Population and Environment

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 181–206 | Cite as

Historical case studies of famines and migrations in the West African Sahel and their possible relevance now and in the future

  • John GrolleEmail author
Original Paper


Case studies of three famines that occurred in rural northwest Nigeria during the latter half of the twentieth century are presented. Research found that continuum models and entitlement theory did not adequately conceptualize famine-related migration, though they may be more accurate now and in the future. Projects examining the climate-migration nexus should consider the possibility that famines and large-scale migrations from the Sahel will occur as a consequence of both heavy, poorly timed rainfall and intense droughts. The savanna’s historical function as a refuge for stressed Sahelian people continued into the 1980s, but research is urgently needed to determine whether that is still true.


Famine Migration Sahel Savanna Climate change 



Many thanks to David Helgren and Evelyn Ravuri for very helpful comments on earlier versions of the article. The criticisms of Population and Environment’s editor and five anonymous reviewers were extremely valuable; one reviewer offered especially detailed and insightful comments. Fieldwork was supported by a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation award and by awards from Michigan State University. The author is indebted to Dr. Mohammed Iliya and his colleagues in the Department of Geography, Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto, for making research in northern Nigeria possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographySaginaw Valley State UniversityUniversity CenterUSA

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