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Impact of climate change on Sahel security

The WTO highlighted the impact of climate change on the security of the Sahel in its annual World Trade Report, released Monday.

The Sahel is a semi-arid transition zone dividing the Sahara Desert to the north and tropical Africa to the south.

But while agriculture and livestock remain the main economic mainstay of the region, the availability of food, water and energy, and ultimately the region’s security, are at risk as a result of climate change.

Successive years of low rainfall and frequent droughts have pushed pastoralist populations to migrate to wetter regions for longer periods.

At the same time, pastoralist migrations to land occupied by sedentary farmers can lead to conflicts over the use of land and other resources.

Clashes tend to occur periodically, particularly over water resources and fodder, and in areas with lower levels of agricultural productivity.

According to the WTO, climate change is expected to exacerbate these problems by lengthening the annual dry season and thus the period during which the same land is used for both ripening crops and roaming livestock, further increasing the risk of conflict.

Climate change

The WTO indicated that a 1°C increase in temperature has been found to increase the probability of farmer-pastoralist conflict by 54% in the Sahel, compared to a 17% increase in the probability of conflict in places where farmers and pastoralists do not have to compete for access to limited land and water resources.

These conflicts limit the ability of local communities to adapt to climate change, potentially creating a “climate conflict trap.”

Climate change-induced instability can also affect trade, including small-scale cross-border trade.

Conflict destroys food supply and farm production capacity and ultimately deters investment throughout the agricultural value chain.

This instability in agricultural markets often translates into higher food prices, which disproportionately affect the poorest households.

In this context, risk management strategies, including climate-resilient agricultural investments, crop diversification, insurance and safety nets, can help farmers adapt to climate change while mitigating conflict risks.

 

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