Center for Global Development

06/06/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/06/2024 08:01

Lagos to Mombasa: How Does Climate Change Impact Migration

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"We have the tendency to always draw this simplistic conclusion that there's climate change and as a result there's migration," says Dr. Stephen Adaawen, Assistant Professor of Migration and Climate/Environmental Change at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

The truth, he continues, is that "climate change interacts with existing vulnerabilities" that change how and why people move.

In this episode of Lagos to Mombasa, host Gyude Moore speaks with Dr. Adaawen about the different types of human mobility and their complexities, the disproportionate impact of climate change on unplanned settlements, and the unique burdens of climate-related migration on African women and children.

Read the transcript

GYUDE MOORE:
Hello and welcome to another edition of Lagos to Mombasa, The Trans-Africa Podcast from the Center for Global Development. I am your host, Gyude Moore. I am a Senior Policy Fellow here at the Center for Global Development. In Lagos to Mombasa we interrogate the big questions when it comes to development in Africa. Here we talk to policymakers, we talk to researchers, people who are thinking about the policies that bridge the promise and the challenges that continent faces. And today we are gonna continue that conversation. But just before we start our conversation and then introduce our guests, this season of Lagos to Mombasa has been focused on the climate and its impact on lives and livelihoods. We started off talking about how assets in space could be used to help African economies. So what can space tech do for Africa, especially when it comes to climate? Then we had a conversation about critical minerals. And if critical minerals provide an opportunity for Africa's transition to renewable energy and how more critical minerals could help African communities.

We then have a conversation about the impact of climate and farming, especially smallholder farming in Africa, and how smallholder farmers can prepare for climate change and adapt to climate change. Then we continue that with a conversation about energy access. Is Africa's attempt to increase its access to energy at odds with climate mitigation? And the last episode of Lago to Mombasa was how climate is worsening conflict in Africa. We're continuing that conversation today with climate and migration, and we're very, very pleased to have Dr. Stephen Adaawen from Groningen University in the Netherlands, whose research focuses on environment and narratives around migration and environment. And today he's gonna walk us through how the impact of climate on migration, especially in Africa. Dr. Adaawen welcome to Lagos to Mombasa.

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
Thank you very much and thanks for also inviting me, and I'm happy to join the discussion.

GYUDE MOORE:
So this is what you do for a living. And part of the thing is that policymakers listening to this imagine a policymaker has no real background. I think it's intuitive to people that the climate and changing climate will have an impact on migration. But how does it happen? How generally, if I didn't know anything about climate and migration, what is the direct way in which climate has an impact on migration?

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
Climate has indeed changed in the face of global warming and all of that. We are witnessing changes in climatic patterns, changes in rainfall patterns, and increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. And of course, when you look at that, that also affects not only human populations and all of that, but also has an impact on the environment in terms of the provision of ecosystem services and all of that. And that indirectly affects both humans and of course, biodiversity. So if we want to look at it in terms of the impact on human mobility or migration if you like, I want to emphasize that we have the tendency to draw this simplistic conclusion that there's climate change, and as a result, there's migration, but there's no direct cause relationship between climate change and migration. Normally, climate change interacts with existing vulnerabilities, it can be socioeconomic, it can be political, it can be all I mean, different factors that come into play. So climate change interacts with these existing factors or drivers to impact human mobility.

GYUDE MOORE:
And the International Organization for Migration they have a report. I think the second report came out this year in March in the Africa migration report. And one of the things it says is that conflict, violence, and climate-induced disasters are major drivers to displacement in Africa and around the world. So a good place to start then, is what is the distinction between migration and displacement?

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
OK, when I'm looking at human mobility within the context of climate change and disasters, the Human Mobility Advisory Council distinguished between three types of human mobility. So we're looking at migration, which basically looks at voluntary movement, looking at displacement, which is often as a result of factors that force population mobility or human mobility. And then you are looking at plant relocation, which is often the conscious effort, or it could be voluntary. It could be force that is often made to relocate or move people from highly vulnerable areas to less vulnerable areas you know, to reduce the risk or to enhance resilience to whatever risk that the vulnerable population may be facing. So to distinguish between migration and displacement, in this case, within the context of climate change and disasters, migration is often voluntary because a lot of factors come in. Then the person decides, the affected person or the vulnerable population then decides. And even quite apart from that, there are also other intervening factors.

