Climate migration and social transformation: The case of West Africa

Although migration has long been an adaptive strategy in West Africa driven by multiple interrelated factors, climate migration is expected to increase as the impacts of climate change worsen. Climate migration is widely expected to accelerate existing trends, including the movement of people from the dry Sahelian belt to coastal countries and urbanization. Migration is increasingly seen as a climate adaptation strategy with benefits as well as challenges including conflict risks, ‘trapped populations’ stranded in marginal areas, and the rapid growth of cities. The benefits and costs of migration will be unevenly distributed at the national, local and household levels. Migration leads to profound changes in the socio-cultural dynamics of both the sending and receiving areas, including changes in household composition, gender roles and social support networks. These social transformations are poorly understood and mapped, even though they will significantly influence future migration flows and overall development outcomes. Policy makers and researchers should work together to improve data collection and develop social transformation frameworks that can inform policy formulation processes and investment decisions.