Changing climate, changing realities: migration in the Sahel

Daoust, G., Cao, Y., Sulieman, H. M., Diarra, D., Barry, B. and Jarvie, J.
Publication language
Date published
16 Nov 2022
Research, reports and studies
Environment & climate, Forced displacement and migration

The Sahel region – the strip of land extending coast to coast from west to east Africa – has long-established patterns of human mobility, largely characterised by internal movement within countries or between countries. This mobility has acted as an important resilience strategy for people’s survival and a way to create new economic opportunities during times of both crisis and stability. Existing research suggests that climate-related changes and risks might contribute to pressures to move for some people while constraining possibilities for mobility for others. Following already significant transformations in the Sahel’s semi-arid to arid climate, projected changes in rainfall and temperature suggest that climate-related challenges may intensify further. Therefore, understanding the influence of climate change on mobility in the Sahel is an increasingly vital task. However, the evidence on the relationship between climate change and migration in the Sahel remains nascent, and the evidence far sparser than in other climate-impacted regions. In addition, the research undertaken to date focuses primarily on the impacts of sudden-onset, short-duration climate shocks, as opposed to slow-onset, longer-duration changes. Commissioned by the British Red Cross, this research seeks to fill these evidence gaps and to improve understanding of the links between environmental and climate change and migration, and their implications for future mobility patterns and associated humanitarian needs and vulnerabilities. Many of the findings presented in this report validate and expand upon existing knowledge on mobility as it relates to environmental and climate change in the Sahel; on people’s coping strategies and adaptation strategies (longer-term adjustments that may enable people to remain in place or support choices about mobility); and the relationships between them. The research considered Mali and Sudan as case-study countries. It took a wide focus, spanning both sudden-onset shocks and slower-onset changes, with experiences documented in Sudan predominantly reflecting the former and those in Mali the latter. It examined people’s perceptions of the connections between climate change and migration, the ways in which people cope with or adapt to the adverse consequences of climate change, and the vulnerabilities, barriers, and needs experienced by those who use migration as an adaptation strategy.