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Climate change - a critical factor in Lake Chad crisis conflict trap - "Shoring Up Stability" report

The report “Shoring Up Stability” shows that climate change and conflict dynamics create a feedback loop where climate change impacts seed additional pressures while conflict undermines communities’ abilities to cope. It concludes that the impacts of climate change have to be tackled as part of peacebuilding efforts as well as humanitarian aid and development cooperation if the region is to break free of the conflict trap.

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“The people of Lake Chad are caught in a conflict trap. Violent conflict between state security forces and armed opposition groups have blighted the lives of local communities and forced 2.5 million people from their homes. Climate change is compounding these challenges.

Contrary to popular beliefs, the latest research shows that Lake Chad is currently not shrinking. After the chronic droughts of the 70s and 80s, the lake is in a period of expansion.

But even though the Lake is not shrinking, climate change is a serious problem for the region. The population is highly affected by seasonal and inter-annual rainfall variability: People do not know when the rains will come; how much rain will come, or where the water of the lake will be available.

The uncertainty and the interaction of climate and conflict undermine people’s day to day lives and their jobs, reducing their ability to adapt to climate change. Where once they might have moved to a different location to farm or graze their animals when the rains failed, military restrictions mean that these options may no longer be available to them. This is decreasing their ability to cope – with both climate change and the conflict around them.

One important step to break this conflict trap is to support resilient livelihoods#.: For the young, growing population living around Lake Chad where unemployment and underemployment are endemic, the lack of jobs and money is a major strain on resilience, and indeed one of the reasons cited for people choosing to join armed opposition groups such as ‘Boko Haram’.

Resilient jobs can be achieved for example through new, climate resilient farming approaches to diversify rural income. Climate- and conflict sensitive livelihoods can provide young men and women with employment opportunities in the face of a changing climate.

With over 10.7 million people in urgent humanitarian need, Lake Chad’s conflict trap can seem insurmountable. But the lake has always been a source of resilience and it can be again.

But even if the terrorist threat is surmounted, the climate is still changing. The impacts of climate change have to be tackled as part of peacebuilding efforts if the region is to break free of the conflict trap. In doing this, Lake Chad can once again become an engine for sustainable livelihoods and stability, and there is hope for sustainable peace in the region.”