Environmental Change, Land Ownership, and Political Instability in Agrarian Societies

Authors: Andrew Linke*, University of Utah
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Political Geography, Development
Keywords: Political geography, climate change, conflict, Africa
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Directors Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Our study tests a plausible explanation for why political instability could emerge from environmental change. We expect that in the agrarian economies of the developing world, patterns of land ownership will be influenced by increasingly unpredictable weather patterns and degraded water and pasture resources. In the absence of robust adaptation strategies, people experiencing worsening circumstances are more likely to abandon or sell (possibly at a loss) land than in areas with more favorable conditions. Land ownership is highly contentious in many regions of the world due to insecure tenure rights and the changes we observe could make a problematic political economy even more volatile. Even those who do not own land are affected by the changes that we study; tenants might be evicted if land or properties change hands just as access rights for pastoralists or seasonal farmers may be revised or disappear. These transformations have implications for demographics and politics among subnational territories and at the country level. We test our expectation that a changing environment relates to patterns of land and property ownership using hundreds of thousands of respondents to the Demographic and Health Surveys across dozens of countries.

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