Migration as Societal Response to Climate Change and Land Degradation in Mali and Senegal

  • Stefan LiehrEmail author
  • Lukas Drees
  • Diana Hummel


The majority of the rural population in the West African Sahel depends on subsistence and small-scale farming. Thus, climate change, with its increasing temperatures and rainfall variability, impacts the environment and poses considerable risks to livelihoods. Given these circumstances, migration can be an important strategy for coping with the changing environmental conditions. Focusing on two regions in the West African Sahel, Bandiagara in Mali and Linguère in Senegal, the paper addresses the issue of migration as a societal response to climate change. It draws on results from the interdisciplinary project micle. Within the project qualitative and quantitative socio-empirical surveys have been conducted and a number of geo-scientific data from remote sensing and field measurements have been collected in the two study regions. The empirical data have been integrated and analysed using the methods of Bayesian belief networks (BBN). A policy analysis of relevant environmental, development and migration policies, supplemented by scenario analysis, identified options for political action. The results of the interdisciplinary analysis show that changing and unsteady environmental conditions lead to changing patterns of migration regarding its duration and destination. Depending on the migration motives and social-ecological conditions, the migration patterns can be very specific. Although environmental conditions have a certain impact on these patterns, all in all socio-economic conditions show a greater impact on the people’s migration decision. While socio-economic factors like higher education are important for long-term migrations to the capital, unfavourable environmental conditions play a decisive role when people migrate seasonally for economic reasons. One important leverage point for political action is therefore the promotion and facilitation of formal education.


Bayesian belief networks Climate change Interdisciplinary research Migration Policy analysis Sahel Scenario development 



The research project micle “Climate Change, Changes to the Environment and Migration in Sahel—Social-ecological conditions of population movements in Mali and Senegal” was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) from September 2010 until April 2014 (grant numbers 01UV1007A/B) and by the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Frankfurt Main. We express our sincere thanks to our colleagues Victoria van der Land and Diana Kaiser from ISOE, Martin Doevenspeck, Cyrus Samimi, Martin Brandt and Clemens Romankiewicz from University Bayreuth and to our co-operation partners Point Sud Centre for Research on Local Knowledge, Bamako, Mali and LARTES/IFAN Laboratory for Research on Economic and Social Transformations, Fundamental Institute of Black Africa, Cheikh Anta Diop University Dakar, Senegal.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE)Frankfurt am MainGermany
  2. 2.Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (Bik-F)Frankfurt am MainGermany

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