Climate and Mobility in the West African Sahel: Conceptualising the Local Dimensions of the Environment and Migration Nexus

Chapter

Abstract

Despite the theoretical and methodological critique of deterministic and linear explanations of migration under changing climatic conditions, many empirical case studies in this field remain deeply entrenched in static push-pull frameworks and tend to reproduce simplistic causal relationships. Drawing on results from an interdisciplinary research project in Mali and Senegal, the chapter presents a methodological approach that emanates from past analytical shortcomings. By adopting a local perspective on migration, we consider cultural norms, the migration history and people’s interpretations of weather and environmental changes. Moreover, we argue for a multilevel, multi-method research that seeks to separate the two research topics of migration and climate/environment; for example, by avoiding explicit questions about possible linkages. Contrasting results from ethnographic fieldwork concerning migration, climate and environment with ‘hard’ data on climate and vegetation allows us to become more susceptible for the social construction of alleged ‘facts’ such as droughts and land degradation as drivers for migration. We place a focus upon local meanings of weather and environment by considering how they are being assessed by the people, within a context of not only climatic but rather multiple changes.

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Geography, Institute of GeographyUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany

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