mnDev’s Strategic Analytics Lab (SAL) conducts a wide variety of quantitatively-based research endeavors. Click on one of the titles below to learn more and access the full publication in electronic format.


A Causal Exploration of Conflict Events and Commodity Prices in Sudan

  • Objective: Examine the causal relationship between commodity prices and conflict
  • Key Finding: Imported/donated commodities may cause conflict in developing nations. 

Though recent literature uncovers linkages between commodity prices and conflict, the causal direction of the relationship remains ambiguous. We attempted to contribute in this strand of research by studying the dynamic relationship of commodity prices and the onsets of two civil wars in Sudan. Applying Structure Vector Autoregression (SVAR) and Linear Non-Gaussian Acyclic Model (LiNGAM), we find that wheat price is a cause of conflict events in Sudan. We find no feedback from conflict to commodity prices. This paper is currently under review in the Journal of Policy Modeling.


On Forecasting Conflict in Sudan: 2009-2012

  • Innovation: Offer forecasting of conflict events with commodity prices
  • Key Finding: It is possible to forecast conflict events using commodity data; however, “big events” are harder to predict.

This research considers univariate and multivariate models to forecast monthly conflict events in the Sudan over the out-of-sample period 2009 – 2012. The models used to generate these forecasts were based on a specification from a machine learning algorithm fit to 2000 – 2008 monthly data. The idea here is that for policy purposes we need models that can forecast conflict events before they occur. The model that includes previous month’s wheat price performs better than a similar model which does not include past wheat prices (the univariate model). Both models did not perform well in forecasting conflict in a neighborhood of the 2012 “Heglig Crisis”. Such a result is generic, as “outlier or unusual events” are hard for models and policy experts to forecast.


The Impact of Conflict-Induced Exclusion on Entitlement of Food: Evidence from Rural Liberia

  • Innovation: Further UNHCR’s initiative to rehabilitate returning refugees in a post-conflict zone
  • Key Learning: An efficient rehabilitation process for returning refugees that addresses social, emotional and technical integration will result in food entitlement.  

This paper is a unique attempt to discover the impact exile duration on the most basic human necessity: food entitlement. We argue that exile from society followed by reintegration attempts create mental and physical trauma, emotional distress, cultural shock, depletion of technical skills, political oppression, loss of social cohesion and articulation. We use survey data provided by Howard G Buffett Foundation, conditioned upon levels of conflict and propensity of migration from rural households in Liberian villages. Our findings suggest that accounting for household demographics, farm size, attributes, income, and exclusion duration increases the probability of food entitlement failure. The publication of this paper is forthcoming.


Economic Shocks, Governance and Violence: A Subnational Level Analysis of Africa

  • Innovation: Studied geo-coded disaggregated data on Sub-Saharan Africa. We discovered how jurisdiction of governance and economic development can affect conflict.
  • Key Learning: Administrative decentralization along with steady economic development can reduce conflict shocks in Sub-Saharan Africa.  

By using a geo-coded disaggregated dataset in sub-Saharan Africa over 1997–2013, we exploit rainfall variations as instruments to estimate the causal effect of economic shocks on conflict conditional on the governance quality. We confirm some earlier findings and find some novel results. Adverse economic shocks increase the conflict risk in sub-Saharan Africa. The improvement in governance quality can effectively mitigate the detrimental effect of adverse shocks on regional peace. However, due to the limited penetration of countrywide governance structures, this effect appears strong only in the areas close from the capital cities but decays in the remote areas. The paper for this study is currently under review in the Journal of Development Economics.


Community Collaborative Potential Enhanced through ICT in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • Objective: Efficiently design an ICT chain system within a farmer co-operative
  • Key Learning: Connectivity of farmers can be increased through an efficient networking chain.

SAL is partnering with the DRC-based non-profit organizations, Domaine Monts de la Lune sarl and Le Jardin, to test how legitimate local institutions can influence cooperation dynamics as seen through farmers in DRC. Farmers in North Kivu in eastern DRC have great difficulties in accessing and taking advantage of opportunities in export markets. The proponents of this project hypothesize that local cooperation can be fostered through adequate support and that ICT can play a key role in this; it can open new communication channels that overcome cultural and conflict-conditioned obstacles and can contribute to building institutions and leadership that serve the interests of rural communities. SAL intends to support this project through coming up a proof of the concept. Learn more about ConDev’s “DRC: ICT for Social Cohesion” project here.


Enhancing Livelihood and Incomes of Rural Women through Postharvest Technology in Guatemala

  • Innovation: Technology offering employment opportunities for women in rural Guatemala
  • Key Learning: Women who earn income have more decision-making power in their home and are less likely to experience household conflict

The Asociación de Desarrollo Integral Pueblos Hermanos (ADIPH), a non-profit organization in Guatemala conducting work on modified atmospheric packaging (MAP) technologies and provide these for fruit and vegetable packaging centers through the Transformative Solutions program. These centers provide employment opportunities for rural women in Guatemala. To date, we partnered with (ADIPH) to have design a survey that will assess the effects of women’s employment on their family and social dynamics. The baseline survey is almost complete and the data is being by our partners for analysis with SAL. With the results of this survey, we hope to investigate how women’s employment may improve education, health, and security of the household. More importantly, it will provide evidence of the importance of providing employment opportunities for women in rural Guatemala. Technologies such as MAP allow women to be better trained for the workforce and increase their chances and finding employment opportunities.


