Shifting rainfall patterns and insufficient yields are an important reason to migrate during the dry season for people in the West African Sahel.
Photo: D. Hummel


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In the debate on climate change, it is frequently argued that the number of “climate refugees” is going to grow world-wide. So far, however, only little evidence has been provided of links between climate change, environmental changes and migration. The transdisciplinary research project “micle”– migration, climate & environment – has examined this link in selected areas of the Sahel zone.

The transdisciplinary research project micle – migration, climate & environment – was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), and conducted by the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (Frankfurt, Germany) in cooperation with the Institute for Geography at Bayreuth University. It investigated the relationship between climate, environmental degradation, and migration in selected areas of the Sahel region.

The West African Sahel is one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change and climate variability. The study “micle” – migration, climate & environment – focused on land degradation as an example of gradual, slow-onset environmental changes and its impacts on population mobility. It pursued an inter- and transdisciplinary approach which combined natural science and social science methods and also included input e.g. from farmers, migrants, and development organisations.

Case studies were conducted in two regions: Linguère in Senegal and Bandiagara in Mali (see Map). Both study areas are located in the semiarid Sahel zone and have always suffered from periods of drought and, in part, from land degradation.

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