Climate change, water and conflict in the Niger river basin
This report analyses the links between environmental stress, climate change, human security, conflict and adaptation at different scales and localities along the Niger river.
The Niger River is the third longest river in Africa, flowing for 4,200 km from its source in the Guinea highlands, within the humid tropics, through Mali and Niger with their semi-arid Sahelian climates, to the Niger delta in Nigeria.
The drainage basin covers a surface area of just over 2.2 million km², extending into 10 countries. Seventy-six percent of the basin area is located within Mali, Niger and Nigeria. 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.
This report examines the links between environmental stress, climate change, human security, conflict and adaptation at different scales and localities along the Niger River. Despite a growing interest in the possible linkages between climate and conflict, limited evidence on these linkages exists, much of which is contradictory. The Niger Basin has experienced significant climate variability during the 20th century, making it suitable for studying the links between climate and conflict.
This report explores a number of issues. Firstly, it examines how climatic and environmental stresses influence water resources and human security in the Niger Basin. Secondly, the report examines whether climate stress on water resources increases the risk of conflict. Thirdly, it asks what types of adaptations, conflict resolution and governance mechanisms provide resilience to climate stresses and reduce the risk of conflict.
We examine the impact of climate extremes, issues of river management, and access to land and water for pasture and agriculture for two cases studies located in Mali and one case study in Nigeria. The research draws on a review of published literature for the Niger Basin and Sahel region, and interviews with members of nine communities in the case study locations as well as national and local government institutions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and academics in Mali and Nigeria.
Drawing on the study in collaboration with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and the School of International Development at the University of East Anglia, the report offers key policy guidelines for resilience building, adaptation and reducing conflict.