Climate change, food systems and security in the Sahel: Implications for conflict and cooperation on a micro-scale

Project: PhD

Project Details


Climate change and conflict are contemporarily two of the most critical threats to humanity and are gradually addressed jointly by policy makers and in academic circles. Recently, co-occurrences between adverse climate change impacts and violent conflicts have been observed particularly across countries in the Sahel, posing a dual threat to small-holder farmers’ livelihoods. Most small-holders in the region are reliant on rain-fed agriculture, which is especially sensitive to changing rainfall patterns resulting from climate change. Extreme variations in the climate can create economic and food availability shocks, which are particularly damaging to vulnerable small-holder livelihoods. However, for livelihood shocks to trigger conflicts, root drivers of conflict (i.e. poverty, social inequality, political marginalization, ethnic polarization) have to be present. On a micro-level, both individual-level and group-level decision-making influence responses to shocks. How and under what conditions responses can bring social systems out of balance and enhance conflict or contrastingly foster cooperation is still poorly understood. On the one hand, for marginalized and less resilient households participating in conflict in response to shocks can be an economically better livelihood opportunity, but on the other hand, time of hardship can foster cooperation through strong social capital in the community. In addition, other group dynamics can influence rational economic decision making of the individual. Particularly, group identities are crucial for studying widely increasing conflicts among farmers and herders in the Sahel, where underlying ethnic tension, along the farmer-herder divide, could be one of those drivers exacerbating the reactions to climate shocks. To shed light on the diversity of micro-level outcomes in the climate security arena, this research project draws comparisons across various case studies and: (i) develops a framework outlining mechanisms leading to conflict and cooperation among farmers and herders, (ii) conducts field experiments on the effects of individual and collective shocks on cooperation of farmers and herders and studies the role of group identity, (iii) explores heterogeneous effects of climate and food price shocks on conflicts among different livelihood group.
Effective start/end date15/02/21 → …


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