Submissions Accepted for Presentation at the World Bank Land Conference 2024

The conference agenda provides an overview and details of sessions. In order to view sessions on a specific day or for a certain room, please select an appropriate date or room link. You may also select a session to explore available abstracts and download papers and presentations.

Session Overview
01-09: Navigating trade-offs between land use change, sustainability, and conflict
Thursday, 16/May/2024:
8:00am - 10:00am

Session Chair: Soukeyna Kane, World Bank, United States of America
Location: MC 13-121

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Does local politics drive tropical land-use change? Property-level evidence from the Amazon

Erik Katovich

University of Geneva, Switzerland

Land conversion to agriculture is a defining environmental challenge for tropical regions. We construct a novel panel dataset of land-use changes on the properties of municipal politicians and campaign donors in the Brazilian Amazon to assess channels through which local politics may drive land conversion. Estimating event studies around close mayoral elections, we find that large landholders significantly increase soy cultivation while the candidate they donated to is in office. This suggests landholders invest in political influence to overcome barriers to agricultural intensification. In turn, mayors who receive landholder donations govern in favor of agriculture – increasing spending on agricultural promotion and distribution of rural credit. While agricultural promotion “returns the favor” for mayors’ donors, it is not precisely targeted. We document large spillovers onto non-donor properties, resulting in increased deforestation and environmental violations. Results reveal how patronage and special interests drive land-use change and deforestation in the Amazon.


Land-use transformation and conflict: The effects of oil palm expansion in Indonesia

Elias Cisneros1, Tobias Hellmundt2, Krisztina Kis-Katos2

1University of Texas at Dallas; 2University of Goettingen

Agricultural commodity booms can improve rural incomes and livelihoods, but also accelerate land-use change. Where land-use rights are unclear and economic institutions non-cohesive, such booms can trigger social conflict over land. We investigate this phenomenon in Indonesia, where rising global demand caused a large expansion in oil palm area over the past decades. Based on a yearly panel of 2,755 rural sub-districts from 2005 to 2014, we link detailed data on local conflicts to variations in plantation expansion incentives. We show that local incentives to establish new plantations lead to violent disputes over land, resources and political representation. The adverse consequences increase with the importance of income from land, and are more pronounced in areas where land is more contestable and unequally distributed. Our findings underline the importance of Indonesia’s ongoing land reform efforts and the necessity of rural land transformation to go hand in hand with conflict mitigation strategies


Development mismatch: evidence from agricultural projects in pastoral Africa

Eoin McGurk1, Nathan Nunn2

1Tufts University, United States of America; 2University of British Columbia, Canada

We study the effect of agricultural expansion on conflict in pastoral territories of Africa. Using geocoded data on development projects across Africa from 1995-2014, we find that implementing agricultural projects in traditionally pastoral areas leads to a two-fold increase in the risk of conflict. We find no equivalent effect for agricultural projects implemented in traditionally agricultural areas, nor for non-agricultural projects implemented in either location. We also find that this mechanism contributes to the spread of extremist-religious conflict in the form of jihadist attacks. Our effects are muted when agricultural projects are paired with pastoral projects. This is more likely to occur when pastoral groups have more political power. Despite these effects on conflict, we find that crop agriculture projects increase nighttime luminosity in both agricultural and pastoral areas. Our results indicate that "development mismatch"--i.e., imposing projects that are misaligned with local populations--can be costly.


Landmine clearance and economic development: evidence from nighttime lights, multispectral satellite imagery, and conflict events in Afghanistan

Ariel BenYishay1, Rachel Sayers1, Kunwar Singh1, Christian Baehr2, Madeleine Walker3

1William & Mary, United States of America; 2Princeton University, United States of America; 3University of California-Davis

The widespread prevalence of unexploded landmines in many countries leads to thousands of deaths and injuries annually and can block the productive use of contaminated land. We study the clearance of more than 15,000 hazardous areas in Afghanistan carried out since 1992. We identify a window during which a policy shift in clearance targeting created plausibly exogenous variation in the timing of clearance, which we study using a two-way fixed effects panel design. The clearance of hazardous areas leads to changes in land use observed using multispectral, moderate-resolution Landsat-series imagery, as well as to increases in economic activity reflected in nighttime lights data. Our precise clearance data and satellite imagery allows us to observe the shifts occurring even in the small towns and villages that comprise most of our sample. We also find reductions in conflict risks due to the clearance of hazardous areas.


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