Friday, March 15, 2013

A socio-economic characterization of returnee households in the Nuba Mountains

This weekend will start the CSAE conference 2013 in Oxford, the largest gathering of experts on Africa related economic topics and one of the most important conferences about economic development in general.

My co-author Asha Abdel Rahim (University of Juba) will be presenting our work (also joint with Aleksi Ylonen) about households returning to their communities of origin in the Nuba Mountains after the signature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended Sudan's civil war in 2005.

The session will be available in live web broadcast  here.

Asha collected this data in 2008, when expectations of a long lasting peace were high and the coexistence  between former enemies was not utopical. Unfortunately, shortly after the data was collected the situation deteriorated and the war resumed in the area in 2011, the same period when the former Nuba allies in the south were preparing to secede and create South Sudan. Therefore the Nuba area was transformed in the southern border of Sudan instead of being the (still always isolated) center of the country.

The inherent problems of data collection in post conflict areas implied that some important information (like place of displacement or ethnicity) was not registered, and the restart of the conflict impeded any follow-up. Given these shortcomings, it is difficult to attempt a causal analysis of the effects of displacement  but the uniqueness of the data make it worthy to be described in detail.

In particular, we are interested in compare returnee households with those who stayed in the villages during the war. Around 300,000 persons returned to Nuba communities after the CPA, and in the 8 villages of our sample (344 households), around 40% of the households are returnees.

We actually find many differences:

- Returnees tend to own less assets than stayers. (This is not surprising, and in line with previous findings by Ibanez and Moya, 2010; Fiala, 2012, among others).

- Returnee households cultivate more agricultural varieties, but mainly staples. Stayers are more likely to cultivate cash crops. (Previous studies had shown differences in production structure, but I am not aware of previous findings mentioning this staple/cash crop differences)

Returnees have better health outcomes, in the sense of household members having a lower probability of contracting serious diseases. (This is somehow in contradiction to Verwimp, 2012, but in line with the findings of Hynes et al. 2002)

- We actually relate the last finding to two possible explanations (apart from self selection into displacement): The fact that returnees tend to have better hygiene habits (in terms of washing their hands and other attitudes, potentially learned during displaced) and the targeted support of NGOs in the post conflict period.

We hope that our contribution can help to the post conflict efforts when the current devastating,  and largely unknown and neglected, conflict in the Nuba Mountains comes to and end. Hopefully soon.

A good source of information of the current events in the Nuba Mountains is NubaReports:


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