Changing climate, changing realities: migration in the Sahel

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.

The report is available through this link.

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