Precolonial institutions and deforestation in Africa

Larcom, S.; van Gevelt, T. and Zabala, A. (2016). Precolonial institutions and deforestation in Africa. Land Use Policy, 51 pp. 150–161.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2015.10.030

Abstract

We find that local institutions inherited from the precolonial era continue to play an important role in natural resource governance in Africa. Using satellite image data, we find a significant and robust relationship between deforestation and precolonial succession rules of local leaders (local chiefs). In particular, we find that those precolonial areas where local leaders were appointed by ‘social standing’ have higher rates of deforestation compared to the base case of hereditary rule and where local leaders were appointed from above (by paramount chiefs). While the transmission mechanisms behind these results are complex, we suggest that areas where local leaders were appointed by social standing are more likely to have poorer institutions governing local leadership and forest management.

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