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

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.

Keywords

  • Tropical Rainfall Measure Mission
  • Migration Decision
  • Temporary Migration
  • Migration Network
  • Woody Cover

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Fig. 5.1
Fig. 5.2
Fig. 5.3

Notes

  1. 1.

    Essam El-Hinnawi (1985, p. 4) defines environmental refugees as “those people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of a marked environmental disruption (natural and/or triggered by people) that jeopardized their existence and/or seriously affected the quality of their life. By ‘environmental disruption’ in this definition is meant any physical, chemical, and/or biological changes in the ecosystem (or resource base) that render it, temporarily or permanently, unsuitable to support human life.”

  2. 2.

    International Organization for Migration.

  3. 3.

    Agence Nationale de la Statistique et de la Démographie.

  4. 4.

    Direction de la Prévision et de la Statistique.

  5. 5.

    Institut National de la Statistique.

  6. 6.

    Ministère de l’Environnement et de l’Assainissement.

  7. 7.

    World Food Programme.

  8. 8.

    The development of soil fertility has been considered in ethnographic research yet is not explicitly integrated here because there are no ‘hard’ data on soil quality that could be compared with people’s statements.

  9. 9.

    Data from Climate Research Unit (CRU) 2011 (see Mitchell and Jones 2005). Here, temperatures changes are considered for the Western Sahel and not on the level of the study regions, since available temperature data has been interpolated for larger areas between meteorological stations, and because temperature trends do not show significant differences within the region.

  10. 10.

    Various interviews in Kadji, Khogué (Senegal) and Kowa, Doucombo (Mali), February–April 2011.

  11. 11.

    Interviews in Loumbel Mbada (Senegal) and Yawakanda (Mali), March–April 2011.

  12. 12.

    For example, more than 720 mm for Linguère in 2010 (interview at meteorological station in Linguère, March 2011).

  13. 13.

    Satellite data from Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) (see Huffman et al. 2007).

  14. 14.

    Interviews in e.g. Kadji in Senegal, Yawakanda and Kowa in Mali, 2011 and 2012.

  15. 15.

    Various interviews in Kadji, Khogué (Senegal) and Doucombo, Yawakanda, Tiembara, Bamako (Mali), 2011 and 2012.

  16. 16.

    Various interviews in Khogué, Loumbel Mbada (Senegal) and Kowa, Yawakanda, Doucombo, Diamnati, Tiembara (Mali), 2011 and 2012.

  17. 17.

    Informants in Kowa, Tiembara (Mali), 2011 and 2012.

  18. 18.

    Interviews in Kowa, Diamnati (Mali), 2011 and 2012.

  19. 19.

    Data from Global Precipitation Climatology Centre (GPCC).

  20. 20.

    Especially due to the growth of the construction, telecommunications, service and petty trade sectors (Kilroy 2008; OECD 2008).

  21. 21.

    Various interviews with migrants in Bamako in 2011 and 2012 showed that they are self-employed or engaged in informal economic activities.

  22. 22.

    Various Interviews in Doucombo, Yawakanda, Kowa and Bamako in 2011 and 2012.

  23. 23.

    Interview in Kowa, April 2011.

  24. 24.

    Various interviews in Nianangali, Kowa, Yawakanda, Doucombo, Balaguina Baboye, Bamako, 2011 and 2012.

  25. 25.

    One reason is that there is less competition between migrants for work in Bamako during the rainy season (interviews in Bamako in 2012).

  26. 26.

    Interviews in Kowa, Diamnati, Tiembara and Bamako in 2011 and 2012.

  27. 27.

    Interviews in Khogué, Kadji, Linguère town, Nguith, March 2011 and Dakar, February 2012.

  28. 28.

    This became evident by considering the large and still increasing community of migrants from Nguith in Dakar, April 2011, February 2012.

  29. 29.

    Chef de village in Khogué and Kadji, March 2011.

  30. 30.

    Interview with wife of chef de village in Khogué, March 2011.

  31. 31.

    Informant in Khogué, March 2011.

  32. 32.

    Interview with chef de village in Khogué, March 2011.

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Romankiewicz, C., Doevenspeck, M. (2015). Climate and Mobility in the West African Sahel: Conceptualising the Local Dimensions of the Environment and Migration Nexus. In: Greschke, H., Tischler, J. (eds) Grounding Global Climate Change. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9322-3_5

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