Rainfall Patterns and Human Settlement in Tropical Africa and Asia Compared. Did African Farmers Face Greater Insecurity?

40 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2017  

Ewout Frankema

Wageningen UR

Kostadis J. Papaioannou

London School of Economics and Political Science

Date Written: January 2017

Abstract

We explore a new dataset of annual and monthly district-level rainfall patterns to assess the longstanding idea that climatological conditions were more conducive to the development of dense rural populations in Asia than in Africa. We test whether there existed significant cross-regional differences in both the frequency and intensity of rainfall shocks (i.e. annual mean deviations exceeding one standard deviation). Our results confirm that rainfall shocks in tropical Africa were both more frequent and more severe. Second, we test the separate effects of precipitation levels and variability on district-level population densities from colonial population censuses. We hypothesize that higher mean levels of precipitation facilitate agricultural intensification and human settlement, while unpredictability of rainfall has the opposite effect. Controlling for average rainfall levels, we find a strong negative effect of rainfall variation on population densities. This study thus lends further support to a wide literature arguing that the ecological conditions of agricultural intensification were more challenging in the African than in the Asian tropics.

Keywords: Africa, agriculture, Asia, Climate, Settlement

JEL Classification: N55, N57, O13, O44

Suggested Citation

Frankema, Ewout and Papaioannou, Kostadis J., Rainfall Patterns and Human Settlement in Tropical Africa and Asia Compared. Did African Farmers Face Greater Insecurity? (January 2017). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP11795. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2904317

Ewout Frankema (Contact Author)

Wageningen UR ( email )

Hollandseweg 1
Wageningen, 6706KN
Netherlands

Kostadis Jason Papaioannou

London School of Economics and Political Science ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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