This could be demographic, it could be household characteristics, or the availability of facilitating factors that helps this affected person to be able to migrate as a response to the impact or the risk. With displacement may be as a result of your vulnerability you are overwhelmed. You know the capacity to be able to cope with the impact. You are not able to do so. So if you are overwhelmed, then you are displaced. You are not able to kind of like fulfill your usual daily routines or livelihoods and all of that. So in short, the distinction has to do with whether the movement is voluntary, is conscious, or it is forced. That is where the distinction, there is a thin line between the two.

GYUDE MOORE:
Is the consensus here that all of these forms of human mobility are gonna be impacting the climate, that we're gonna see whether it's voluntary we're gonna see more of that, whether it's involuntary we're gonna see more of that, whether is conscious we're gonna see more of that.

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
Yes, because extreme events talk about floods, talk about hurricanes, talk about heavy rainfall, talk about sea level rise, talk about landslides. And all of that will also increase. What this will mean is that people will be affected. And one of the common strategies people often adopt to respond to these impacts is often what? Migration. Normally, the motivation is to be able to address the immediate you know, impact on their livelihoods, their well-being, and all of that. So these factors will come into play to actually drive the increased mobility of people in almost every region. And there's even evidence to suggest that this will likely increase by 2050 up to millions of people.

GYUDE MOORE:
Yeah, you quote the World Bank in your report, in your paper that says that you know, by 2050 we could see up to 100 million people who move internally within Africa. And now some of this is from the environmental degradation. So maybe two years ago, we saw about five years in a row where the rains were late in East Africa and so because of that, we had droughts and people pulling out. Recently there were floods in Chad, in Nigeria, and we're seeing that all over. How did this interact with the movement of people? These movements are permanent?

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
Well, it depends on what is even the purpose or the course of the movement is because of the flood. So people move as a result of the threat. So if there are no measures to be able to address this threat, then people will look to move to areas that are less vulnerable, even though we sometimes have people actually refusing to move, even if there is a planned relocation or resettlement exercise or others actually retain, even though there is that perceived risk as a result of their inability to be able to one maybe integrate in the new locality, or are unable to continue their livelihoods, or to even improve their well-being, or there's some form of place attachment, emotional attachment, cultural attachment, or whatever, irrespective of the threat. People sometimes return to these high-risk areas, so in as much as they may be movement, this movement could actually sometimes be permanent, or it might be temporary depending on the context. So sometimes people can go back irrespective of the threat, or sometimes they move away and settle permanently elsewhere.

GYUDE MOORE:
Well, so I guess this brings us to the question of are there parts of Africa that are more vulnerable than others because the World Bank does a report that says you know, parts of East Africa, they think Tanzania will probably lead in terms of internal movement. And then there's West Africa too where you're going to see a significant movement. What is it about different parts of the continent that make them more vulnerable to climate-induced migration or climate-induced movement?

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
Yes. If you look at the differentiated vulnerability.

GYUDE MOORE:
OK.

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
I mean there are some areas, for example, coastal areas, low-lying areas, areas that are exposed to, for example in North Africa, because of the dry weather conditions or desertification conditions, high temperatures, lack of water, or depending on whether you even find yourself in a rural area or even in an urban area. It also depends on whether you are living, for example, in a very resilient housing infrastructure or you are living in a mud house. It depends on your exposure wherever you find yourself, the topography of the land, and of course, also the intensity of whatever risk that you may be facing. So in areas, for example, along the Sahel where you have many people having their livelihoods you know, dependent on rainfall activity or even depending so much on the natural environment, natural resource base, then the vulnerability to climate change impact and disasters will be high. So if you say, for example, in East Africa or even in the Sahel, many people are engaged in agriculture, some are pastoralists and all of that.

So in the case of drought you know, lack of rainfall, people will be affected. This can degenerate into issues of food insecurity or even in the worst-case scenario, you have famines and all of that. So the differences depends on wherever you find yourself and the exposure and the ability of the people or the necessary infrastructure or institution to enhance or facilitate the adaptation or even coping mechanisms. This also partly explains the differences that you find when it comes to the vulnerability.

