By Sharon Atieno and Christabel Arina

Overwhelming climatic conditions such as floods and drought, will lead to migration or mass movement of people from one place to another. According to a World Bank report, 143 million people may soon become climate migrants. The report warns that the climate migrants would be additional to the millions of people already moving within their countries for economic, social, and political or other reason. The relocation is set to take place in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America representing 55 percent of the developing world’s population.

Migration is a growing and complex global phenomenon that can be caused by climate change drivers and risks such as heavy rains and floods, drought and desertification, sea level rise and tropical cyclones increasing vulnerability and contributing to the loss of livelihoods. In Sudan, the Sahara has advanced by 100km in 17 years while in the last 50 years, 65 million hectares of the Sahel has been turned in to a desert , a clear effect of the rising temperatures.

Movement is an important mechanism that rural populations have resorted to in dealing with climate stress. Migration at early stages of environmental degradation, minimizes loss of lives, eco-system and livelihoods thus, enhancing the overall capacity of communities and households to cope with climatic changes. When pastoralists do not move in search of water and food, their livelihoods become threatened as they face the risk of losing their animals.

Much focus needs to be put on migration and it has to be recognized as a crucial component of Africa’s development processes. Migrant remittances are a source of income for many families in developing countries. Investing remittances offers opportunities for development and environment if used to preserve natural resources or protect against climate-induced risks. A French study of projects initiated and financed by migrants from the Senegal River valley living in France showed that 36 percent of them were dedicated to health care and education and 23 percent to water and agriculture.

Though migration, is a key strategy in coping with climate change, proper mechanisms should be put in place to handle it. Relocation that is not properly managed can lead to strain in available resources, resulting in conflict between the host communities and the migrants. Since 2014, Warrior Squad Foundation, with the support from Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSEIA) has been implementing a project that enables pastoral communities to migrate to access the necessary resources and nurture peaceful co-existence among pastoral communities such as in the case of Turkana moving from Kenya to Karamoja in Uganda.

Many of the direct risks arising from climate-motivated migration can be avoided through careful policy. Such policies could comprise: ensuring that migrants have the same rights and opportunities as host communities, reducing the costs of moving money and people between areas of origin and destination, facilitating mutual understanding among migrants and host communities, clarifying property rights where they are contested, ensuring that efforts to assist migrants include host communities, and strengthening regional and international emergency response systems. As a result, risks will be minimized and adaptive capacity maximized. Migration therefore is sustainable when it meets the needs of areas of origin, transit and destination, while accompanying migrant populations without depleting natural and human resources.

Efforts to enhance sustainable agriculture; natural resource restoration is an important part of an effective policy response to migration. This is because sustainable agriculture is central to the response to climate and migration challenges as it promotes the adaptation to and mitigation of climate change and also reduces other root causes of migration such as rural poverty and food security.

In cases of country-country migration, projects initiated and run by migrant organisations can be successful if jointly supported by institutional frameworks and co-development, involving governmental and non-governmental organisations and companies in countries of origin and destination.

The 2010 Cancun Agreement has provided a first step towards addressing climate change-induced migration as a policy issue on the international agenda. Within this new framework, the foundations have been laid for accepting migration as a lawful adaptation option. This also means that financial and institutional mechanisms are required to facilitate the migration process.