For the past year, photojournalist Nichole Sobecki and I have been on a mission to understand how climate change and environmental degradation drive conflict in Somalia. It’s a place where people are feeling the effects of climate change right now. Average temperatures are rising and rain falls less often and in smaller amounts. Drought experts estimate that average rainfall is down about 15 percent. That wouldn’t make much difference if you live in a place like Seattle or London. But in Somalia, a mostly desert country where people make the most from the few inches of rain they get – every little bit counts.

Somalia is a country of nomads, people who live – and die – migrating to places where they can find pasture and water for their animals. But people say they’re being forced to move farther and farther away from their typical routes. And as water sources and pastureland dry up, many Somalis are being pushed out of their homeland all together, over borders and across seas. Six years ago, the famine Mohamed’s family fled left a quarter of a million Somalis dead and nearly 300,000 seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

The droughts in Somalia are getting longer and more frequent. Scientists believe the impact of climate change has forced people to use up resources – cutting down trees, using up scarce pasture land – and sparked migration. Effects of climate change like these in Somalia are what the U.S. Defense Department calls “a threat multiplier,” fueling conflict and the extremism of terrorist groups like al-Shabab. Recent news reports indicate the U.S. is once again stepping up its presence in Somalia in a “shadow war” against the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab.

One of al-Shabab’s ploys to attract recruits is to offer protection, food and money. The tactic can be frighteningly effective, as Mohamed fears.

Read the full article about conflict in Somalia by Laura Heaton at The GroundTruth Project.