Climate or Economic Migration? Local Democracy and Vulnerability Reduction in Africa: Political Representation under a Changing Sky

Regional Focus: Senegal and Niger
Sustainable Development Goals: #13 and #16
Time: January 2017 – June 2018

This project aims to understand the multiple treatable causes for climate-related migration from the Sahel towards Europe and the role of local political representation through local government in addressing those causes. This project examines the role of local governments – the function of representation – 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

Research Questions:
– Why do farmers (often youth) choose or feel compelled to migrate toward Europe from these two locations compared to more “traditional” destination to the south?
– What is the role of political representation (local and national) in buffering people against this desire or need to migrate?
– What is the role of political representation in buffering people against climate risk?

The proposed study will conduct field research in the Tambacounda Region of Senegal and in the Dantiandou and Say Districts of Niger where out-migration is prevalent and where the consequences of this migration are often dire – many migrants die in route to Europe and many simply disappear and do not return home, leaving their communities and families with less labor, a great loss from having invested in the migration of their children, and with the grief of loss. The research will be carried out through literature review, surveys and interviews.

Dr. Papa Faye, Executive Secretary, CADRE, Dakar, Senegal (Centre d’Action pour le Développement et la Recherche en Afrique – CADRE)
Professor Jesse Ribot, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign & Stanford University
Professor Matthew Turner, University of Wisconsin, Madison


Climate Refugees? –  video

Refugiés Climatiques? – French version video