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Climate Change, Environmental Changes and Migration - Social-Ecological Conditions of Population Movements: The Example of the Sahelian Countries Mali and Senegal

Project Description

The pivotal research question of this project focuses on the social-ecological conditions causing migration and the impact of climate change on these conditions. In this context, we assume that adaptation strategies of individuals, groups, and societies to (climatic and non-climatic) environmental changes depend on specific social-ecological conditions. These conditions are affected by ecological, social, demographic, economic and political aspects, resulting in complex interactions, which constitutes the context for the decision to migrate. It will be analysed if and how these conditions could be changed by societal and political actions aiming to prevent forced migration as the last adaptation strategy.

Climate Change, Environmental Changes and Migration - Social-Ecological Conditions of Population Movements: The Example of the Sahelian Countries Mali and Senegal (2010-2014), funded by BMBF

The empirical research of, the project will focus on specific regions in the neighboring countries Mali and Senegal, where climate change will likely intensify environmental changes and where an increase in migration is expected for the future. The overall research question will be analyzed by focusing on land degradation as an example for environmental changes. Both countries will serve as an example for regions in Africa (and other regions in developing countries) affected by heavy droughts, land degradation, and desertification and where climate change will very likely intensify these implications. In both countries considerable internal migration movements can be observed, which constitute an interface to international migration.

The study pursues the following goals:

  • Development of system knowledge: A better understanding of the complex interrelations between climate change, social-ecological transformations and migration processes will be developed. Special attention will be given on how concerned people are perceiving environmental changes and land degradation based on their specific social, cultural, and biographic backgrounds, and how they anticipate and evaluate these changes. Insights will be gained on the moving population groups and their reasons for migration (or their reasons not to move), as well as on the impacts of environmental changes on their decisions to migrate. Based on those findings, it will be possible to obtain more detailed knowledge on the specific vulnerability of individuals, groups, and regional communities towards environmental changes.

  • Development of methodological knowledge: With the successive composition of a Bayesian Belief Network, a method will be developed that supports the integration of natural scientific and social scientific knowledge. Thus, natural scientific knowledge on the implications of regional climate change on natural conditions and social scientific knowledge about the interrelation of environmental changes and migration shall be integrated. On this basis, a proceeding shall be developed linking empirical findings and methodologies as well as theoretical approaches of migration research to concepts and methods of the social scientific environmental research and research on development.

  • Development of orientation knowledge: The practical aim of the project is to draw conclusions for decision-makers and relevant stakeholders. Scopes for decision-making and regulations shall be highlighted with the aim to increase the adaptive capacity of individuals, groups, and regional communities to environmental changes, and to prevent forced migration. Thereby scientific knowledge and societal action shall be bridged. In addition, the project's central findings will be made available to the scientific community as well as to the public in order to stimulate the discourse about the interrelations of climate-induced environmental changes and migration in science and politics.


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