BRUSSELS, Belgium - 3rd May 2017 - Wetlands International launched a report at the Red Cross EU Office in Brussels, aimed at highlighting to policymakers the relationship between the health of wetland ecosystems and involuntary human migration in the Sahel region of Africa. Entitled ‘Water Shocks: Wetlands and Human Migration in the Sahel’ the publication examines how poor water management leads to degradation of ecosystems, and is an overlooked cause of human migration, including to Europe.
This report calls attention to the worsening condition of wetlands in the Sahel and explains how this decline is undermining human well-being and compelling people to migrate, including to Europe. The rivers, lakes, floodplains and deltas of the Sahel are highly productive and biologically diverse ecosystems, fed by seasonal floods. These dynamic wetlands have long shaped human culture and been the basis for local and regional economies. Tens of millions of people still depend on their vitality.
But these natural assets are degrading, often due to ill-advised economic development projects which divert water resources. Consequently, some wetlands have ceased to be a refuge in hard times and have instead become sources of out-migration, as people look elsewhere for alternative livelihoods.
Wetlands and Resilience
• In the Sahel 20 million people are categorised by the UN as food-insecure, mainly due to lack of water.
• People depend on the Sahelian wetlands for fish, cattle, food, fuelwood, water, medicinal plants, and crops such as rice.
• During the dry season, wetlands become a magnet for pastoralists, and act as a buffer against droughts.
• The squeeze on wetlands has exacerbated conflicts over access to water and productive land, causing social breakdown and armed conflict.