Comparing Rainfall patterns and human settlement in tropical Africa and Asia

Interesting study by Kostadis Papaioannou and Ewout Frankema. If geography was given adequate focus while teaching economics, these issues should have been pretty well-known:

Our study adds support to the idea that the climatological challenges posed to agricultural development were larger in tropical Africa than in tropical Asia, and that this may be one of the keys to understanding why large parts of tropical Asia have historically been more densely populated than tropical Africa. In so far as higher degrees of climatological variability posed more severe constraints to the adoption of modern, productivity-enhancing farming technologies, this may also partially account for the diverging trajectories of agricultural development in the post-1960 era.

However, the implications of our findings go even further. The increasing frequency and intensity of weather shocks observed today, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, and hurricanes, adversely affect conditions of agricultural production and jeopardise efforts to achieve global food security. A rapidly expanding literature shows that climate-induced food shortages pose severe threats to societal cohesion by triggering civil conflict, raising property crime rates, and increasing migration (Miguel et al. 2004, Papaioannou 2017).

The effects of climate change are felt harder in Africa than elsewhere. Our study suggests that African farmers also have a longer experience in coping with climate shocks, even though more evidence is needed to explore whether this has been a structural historical condition, or one specific for the interwar era.

 

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