Climate Change, Livelihoods, and Conflict in the Sahel

- 16 October 2020

Trade topics: Climate Change, Sahel region

In the Sahel, regional climatic trends show an overall rise in temperature, coupled with an erratic trend in rainfall. Moreover, the region faces a growing number of natural disasters, the frequency and intensity of which are expected to further rise in the near future. Desertification, drought, floods, and sea level rise, among others, are all affecting the availability of natural resources. In a context where natural resources are the main sources of livelihoods, environmental degradation significantly impacts people’s resilience and makes them highly vulnerable. In parallel, the region faces serious political turmoil and radical Islamist threats, which have caused serious security challenges within and across national borders. Some literature draws a link between recent climatic trends and the occurrence and persistence of violent conflict in the Sahel. It mostly points to the natural tendency of people to recourse to migration and fighting over scarce resources as an adaptation strategy to climate change. In this paper, it is argued that conflicts in the Sahel usually have many different intertwined drivers, among which governance, favoritism, and ethnic and religious factors all come into play, with climate change increasingly acting as an amplifier that contributes to trigger violence. It further argues that mitigating conflict in the Sahel can only come through a larger package of policies, of which adaptation to climate change should be an important component.