GYUDE MOORE:
So when we have noticed Africa is now one of the fastest urbanising regions in the world.

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
Yeah.

GYUDE MOORE:
And that fast-growing urbanization is going to continue to happen.

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
Yeah.

GYUDE MOORE:
Does the impact of climate-induced mobility differ in rural areas than they do in urban areas? Is it worse? Is resilience better in urban areas than in rural areas?

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
Of course, if for example, you find yourself in a particular country, the exposure and the ability to cope to the perceived risk you know, will indeed bring about differences in terms of the impact of the particular climate change. So if you are in a rural area and then your livelihood depends so much on rainfall and there's a drought obviously, you are exposed in the sense that you are not able to harvest or your crops will not do well. If you find yourself in an urban area, and you are living in an area that is vulnerable to flooding you know that can also expose you. And in terms of we are talking about heat, urban areas we always refer to them as heat islands and all of that. So they will also be variation in terms of ailments or health issues related to high temperatures and all of that. So between the rural and urban areas, obviously there are differences in terms of the impact and vulnerability, while in urban areas they may be available or the necessary infrastructure, physical infrastructure, or even health care facilities or response mechanisms for people to enhance resilience and coping systems, in the rural areas coping mechanisms, or even apart from the socio-economic coping mechanisms that people may have, these opportunities to be able to enhance resilience is often limited in the sense that these people do most often they do not have potable water, they don't have access to hospitals, and even the infrastructure itself may not really be of good quality or standard.

So, for example, in northern part of Ghana, where I come from during February-March, we often have issues of high temperatures because of the intensity of the sun that we often experience. So in the rural areas that we have buildings that do not have good ventilation, it often also degenerates into issues of cerebrospinal meningitis. So you often have people dying because of the heat and then because of the lack of ventilation and all of that. So in instances where there are not good hospitals to be able to address these issues or even education that can also escalate or even aggravate the level of impact in terms of the heat in the rural areas as compared to the urban areas where they might have access to electricity, fans and good ventilation in terms of the buildings that they may be residing in. So these are some of the differences that you may see in terms of impact.

GYUDE MOORE:
This makes a lot of sense. I want to talk a little bit more about one of the things highlighted elsewhere is that we spoke about this at the beginning of our conversation, that the kind of homes in which people live, a characteristic of African urbanization, has been the fast growth of unplanned settlements or slums.

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
Yes.

GYUDE MOORE:
And the structures you find in those places are not permanent structures, they are not good structures. And the structures are sort of enhance or sort of make them more vulnerable to climate. Can you talk a little bit about the structures in urban settings that make them more vulnerable, especially in Africa to climate change?

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
Yeah, normally because of climate change, or if you are looking at urbanization, one of the drivers of urbanization, apart from natural increase, which has to do with births and all of that, you also have the impact mostly from rural-urban migration, people moving in you know, from the rural areas. And one of the main reasons why people move is as a result of what? Unemployment, or especially of the young people moving into the urban areas looking for job opportunities and all of that.

GYUDE MOORE:
Right.

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
And the majority of these people often coming in are often the poor rural folks.

GYUDE MOORE:
OK.

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
And if you look at the areas where people tend to settle are often also the vulnerable areas where you have slum conditions, slum settlements also springing up. What this means is that they are also exposed. So if you look at the major cities in West Africa, for example.

GYUDE MOORE:
Right.

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
Many of the slums sometimes find themselves in these low-lying coastal areas. So you have all these corrugated iron sheets being modeled into settlements or even housing for people. So if the sea level rise or even any form of little rain at all, and because of the lack of drainage system and all of that, all these areas often get flooded.

GYUDE MOORE:
Flooded, yes.

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
And quite apart from that, because of the lack of effective drainage systems also, you have all these choke gutters and stagnant water that creates the perfect conditions for what? Breeding mosquitoes. And that will also tend to bring about issues of malaria and several other diseases. So you are not looking at it in terms of the direct impact in terms of the physical loss or loss of property and all of that, but also looking at the health implications of these slum settlements that you often find in the vulnerable areas, and also has to do with the lack of enforcement of existing regulations or building codes. So you have people that are even wealthy and can build nice houses, and yet these houses are built along waterways, or they just go to a particular wetland. That also plays an important role in allowing for rainwater to seep to, in order for it not to flood.

