Project Abstract

In this project, we first describe the self-collected geo-referenced data on landmine contamination and their subsequent clearance during the 1992-2015 period. We are able to provide for the first time to the Mozambican government, the United Nations, the various NGOs involved in the demining process, and the international community an almost complete documentation of this gigantic and often chaotic process that lasted more than two decades. This is a non-negligible contribution, as there is no complete documentation of land mine clearance for any other heavily-impacted country.

Second, we exploit variation in the timing of demining across localities, which given the chaotic situation in the country in the 1990s was not centrally coordinated, to assess its impact on economic activity. To bypass data unavailability on output statistics at the local level, we proxy regional development using satellite images of light density at night. Specifically, we compare Mozambican localities, where demining took place in a given period, to those localities that either had no landmines at the end of the war or were mined but not cleared yet. The “difference-in-difference” specifications reveal statistically significant, but small-to-moderate economic effects.

Third, we explore potential heterogeneous effects of landmine clearance to shed light on the mechanisms and offer some guidance to ongoing demining activities at other parts of the world. Local trade hubs and larger towns benefit more from clearance, whereas demining agricultural areas and rural places close to the borders yield small and in general insignificant effects. As the priorities of NGOs are often targeted towards rural areas, these findings suggest that some reconsideration is needed.

Fourth, we examine the nation-wide implications of landmine clearance recognizing the fact that removal of landmines in one locality may indirectly impact economic activity in other regions through interconnections via the transportation network. To do so we identify how the process of land-mine clearance reconfigured the accessibility of the pre-existing transportation network (railroads and roads) over time. We apply a "market-access" approach, derived from general equilibrium trade theory, that quantifies the aggregate effects of landmine clearance on spatial development. The estimates reveal economically large and statistically precise effects of landmines removal on aggregate economic development. These results point out that due to positive spillovers, the economy-wide effects of land mine clearance are far larger than local (regional) effects.

Fifth, to advance on causation and assuage concerns that the estimates reflect the strategic prioritization of high-potential regions (that does not seem to be the case), we repeat estimation focusing solely on localities which were spared from any landmine contamination at the end of the civil war. For these places, changes in the market access stem from landmine clearance in other interconnected via roads, rivers, and railroads regions. The results show that landmine clearance benefits also areas that were not affected at all by land mines, illustrating the strong positive externalities.

Sixth, we perform counterfactual policy simulations to approximate the likely gains of demining if it was done in a strategic, centrally-planned and coordinated manner –rather than in the fragmented and uncoordinated way that characterized clearance in Mozambique. The policy simulations reveals significant losses in absence of central planning and strategic coordination among the demining operators. These findings suggest that coordination and prioritization are needed in heavily-mined countries that the international community is currently working on.