Explaining Cropping Systems under Extreme Uncertainty: Evidence from Conflict-Prone North Kivu, DR Congo

  • Objective: Explore whether crop choices in conflict-prone societies can be explained through coping mechanisms from conflict, social empowerment and access to markets.
  • Key Learning: Our results will show that if uncertainties originate from conflict, they can be mediated through specific socioeconomic arrangements.

Through the BPCC project, the Conflict and Development Foundation (CDF) aims to identify long-term sustainable and financially profitable farming practices that reduce likelihood of conflict over land. The premise for this study is that current cocoa and coffee cultivation techniques are likely not sustainable without large inputs of inorganic fertilizer and erosion of the local and natural resource base. CDF conducted a survey of cocoa and coffee producing farmers in North Kivu in the Fall season of 2014. SAL helped design the survey and randomize the villages and sample population. We facilitated a grid based randomization technique to select approximately 1,700-2,500 farmers to take part in the survey. CDF constructed primary database includes farmers’ demographic information, agricultural inputs available to them, services available to them from the governments and NGOs, and information on interactions between farmers, buyers, and landowners as well as crop information.

Much of the literature on developing countries has investigated ways in which farming households choose different cropping systems to hedge against uncertainty. With data gathered through the BPCC project, in this paper we test whether cropping decisions of small stakeholder farmers living in the conflict prone agrarian province of North Kivu can be explained by the level of exposure to conflict, social empowerment and market access. We further investigate if social empowerment and contracts or guaranty from buyers through market access can partially act as a buffer against the uncertainty brought upon by conflict. This paper can contribute to the literature of choices made by farming households in two important ways. First, we explore whether crop choices in conflict prone societies can be explained through coping mechanisms from conflict, social empowerment and access to markets. Furthermore, our results will show if uncertainties originating from conflict can be mediated through specific socioeconomic arrangements. The paper for this study is in progress.


The Effects of Cell Phones and Radios on Smallholder Famer Decision Making: Evidence from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • Objective: Investigate the decision-making process of smallholder farmers in conflict-affected areas according to their access to technology
  • Key Learning: There is no impact of cell phone access or usage on conflict perceptions

Through information gathered from the BPCC survey (mentioned above) we investigate the decision making process of smallholder framers in conflict affected areas by their access to technology.  Smallholder farmers choose between cash crops and food staples. Cash crops incur more risk compared to subsistence farming because of violence and violence’s effect on market access and volatility. Specifically, we investigate the role of technology (cell phones and radio) on individual’s crop choice as a function of perceptions of violence.  We use original data collected from 2,260 farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu region.  For perception and propensity to engage in conflict we use the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project household data. We control for demographic, social and economic factors of individual households. We also estimate area/groupement specific effects. Contrary to neo-social media theories, we do not find any impact of cell phone access or usage on conflict perceptions and/or engagement.  The study’s implications are significant for fragile states that experience high levels of violence.  The free transmission of information through radio access provides opportunities for governments and other actors to identify when violence arises.


The Effects of School-Related Gender-Based Violence on Academic Performance: Evidence from Botswana, Ghana and South Africa

  • Objective: Assess the effect of school violence on academic achievement in the context of South Africa, Botswana, and Ghana, while also studying how gender may play a role
  • Key Learning: Bullying is a significant determinant of lower academic achievement in all contexts; however, the severity of the impact based on gender varies depending on the context.

In this three-country study commissioned by USAID, SAL researchers assess the effect of school violence, defined as bullying, on academic achievement in Botswana, Ghana, and South Africa. The data contains information for fourth graders and eighth graders.  For this research, we had three goals in mind: to (1) Identify and quantify a causal  effect of bullying on academic performance, (2) Identify other demographic and economic covariates that influence academic performance, and (3) Provide possible policy recommendations that would mediate the effect of bullying in enhancing academic performance. Our findings indicate that for all grade levels, bullying has a significant detrimental effect for all subjects. Other demographic and economic covariates have different significant effects, which vary by grade level, subject, and country. As a result, a general policy recommendation is ineffective; instead, we recommend policies that address different key issues in each situation. In all cases, the effect of bullying needs to be addressed according to how different demographic groups respond to bullying.


Female Teachers can Mitigate the Consequences of School Bullying on Academic Performance: Evidence from Ghana

  • Objective: Study the effects of having a female teacher, and how it may mitigate the consequences of bullying on academic achievement
  • Key Learning: The negative effect of bullying on academic achievement is significantly mitigated by the presence of a female teacher in the classroom

Exploiting data from Ghanaian schools’ 8th grade students collected in 2011, we estimate the causal effects of school bullying on academic achievement by using the propensity score matching and doubly robust estimator approach. We find that students victimized by bullying score at least 0.22 standard deviation lower than their peers in a standardized mathematics examination. Meanwhile, we document that the effect of bullying on students is significantly mediated in the presence of a female teacher in the classroom. These results hold through a set of robustness tests. Hence, we recommend teacher gender specific programs to mitigate the adverse impact of bullying.


Research in Nepal

  • Objectives:
    • Examine the micro-level determinants of food security and household food security coping strategies to broadly analyze the resilience of Nepalese society
    • Identify recommendations for agricultural production and smallholder farm income
    • Study the sustainability and acceptance of foreign development assistance.

The objective of the proposed research is to identify and provide recommendations to improve the following: a. agricultural production and smallholder farm income by examining the micro-level determinants of food security and household food security coping strategies; b. discover the sustainability and acceptance of foreign development assistance. This project is meant to broadly analyze resilience of the Nepalese society. Ultimately, a publically available data set is expected to result from this research as well as scholarly publications, policy recommendations, and implementation of them. SAL is partnering with the USAID mission in Nepal, the College of William and Mary and the Nepal study center of University of New Mexico for this initiative.