GYUDE MOORE:
Right.

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
We have people turning all these wetlands and waterways into settlements, and that blocked the flow of water. So if there's any little rain or at all, then it translates into flooding. And also the building, the modern buildings that we are having, people are now even not creating green spaces to allow for water to be able to seep or even leach into the ground. So you have people creating pavements and even in many places that I know in Accra for example, people now even put plastics before they even put the pavement blocks. They put plastics beneath the pavement blocks and then before they put the pavement. So, if it rains, the water does not even flow or have any form of runoff or even flow down the rather you know, run off onto the neighborhoods and causes flooding. So these are some of the issues that come into play in creating vulnerabilities or even exposing people to risks in the urban areas.

GYUDE MOORE:
So as we think about this, climate also has a disproportionate impact on different groups of people.

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
Yes.

GYUDE MOORE:
And I wanted you to talk a little bit about the impact of climate on women, because depending on how much resources a group or person has in a society, it speaks to the amount of resilience. Are there unique burdens from climate change that fall on woman?

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
Yes, because of existing unequal power relations, unfavorable laws, socio-cultural factors, and all tend to discriminate against women. First, women are also actively involved in supporting the household in terms of agriculture activities, which are also dependent on rainfall. So if climate change affects crop production and all of that, women are affected, that also indirectly also affects children. Quite apart from that, if you look at the typical traditional household setup in Africa, women and girls and children are in charge of household provision in terms of fetching water, cooking, and all of that, where do you go to get water and all of that for the household are often distant places because we do not have this pipe borne water or even taps in at our homes and all of that. So if there's drought or water scarcity, people will have to walk longer distances to be able to get water, and that exposes them to issues of attacks or even conflicts in terms of water usage and even within the household setup.

There's evidence to suggest that whenever there's climate change or drought or even any form of environmental shocks, it also degenerates into gender-based violence. Women tend to suffer the more when there's climate change or issues of drought in many areas. And even recently, we did some work in Lesotho, where we found that because of climate change impact on agriculture activities and whatnot, many Basotho men, even right from long time in history, they often migrate to work in South Africa, in the mines, in the plantations, citrus plantations and all of that. And the women tend to stay behind you know, to take care of the children. And that also mean that they will have to engage, apart from the remittances they receive, they will have to engage in agriculture activities. But here is the case because of droughts and unfavorable rainfall and all of that, agriculture is also being affected. So women tend to experience or be affected more. And also looking at elderly people persons living with disabilities, they are also very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

GYUDE MOORE:
I think this is evident to everyone who follows this, but it was important for us to have this conversation is very clear that unless something is done to mitigate this. Because we can expect extreme weather events to increase, these problems are only going to get worse. So policymakers listening to us may be the president of Ghana and the new president after the election is listening to a podcast and he decides to listen to Lagos to Mombasa and he hears this, or the new president of Liberia he's going for a walk and he decides to listen to us. We now want to propose what can countries in this condition do? Kenya recently, most of Nairobi and a huge portions of Nairobi, other parts of Kenya were under water. What can countries do to mitigate the effect of the climate so that the impact of migration is less, right? Let's assume that this presidents, heads of state, prime ministers are listening to you Stephen, what are recommendations you can make to them?

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
So what I would advocate first and foremost is that governments or African countries should come up with appropriate policies that seek you know, to address climate mitigation, but also find innovative ways that can help enhance climate change adaptation. Now when you look at most of the policies. There are several nice good policies that are often developed, but enforcement is often always a challenge. You know they are building codes, tThere are policies to guide in terms of environmental conservation you know, logging, and all of that. But the same politicians often do not enforce these laws. So what I would suggest is that at the basic level, we will have to find innovative ways to stem deforestation. Deforestation is a big issue in most African countries. So what we can do is to come up with innovative ways to encourage people to plant more trees, and also to discourage deforestation. Secondly, we can look at enforcing our laws in terms of for example, I will also always cite Ghana because I'm from Ghana.

