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Climate Change, Water and Conflict in the Niger River Basin


International Alert, in partnership with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and the School of International Development at the University of East Anglia, is pleased to launch a new report on Climate Change, Water and Conflict in the Niger River Basin.

There is growing interest amongst decision-makers in the possible links between climate change and conflict. However, there is a poor understanding of the links between climate stresses and tensions or conflict between people or groups within society. This report adds to the limited research on this theme. The Niger River, located in a region of West Africa that has seen significant climate variability during the last 50 years, provides us with a fascinating example for us to analyse the links between climate variability and change, water resources, human security, conflict and adaptation.

The third-longest river in Africa, the Niger River and its tributaries are a key source of water for the estimated 100 million people living in the basin, especially for the drier regions within the western Sahel zone.

Drawing on a review of published literature for the Niger Basin and Sahel region, and interviews conducted by the research team and our local partner organisations in Mali and Nigeria during 2011, the report examines the impact of climate extremes, issues of river management, and access to land and water for grazing and agriculture. More specifically, three case studies are explored to support the findings of the reports:

  • First we analyse the issues faced by the population settled near the Sélingué Dam in Mali, to explore how climatic and environmental stress influence water resources and human security;

  • Then we examine water resource management decisions and the impact of heavy rain and flooding in 2010 within the Office du Niger zone in the Segou region of Mali to ascertain whether climate stress on water resources increases the risk of conflict;

  • In a third case study in Lokoja in Nigeria, we look at the impact of climate stresses, flooding and other natural and human induced changes in the environment on communities engaged in crop farming and cattle herding close to the Niger River.

The study highlights that the future climate of the Niger Basin remains uncertain, but climate change is expected to have a key influence on water resources and human security through its impact on climate variability and extremes. Climate variations may contribute to social tensions, but are unlikely to fully explain the presence of conflict. Climate change (and variability), in combination with other environmental changes and wider dynamics in society, places stresses on people and their livelihoods. This has the potential to sow (or at least water) the seeds of conflict at different scales. We document some of the measures that the build the resilience of the population to climate and water-related stresses, such as adaptation strategies and mechanisms for conflict resolution. Some of these measures are effective and others are currently deficient. In the report, we also highlight examples from the case studies where aspects of water governance and inadequate emergency responses have increased tensions.

Based on the findings, the report offers a set of policy guidelines for decision-makers in the region that can be used to inform future capacity-building initiatives, targeting institutions with responsibility for water resource management and climate change adaptation.

To find out more about the report visit the project site:

Our localproject partners for this research were Centre d’Appui à la Recherche et à la Formation (CAREF) in Mali; the Institute of Developmental Studies, University of Nigeria; and the University Abdou Moumouni Dioffo in Niger.

This project was made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Contact Person: Lisa Renard
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