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Climate change and resilience in the Central Sahel

This policy paper summarises the main findings from research conducted under CASCADES on the Central Sahel, covering Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.


This policy paper summarises the main findings from research conducted under CASCADES on the Central Sahel, covering Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. This research focused on key climate related challenges in the region, notably with regards to livelihoods, food security, human mobility and human security, including communal conflicts and violent extremism. The main conclusion is that climate change is and will be an important factor for the future of the Central Sahel. Both its current and future impacts, however, are intrinsically linked to socio-economic and political factors that must be emphasised when addressing climate-related challenges in the region.

This policy paper is structured as follows. We first present a brief overview of expected climate impacts on the region, and their possible knock-on effects on livelihoods and food security, mobility, communal violence and violent extremism. We then go on to discuss some of the current policy responses and the challenges related to these issues; and summarise policy recommendations to address shortcomings in current approaches to climate risks in the Sahel. In closing, we look forward to how climate change impacts could unfold in the region.

Key messages

  • The Central Sahel region is expected to face important climatic changes in the next decades which will affect food security, livelihoods, mobility and security. Temperatures, particularly in the northern parts of the Central Sahel, could rise 1,5 times faster than the global average by 2030. Climatic shocks and extreme events such as droughts and heavy rains could become more frequent and severe; and rainfall variability in time and space could increase.

  • Extreme weather events can disrupt agricultural and pastoral production in the Central Sahel and harm vulnerable rural communities. Adaptation to climate change requires an integrated approach, which capitalises on the complementarity between agriculture and pastoralism, and promotes small-scale adaptation initiatives.

  • The Central Sahel is experiencing forced displacement due to violent conflict as well as climatic shocks, including extreme weather events taking place now. Mobility is an essential mechanism to diversify sources of income, including in response to challenging economic and adverse climatic conditions. Current approaches to migration and mobility must appreciate the importance of human mobility. Existing protocols on free movement should be implemented and growing evidence on the importance of internal and external border flexibility must be harnessed.

  • Communal violence in the Central Sahel is on the rise. Dispute resolution mechanisms, including with regards to natural resources, have come under increased pressure due to climatic shocks, in combination with historical grievances, exclusion and social inequalities. Security and peacebuilding strategies must be recalibrated, with increased attention for governance and human security and a shift from heavily militarised to development oriented approaches.