Giving Compass' Take:

• Ahmadou Aly Mbaye explains how climate change is impacting impoverished people in West Africa, increasing migration. 

• How can funders work to mitigate the damage that climate change does to low-income communities? 

• Learn more about climate change as a driver of migration

Links between the climate crisis and migration are intensifying in West Africa, where many people work in sectors vulnerable to climate-related extremes of weather and sea level rise. As climate change intensifies, it is threatening livelihoods, which fuels conflicts and compels people in the developing world northward, where, at least for the time being, conditions are more tolerable. In West Africa, the climate crisis is unfolding in real time and people are moving, fighting for survival, and in need of support.

While consensus that migration policy in the northern hemisphere should not be aimed solely at curbing flows from developing countries is growing, the toll of high emissions from the global north as well as from middle-income emerging market economies on countries in the South is often overlooked. It is time to face up to the reality that climate change is the biggest contributor to loss of livelihoods in developing countries today. No surprise, then, that migration is a common adaptation strategy as people face deteriorating living conditions and seek brighter futures for their children.

Migration is a well-entrenched tradition in West Africa, and is mainly shaped by kinship and religious networks, operating beyond the boundaries of national borders.  Compounding factors, such as demography, security, and livelihood challenges also explain migration flows. People are also on the move in recent years because of jihadist extremist challenges in Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali. However, strong evidence is emerging that climate changes are compounding these trends.

The bulk of migration (84%) in West Africa is still intra-regional (ICMPD and IOM, 2015). The flow of people is mostly from the Sahel (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad), where dependence on a dry and deteriorating landscape is higher, to countries where there are more plantations, mining, or other coastal activities, for example in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and The Gambia.

Finding alternative coping strategies beyond migration and fights over scare resources is difficult but essential. It requires focusing development policy (and donor support) on more sustainable adaptation strategies. This will require diversifying economic activities away from weather-dependent activities like artisanal fishing and traditional agriculture, which can be  achieved through modern agricultural, horticulture, and livestock techniques, and by adding value to traditional crops and primary products through integration into global value chains.

Read the full article about migration in West Africa by Ahmadou Aly Mbaye at Brookings