GYUDE MOORE:
Right.

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
The country is facing the issue of illegal mining, surface mining, where the water bodies are getting polluted. We call it galamsey in Ghana. If you look at our forests are being destroyed, cocoa plantations and farms are being taken over and destroyed to do surface mining for gold. So if the government can enforce these laws, even if that is a livelihood, you can streamline the activities of these surface miners or what we call small-scale miners who do galamsey in the country. That can in a long way, help conserve our our forests and also provide opportunities for people to be actively engaged in employment without necessarily destroying the environment. And then of course, the issue of transitioning to green economy, green economy in the sense that we pursue low carbon emitting development pathways by coming up with innovative ways to create green jobs, recycling. There's the circular economy, and of course, also coming up with innovative ways to keep people in jobs, green jobs, renewable energy, and carbon emission reduction.

So these are some of the ways that we can do. But you see, some of our countries are already coming up with ways to tax, for example, a carbon emission tax, putting more import duty tax on cars that use gasoline and diesel, and all of that. But if you look in our context, how many people can afford electric cars? So what we can do is that we can encourage this mass transportation system where we can use electric buses and ensure that they are effective in terms of their timing and all of that, so that encourage people to be able to use the mass transportation and even explore rail. Many of our countries, they travel here, they come to Europe and see the importance and how effective it is to use rail. You can take so many people, and yet what we do is that we don't even give consideration when it comes to the construction of rail, or even considering rail as part of our transportation systems. All these innovative ways can help climate mitigation and adaptation. And lastly, also pursue renewable energy.

We have this hot sun. I mean, all year round we have wind energy or even we can even tap energy from the waves. So if we are able to even subsidize, even if we don't want to do it on a large scale, you can subsidize solar energy in terms of solar panels so that people can afford to buy the solar panels, and then we can improve our energy system through renewable energy. So these are some of the innovative ways we could explore.

GYUDE MOORE:
Alright, so governments and policymakers listening one is to pursue green responses, planting trees.

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
Yes.

GYUDE MOORE:
I should point out though, that a lot of the deforestation is used for firewood. And so if we can find cleaner ways for people to cook, that will help.

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
Yeah.

GYUDE MOORE:
But all of the things you said was focused, and that's based on the question I asked you just focused on African governments. Historically, Africa has emitted the least. In fact, total emissions from Africa is less than 4%. Yet Africa is the most exposed by the impact of climate change. So the countries that have historically emitted the most what do they owe Africa? What do we owe the people whose lives have been disrupted by climate change?

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
They should walk the talk, in how far are you translating these mitigation strategies, or even agreements that you make at the COP level onto the ground? So I would advocate that first and foremost, they should walk the talk. They should cut down on emission and also find ways to support the countries in the global south that are suffering as a result of their own actions. African countries do not emit that much, it's insignificant. So if you are saying that African countries should not cut forest and all these things and cut down your emission and all of these, then you have to put the necessary structures in place in terms of funding, financing, and all of that to support all these countries that are suffering, food security and flooding disaster and all of that. They are mitigation or even should I say, their climate adaptation measures or strategies that are doing you can support them. These are also ways by which they can support and also importantly, cut down on their emissions.

That can go a long way to help in our fight against climate change.

GYUDE MOORE:
Stephen, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us today about climate, its impact on mobility, migration, and urbanization, what African governments can do to mitigate the impact. But because Africa is such an almost insignificant contributor to emissions, what the historical emitters can do to help Africa respond. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Stephen.

DR. STEPHEN ADAAWEN:
Thank you very much. And thanks to you and the team for the opportunity to be on this platform to also contribute and driving the discussion and the agenda on issues of climate change and the impact in Africa.

GYUDE MOORE:
Thanks for listening to Lagos to Mombasa the Trans-Africa Podcast from the Center for Global Development. Very special thanks to the CGD podcast team Kia Muleta, our program coordinator, amazing Kia. Stephanie Donohoe and Jubilee Ahazie, Soundeazy for making it happen. Lagos to Mombasa is available on the CGD Podcast stream, so make sure you subscribe to the CGD Podcast on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Remember, you can check out all of our research in Africa and all in cgddev.org.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.