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Accepted Paper:

Climate Change and Internal Migration in West Africa: The Role of Translocal Livelihood Strategies  
Johannes Lueckenkoetter (TU Dortmund University, Germany) Katrin Gliemann (TU Dortmund - Spatial Planning) Philip Kruse (TU Dortmund University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyses census data on internal migration in West Africa and their complex relationships with climate change indicators. It then explores how translocal migration reduces households’ climate risks and has a stabilising effect on rural areas. This has implications for migration policies.

Paper long abstract:

Climate-induced migration is a hotly debated policy issue in West Africa – not least since the World Bank’s 2021 Groundswell Report on internal migration in West Africa. This paper aims to contribute to the debate in three ways: First, the paper presents the results of a statistical analysis on the relationship between bioclimatic indicators and short-term internal migration data taken from censuses across West Africa. It shows that, notwithstanding other push- and pull-factors, out-migration areas are usually characterized by climatic conditions less favourable for agriculture and/or by more pronounced climate change.

Second, the paper analyses internal migration in Sierra Leone in more detail. Besides rural-urban migration to the country’s major agglomerations, as common in most other countries, there is also evidence of circular and translocal migration patterns.

Third, a household survey conducted in a rural district of Sierra Leone sheds an even more differentiated light on the role of climate change for rural-urban migration. The survey revealed how households adopt a translocal livelihood strategy, where some household members earn a living in urban centres and economically contribute to the household that is still centred in the rural area. Such arrangements can reduce an agricultural household’s vulnerability to climate change and thus have a stabilising effect on rural areas. Conversely, the urban household members may become exposed to impacts of climate change like urban flash floods. The paper concludes with discussing how these complex migration patterns challenge existing assumptions on the climate-migration nexus and call for more differentiated migration policies.

Panel Envi04
African futures: climate change and human mobility
  Session 1 Friday 2 June, 2023, -