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Vulnerability and the Role of Education in Environmentally Induced Migration in Mali and Senegal

Victoria van der Land, Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE)
Diana Hummel, Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE); Biodiversity and Climate Research Center (BiK-F)


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In the West African Sahel, the majority of the population depends on subsistence farming and livestock breeding and is thus particularly vulnerable to climatic changes. One possible response to natural hazards is migration. Recent research suggests that environmentally induced mobility is closely linked to the social vulnerability and adaptive capacity of individuals and groups. However, only little attention has been paid thus far to the role of formal education in this context. Our objective was to fill this gap by examining the role of formal education in environmentally induced migration as one characteristic of social vulnerability to environmental change. Our analysis focuses on two regions in the West African Sahel, Bandiagara in Mali and Linguère in Senegal, that are presumed to be particularly affected by climate change and environmental degradation. Our results reveal that formal education plays an important role in reducing vulnerability to environmental stress because people with a higher level of education are usually less dependent on environmentally sensitive economic activities such as farming. Moreover, an agricultural economic activity can be an obstacle to a high level of formal education. We found no significant effect of people’s education on the migration experience as such. However, motives for migration differ considerably depending on the amount of education received, suggesting that migration constitutes a livelihood strategy, particularly for the lower educated.

Key words

adaptive capacity; education; environmentally induced migration; livelihood strategies; Sahel; social vulnerability
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087