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Conflict in the Lake Chad Region

 

How livelihood Losses Create an enabling environment for Fragility in the Lake Chad region



Conflict in the Lake Chad region is a function of the using and controlling resources for livelihood. The loss of livelihood is a powerful weapon against peace and security in a society like mine. I don’t want to believe that there is no correlation between climate change and conflict when it is already an everyday reality in Africa. Climate change provides an enabling environment that exacerbates conflict and one of such indicators is the loss of livelihood. One of the several classical examples is the Lake Chad region where there is a rise in insurrectionism within and in the borders. Since we are an agrarian society, then our natural resources become indispensable in sustaining our livelihood. Hence, the use of water, land and vegetative cover is dependent on farmers, fishermen and herdsmen. This creates a potential ground for conflict when competition arises. When the demand for these resources by the users is more than the supply and yet, there are no alternatives of using them. It leads to scarcity of the resources (such as land and water) and eventually conflict of who to control and use the resources. Ultimately results in unhealthy competition among the users.  Displacement becomes inevitable – thereby making the entire population (especially the young) vulnerable to join armed groups in the search for alternatives. These are loopholes that violent extremists seize to gain more boundaries even beyond the scale of the Lake Chad region.

Conflict on resource control

The loss of livelihood is a risk multiplier that paves ways for a less peaceful world. Because everyone wants to control this limited resource as a “share holder”, protecting boundaries come into place – this leads to an outbreak of (armed) conflict. This is now between the governed and the ungoverned. These ungoverned areas are the tactics that armed groups use to win members of the community. Studies have shown that individuals are more likely to engage in violence, be displaced, migrate or join armed groups, including violent extremist organizations such as Boko Haram, if they feel marginalized and treated unfairly, and if they don’t have access to basic services, rather than because of a warming climate. Giving food on the table of those affected by the shrinking Lake Chad is just a first aid approach but strengthening livelihood options becomes a long term and sustainable approach. There are several factors that interact with conflict; it doesn’t just happen just like that. The conflict of control of resources could result in ethnic and religious war – social disorderliness since the users of these resources have an identified culture and religion.

Countries with high environmental impacts have high tendencies of joining armed groups. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has found that over the last 60 years, at least 40 percent of all internal conflicts have been linked to the exploitation of natural resources, whether high-value resources. Conflicts involving natural resources have also been found to be twice as likely to relapse because there can be no durable peace if the natural resources that sustain livelihoods and ecosystems are destroyed. Peace is not just the absence of war; it is also the ability to sustain one’s livelihood. The shrinking Lake Chad has been a breeding ground of armed groups in terms of reducing the community capacity to cope through the displacement of people from their livelihood. This displacement could permanently erode people’s livelihood options because in some cases people have multiple livelihood options when such options have been exhausted, then they become left with nothing – it is the vulnerability state of an individual.

While responding to a report released by UNODC on “climate change could mean more terrorism in the future” the Nigerian President said; “the oasis in the desert is just a desert now, farmers and herdsmen struggle over the little water left; herdsmen migrate in search of greener pasture resulting in conflicts; our youths are joining terrorists group because of lack of job and difficult economic conditions.” The ability to fight our violent extremists is not a determinant of arms and weaponry but how to strengthen the people’s belief towards the government meeting the needs of their society without any externalities involved. This is why resolutions like that on climate change as a threat to global peace, security and stability that were turned down at the United Nations Security Council through a veto power should be reviewed because the reality of the climate crisis in Africa is different from the rest of the world. This is to further emphasize that if Africa is not safe, Europe is not safe. Hence nowhere is safe until everywhere is safe.  

Oladosu Adenike ([email protected]) is an ecofeminist, ecoreporter and the founder of I Lead Climate Action Initiative that advocates for the restoration of Lake Chad and a green democracy.

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