Climate change is causing a real increase in natural disasters in West Africa, forcing populations to move. West Africa has suffered from the changes of global warming: between the advance of desertification and drought on the one hand, which particularly affect certain areas, and floods, the rise in sea level and the Coastal erosion on the other hand, the region is one of the three regions threatened by the humanitarian climate catastrophe of our century. Affected by global warming, millions of people dependent on natural resources have to move.
What is the current situation in West Africa?
West Africa, which has 340 million inhabitants spread over 16 countries, is a region marked by poverty and political unrest. It is also characterized by its growing number of natural disasters, also increasingly intense, which are consequences of global warming. It should be noted that West Africa is defined by its numerous internal migrations in the region. Formerly customary, they are now linked to economic inequalities, political unrest and environmental degradation. Borders are indeed porous and facilitate inter-regional migration.
To what extent is West Africa affected by natural disasters?
In recent decades, there has been a marked increase in natural disasters, in their frequency and intensity. Subject to floods and droughts, West Africa also suffers from disruptions in the rainy seasons, heat waves, severe coastal erosion, soil erosion, degradation of forest resources and finally desertification. In 2011, the United Nations Environment Program identified nineteen climatic sensitive points in West Africa, these hot spots being located in the central part of the Sahel, in Niger, in Burkina Faso, in the north and on the coast of Ghana, in northern Togo, Benin and Nigeria. Since 2000, approximately 50 million people have died due to drought, or 90% of drought victims in the world, in particular on the Mauritania-Mali-Nigeria axis. According to farmers in the Sahel region, weather changes have been noticeable for about 20 years.
However, the issue of climate refugees remains very complex in international law. Establishing relationships between climate change and natural disasters on the one hand and natural disasters and human mobility on the other hand remains very difficult, if not impossible. Indeed, the diversity of the impacts of climate change and the types of disasters but also the intensity, the spatial scope, the frequency of disasters being very variable and the populations not being affected in a similar way, it is difficult to establish a generality. It seems essential to recall the difference between the term “migration”, denoting voluntary movements, “displacements” indicating forced movements and “planned relocation” being generally planned by governments. However, due to the complexity of the situation, it is almost impossible to distinguish whether the mobilities of populations are migration or displacement. This complexity is, however, a real nexus in international law. We observe different types of migrations in West Africa: permanent, temporary, seasonal and circular or cyclical migrations. Two activities remain main in West Africa and are affected by the consequences of global warming: agricultural activities, particularly sensitive to climatic variations, where productivity depends on it, and fishing, a real economic activity in the region. Based on a comparative analysis in 132 countries, it is established that Mauritania and Senegal are the most vulnerable countries in terms of fishing. In fact, fishermen in the region of Saint-Louis in Senegal are forced to migrate to go fishing in Mauritanian waters while coastal erosion is forcing their families to move inland.