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Pushed To The Brink? The impact of COVID-19 on environmental migration in the Sahel

Date added

22 January 2021


Migration has long been a hallmark of Sahelian populations, with people migrating to mitigate the impacts of environmental degradation and diversify access to livelihoods sources, which remain predominantly based on agricultural activities and natural resources. When the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 emerged in the region in March 2020, governments were prompt to take action, imposing movement restrictions, closing international borders and implementing localised lockdowns, all in view of limiting the spread of the virus. However, this affected long-held seasonal migration patterns, putting on hold an important source of supplementary revenue for millions of Sahelians across the region. This report aims to gauge the impact of these restrictions on environmental migrants' lives in the immediate, mid- and longer term.


The study, conducted by REACH in partnership with Start Network as part of the Migration Emergency Response Fund (MERF), aims to increase understanding of the interlinkages between migration, climate change and COVID-19 in the Sahel. It also aims to improve Start Network member agencies' and the donor community's ability to respond to this crisis. The study's findings draw on an extensive secondary data review, the knowledge of migration experts, and humanitarian and development practitioners in the region. Most importantly, the findings draw on 135 individual in-person interviews with migrants engaged in seasonal migration patterns in the region, which were conducted with migrants and non-migrants in Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Niger.