Climate change is not the cause, migration is not the problem: Local representation and precarious young farmers leaving Senegal

This project examines the role of local governments  in generating or reducing the current trend in which vulnerable people are migrating out of areas where climate variability is viewed as a driver of outmigration. The project seeks to identify means to make policy and practical responses to climate change supportive of local democracy – to make these responses emancipatory – and therefore a transformative force for equity, justice, and security.

The causes relate to the social, economic and livelihood conditions farmers are facing at home, combined with the aspirations young farmers have to fulfil their lives. The long-standing narrative that Sahelians are merely poor or that young men are fleeing the Sahel due to climate stress seems to be inadequate. These simplistic explanations occlude the multitude of causes of precarity that local farmers recount. Yes, climate affects farmers’ lives, but it is not even among the causes that they cite for their precarity. They cite low prices for their products, debt, discriminatory public policy, distorted markets, and social conditions hostile to farmers staying at home.

In response, local government authorities have many ideas about what should be done to prevent and reduce the damages resulting from illegal outmigration. However, local governments are rarely consulted during the conception of anti-migration projects, nor do they receive associated funds. While they are motivated to prevent illegal emigration along dangerous routes, they often lack the mandate and resources to do so.