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Olayinka Ajala

15 February 2022, 2:21 UTC Share

Understanding the link between climate change, conflict and internal displacement: Engaging policymakers in Sub-Saharan Africa

In the last few decades, there has been an increase in migration and displacement in several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). While the focus has been on migration across the Sahara and subsequently towards Europe through several channels including the Mediterranean Sea, research has shown that this form of migration accounts for less than 15% of total migration. Due to factors such as cost of the journey, potential risks, and connections abroad, most migration occurs within individual countries or regionally. A large percentage of these internal migrations are often ‘forced’ and could be classified as internal displacement.

While several factors such as conflict, terrorism and competition for resources have dominated research on internal displacement, the impact of climate change on migration and internal displacement requires extensive exploration.

Climate change and internal displacement

Our research explores the link between conflict, climate change and internal displacement in Nigeria. Agriculture and, more recently, sustainable agriculture in Nigeria, is an industry that employs most of the country’s population. Over 70 percent of Nigerians engage in the agricultural sector, albeit mainly at a subsistence level. However, it only contributes 22.35 percent to the nation’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Despite the contribution to the economy, sustainable agriculture in Nigeria faces many challenges which impact on its productivity. These include; poor land tenure system, low level of irrigation farming and land degradation. Others are low technology, high production cost and poor distribution of inputs, limited financing, high post-harvest losses and poor access to markets.

Most recently, anecdotal reports reveal that effects of climate change and increase in banditry, terrorism and conflicts between farmers and pastoralists have added to the list of challenges hampering agricultural sustainability in the country. Accompanying this recent trend is the forced internal displacement of farming individuals and households, especially in the North-Eastern-central regions of the country. Preliminary results from the project also indicate that there has been an increase in disruption to farming timetables in these states due to vagaries of the climate. Furthermore, as at 2019, there were about 2.5 million internally displaced persons in Northern Nigeria due to conflict and terrorism. Thousands of these displaced communities have resettled in several parts of the country.

Consequently, agricultural productivity has been stifled, affecting the sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP, raising food scarcity and imports and threatening the country’s food security. For instance, between 2016 and 2019, Nigeria’s cumulative agricultural imports stood at N3.35 trillion, four times higher than the agricultural export of N803 billion within the same period. Also, the World Bank Report (2021) reveals that a 22 percent increase in food prices arising from the disruption in agricultural productivity has plunged 7 million Nigerians into poverty in the last one year.
To date, no academic research has been carried out to understand the nature, scope and intensity of the farmers’ displacement, the resulting livelihood transformation as well as the impact of forced displacement on sustainable agriculture. Our research intends to fill this gap.

Research Design: Engaging Policymakers

The research is a multi-disciplinary collaborative partnership involving the academia, practitioners (NGOs) and policymakers. The Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) – a research institute established by the Nigerian government in 2000 to carry out research and propose policies for conflict resolution in Nigeria is involved in the project for the purpose of dissemination and policy advocacy. The Institute is affiliated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is primarily a research centre, a think-tank and an agency which was set up to strengthen Nigeria’s capacity for the promotion of peace and conflict prevention, management and resolution. This gives us direct access to policymakers which is important for research impact.

Dr Olayinka Ajala is a lecturer in Politics and International relations at Leeds Beckett University and visiting Research Fellow at the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Olayinka’s research interests include African security, rural development, resource conflict, human security, formation of insurgent groups and impact of climate change on conflict.

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