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Abstract

Landslides affect millions of people worldwide, but theoretical and empirical studies on the impact of landslides on economic development remain scarce, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. This study estimates the direct impact of landslides on household income and investigates the presence of specific risk sharing and mitigation strategies towards landslides in the Rwenzori mountains in Western Uganda. An original cross-sectional household survey is used in combination with geographical data to acquire detailed information on livelihoods and on hazards at household level. Ordinary least squares regressions and probit estimations with village fixed effects are used to estimate the impact of landslides and the presence of mitigation strategies in the region. Geographical information at household level is used to disentangle the direct impact from the indirect effects of landslides on household income. We show that the income of affected households is significantly and substantially reduced during the first years after a landslide has occurred. We find that members of recently affected households participate more in wage-employment or in self-employed activities, presumably to address income losses following a landslide. Yet, we see that these jobs do not provide sufficient revenue to compensate for the loss of income from agriculture. Given that landslides cause idiosyncratic shocks, finding a significant direct impact in our study indicates that no adequate risk sharing mechanisms are in place or that these mechanisms are not well functioning in the Rwenzori sub-region. These insights are used to derive policy recommendations for alleviating the impact of landslides in tropical mountainous areas. By quantifying the direct impact of landslides on household income in an agricultural context in Africa this study draws the attention towards a problem that has been broadly underestimated so far and provides a sound scientific base for disaster risk reduction in the region.

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