely to partake in rebellion in order to redress economic grievances or to obtain food and income. Using novel high-resolution data on civil conflict events in Sub-Saharan Africa from 1989 to 2008, this paper evaluates the relationship between sustained drought, rainfed agriculture and civil conflict violence at the subnational level. In line with the argument, areas with rainfed croplands see an increased risk of civil conflict violence following drought. There is also some support for the proposition that areas experiencing sustained droughts have a higher risk of conflict. The results are robust to a wide range of model specifications.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 43, no SI, 16-26 p.
Keyword [en]
Civil conflict, Drought, Rainfed agriculture, Vulnerability, Sub-Saharan Africa, Climate change
National Category
Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-243074DOI: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2014.10.003ISI: 000347023800003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-243074DiVA: diva2:787137
Available from: 2015-02-09 Created: 2015-02-04 Last updated: 2016-08-26Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Climate, Conflict and Coping Capacity: The Impact of Climate Variability on Organized Violence
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Climate, Conflict and Coping Capacity: The Impact of Climate Variability on Organized Violence
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Understanding the conflict potential of climate variability is critical for assessing and dealing with the societal implications of climate change. Yet, it remains poorly understood under what circumstances – and how – extreme weather events and variation in precipitation patterns affect organized violence. This dissertation suggests that the impacts of climate variability on organized violence are conditional on specific climate patterns, the sensitivity of livelihoods, and state governance. These theoretical conjectures are subjected to novel empirical tests in four individual essays. Three essays investigate the relationship between climate variability and communal and civil conflict through sub-national quantitative analysis focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa. The fourth essay sheds light on causal mechanisms leading to participation in land-related conflict based on interview material on 75 ex-participants in violence from Mt. Elgon, Kenya. Essay I suggests that the exposure of vulnerable agricultural livelihoods to sustained drought increases the risk of civil conflict violence. Essay II indicates that rainfall anomalies increase the risk of communal violence, an effect which is amplified by political marginalization. Essay III finds support for the proposition that volatility in resource supply increases the risk of communal conflict over land and water in remote regions, which tend to have limited state presence. Essay IV proposes that individuals depending on agriculture are prone to participate in land-related conflict as they face impediments to leaving a conflict zone, and additionally have high incentives to partake in fighting for land. Taken together, the dissertation furthers our understanding of the specific economic and political context under which climate variability impacts armed conflict. This knowledge is important for conflict-sensitive adaptation to climate change and conflict prevention efforts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Department of Peace and Conflict Research, 2016. 44 p.
Report / Department of Peace and Conflict Research, ISSN 0566-8808 ; 111
civil conflict, communal conflict, climate change, climate variability, Sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya, geo-referenced event data, agricultural dependence, vulnerability
National Category
Political Science Climate Research
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-300183 (URN)978-91-506-2585-1 (ISBN)
External cooperation:
Public defence
2016-09-23, Zootissalen, EBC, Villavägen 9, Uppsala, 10:30 (English)
Sida - Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
Available from: 2016-09-01 Created: 2016-08-04 Last updated: 2016-09-01

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