After the Rain: Rainfall Variability, Hydro-Meteorological Disasters, and Social Conflict in Africa

43 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2010

See all articles by Cullen S. Hendrix

Cullen S. Hendrix

University of Denver - Josef Korbel School of International Studies; Peterson Institute for International Economics

Idean Salehyan

University of North Texas; International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO); University of Texas at Austin - Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law; Southern Methodist University (SMU) - John G. Tower Center for Political Studies

Date Written: June 21, 2010

Abstract

This paper examines the relationship between rainfall, water, and socio-political unrest in Africa. In particular, we are interested in how deviations from normal rainfall patterns, and extreme events such as flooding and drought, affect the propensity for individuals and groups to engage in disruptive activities such as demonstrations, riots, strikes, communal conflict, and anti-government violence. In contrast to much of the environmental security literature, we use a much broader definition of conflict that includes, but is not is not limited to, organized rebellion. Using a new database of over 6,000 instances of social conflict in the past 20 years - the Social Conflict in Africa Database (SCAD) - we examine the effect of deviations from normal rainfall patterns on various types of conflict. Our results indicate that rainfall variability has a significant effect on both large-scale and smaller-scale instances of political conflict. We find that rainfall is correlated with civil war and insurgency, although wetter years are more likely to suffer from violent events. Extreme deviations in rainfall - particularly dry and wet years - are associated with all types of political conflict (violent and nonviolent, government-targeted and non/government-targeted), though the relationship is strongest with respect to violent events, which are more responsive to abundant rather than scarce rainfall. By looking at a broader spectrum of social conflict, rather than limiting the analysis to civil war, we demonstrate a robust relationship between environmental shocks and violence.

Keywords: Rainfall, protest, civil conflict, Africa, climate change, environment

Suggested Citation

Hendrix, Cullen S. and Salehyan, Idean, After the Rain: Rainfall Variability, Hydro-Meteorological Disasters, and Social Conflict in Africa (June 21, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1641312 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1641312

Cullen S. Hendrix (Contact Author)

University of Denver - Josef Korbel School of International Studies ( email )

Denver, CO 80208
United States

Peterson Institute for International Economics ( email )

1750 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Idean Salehyan

University of North Texas ( email )

1155 Union Circle #305340
Denton, TX 76203
United States

International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) ( email )

Oslo
N-0260 Oslo
Norway

University of Texas at Austin - Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law ( email )

2315 Red River Street
Austin, TX 78712
United States

Southern Methodist University (SMU) - John G. Tower Center for Political Studies ( email )

PO Box 750117
Dallas, TX 75275-0117
United States

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