How Livelihood Losses Create An Enabling Environment for Fragility in the Lake Chad region

Conflict in the Lake Chad region is a function of 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 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 typical examples is the Lake Chad region, where there is a rise in insurrectionism within and the borders. Since we are an agrarian society, our natural resources become indispensable in sustaining our livelihood. Hence, water, land, and vegetative cover depend on farmers, fishers, and herders. It creates a potential ground for conflict when competition arises. When the demand for these resources by the users is more than the supply, there are no alternatives to using them. It leads to scarcity of resources (land and water) and eventually conflict of who to control and manipulate the available natural resource. Ultimately results in unhealthy competition among the users. Displacement becomes inevitable – thereby making the entire population (especially the young) vulnerable to join armed groups searching for alternatives. These are loopholes that violent extremist 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 the way for a less peaceful world. Because everyone wants to control this limited resource as a “shareholder”, protecting boundaries comes into place, leading to an outbreak of (armed) conflict. The issue is now between the governed and the ungoverned. These ungoverned areas are the tactics that armed groups use to win community members. Studies show that individuals are more likely to engage in violence, be displaced, migrate or join armed groups, including violent extremist organisations such as Boko Haram. Suppose they feel marginalised and mistreated and don’t have access to essential services rather than because of a warming climate. Giving food to those affected by the shrinking Lake Chad is just a first aid approach but strengthening livelihood options becomes a long term and sustainable system. Several factors interact with conflict; it doesn’t just happen just like that. The clash 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 per cent of all internal conflicts have linkages to the exploitation of natural resources, whether high-value resources. Disputes involving natural resources have also been twice as likely to relapse because there can be no durable peace if the natural resources sustain livelihoods and ecosystems. Peace is not just the absence of war; it is also the ability to support one’s livelihood. The shrinking Lake Chad has been a breeding ground of armed groups to reduce 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 opportunities have been exhausted. They become left with nothing – it is the vulnerable state of an individual.


While responding to a report released by UNODC that “climate change could mean more terrorism in the future”, the Nigerian President said, “the oasis in the desert is just a desert which farmers and herdsmen struggle over the little water left. Herdsmen migrate in search of greener pasture resulting in conflicts; our youths are joining the terrorist 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. Resolutions on climate change as a threat to global peace, security and stability that did not pass the United Nations Security Council through a veto power should need revision as the reality of the climate crisis in Africa is different from the rest of the world. It further emphasises that if Africa is not safe, Europe is not secure. Hence no place is safe until everywhere is safe.


Oladosu Adenike ( is an ecofeminist, eco reporter, and the founder of I Lead Climate Action Initiative that advocates for the restoration of Lake Chad and a green democracy.