Climate Change and the Impacts it has on Human Conflict in Africa

4727 words (19 pages) Essay in Environmental Studies

08/02/20 Environmental Studies Reference this

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  • UNESCO- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
  • DRC- Democratic Republic of Congo
  • UN- United Nations

Definition of terms

  • Climate change- Climate change refers to the long-term changes in temperatures, rainfall, and wind across the various countries of the world.
  • Horn of Africa- This is the eastern part of the region of Africa and is represented by countries such as Djibouti, Eritrea, Somali, Kenya
  • Urbanization- Refers to the process by which people migrate from the rural areas and condenses into town which becomes major cities.


In the recent past, the world has experienced climate changes which have never been witnessed before. Countries such as Haiti, parts of the US, China, and Japan, have experienced storms such as Hurricanes and Tsunamis that leaves the population in a devastated and deplorable condition. The massive destruction of properties and deaths in a great extent affects the stability and development of a country. Climate changes affect the fundamental natural resources such as soil fertility of a state which in turn affects the supply of food and water. People depend on food and water for purposes of survival and security. Securing borders of a state requires soldiers who are well fed and strong to fight in the case of external aggression. A hunger starving nation is vulnerable from attacks, and also other states take advantage of the nation fragility by imposing conditions before giving them relief food. It is evident that climate change has increased human conflicts across the world (Buhaug et al. 125015). People are fighting to get a hold on fertile lands, rivers, and oceans which contain edible living organisms such as fish and crabs. Climate change alters the landscape of an area or region by sweeping away the fertile soil, making the place flooded; thus, is inaccessible for farming activities to take place. Some of the climate changes are brought about by the human activities of cutting down trees, constructions, and ignorance of caring for the environment. For a long time, people have engaged themselves in deforestation, especially in the horn of Africa. A country like Congo is endowed with good climate condition, and almost half of the country is covered with forest. Currently, the illegal logging of trees such as mahogany and cedar has left the nation in conflicts and suffering of vulnerable people such as women and children. Most governments in Africa are unable to control and mitigate the effects of climate change; therefore, constant eruption of conflicts is not easy to manage. Some of these African governments do not care about putting measures containing hunger in their countries. The fragilities existing in African countries form the contributors to conflict whenever climate changes affect those nations in a negative way (Brzoska, Michael, and Christiane 190-210)

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The African countries are battling with numerous challenges such as post-war healing, illegal armed groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria; thus, occurrence of climate change is likely to fuel the already existing feuds. Climate change refers to the continuous changes in weather patterns for a long period leading to new unknown effects such as global warming, melting of glaciers and reduced rainfall. The above changes pile a lot of pressure on the available resources, and by combining this with political and economic pressures, the state would likely not withstand to govern itself freely. The UNESCO report of 2018 puts the West of Africa as the region most affected by climate change conflicts.  UNESCO has raised a concern on the legitimacy output of some the African countries like Sudan, Somalia as they are not in a position to provide jobs, food, and water to the citizens. A country which does not provide basic needs like food to its citizen is likely to languish in poverty and constant conflicts resulting in collapsing of the nation. The UNESCO classified countries on the Horn of Africa to include Kenya, Somali, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. Assessing the region, it provides the best relationship between conflict and climate change. The main conflict in the Horn of Africa is the frequent feuds between the pastoralist communities and agriculturalist communities who fight for farming and grazing lands for their animals which is brought about by prolonged droughts and scarcity of water. From Maystadt, Jean-François, and Olivier Ecker (2014), the prolonged drought that Somalia experienced in the year 2011 fueled further the already tensed situation in the country leading to stock prices of livestock and other good to increase. Also, the drought led to adverse effects of animals and people as they got malnutrition resulting in inadequate food supply and thus massive deaths of livestock.  

Kenya and Ethiopia borders have seen increased conflicts between their people due to limited grazing lands for their animals. Climate change brings the element of spill effects where neighboring countries experience the effects of conflicts due to people looking for additional resources and safety for themselves and animals. Migration to the bordering countries has the effect of putting more pressure on the available resources; thus, sparking a wider conflict between the two states. Therefore, it is conclusive that climate change has the capability of fueling conflicts in the neighboring nations as it stresses resources in those countries bringing a likelihood of cross border conflict. Some African states like Somalia and Sudan lack stable leadership government which means that the resources available in those states are not managed and utilized properly to benefit society. In the instance where climate conditions are adverse, more conflicts erupt in these countries because the unstable government has no control of redistributing resources across the country. Ironically, one will find that illegal armed groups control food resources of the nation; thus, making citizens poor and they become slaves of their brutal rule (Schilling, Janpeter, and Lisa Krause 2018).

Diverse studies indicate that if the level of climate change is left unmitigated, there is a possibility if continuous conflicts being witnessed, especially on the Horn of Africa. Lack of provision of basic needs is the biggest contributor to feuds and conflicts in various nations. Once climate change becomes an imminent threat to the survival of a nation, the formation of new landscape within the nation is likely to happen. The following are the effects of climate change on the region of Africa landscape:

Usage of water as a source of weapon

A study conducted by Marcus King (2017) gives an account of how the hard drought of 2011 hit Somalia. Marcus asserts that drought resulting from climate changes provided an opportunity for the Al-Shabaab group to exert their power by cutting down the supply of water to other areas and regions of the country. The group ensured no, or reduced aid reached the Somali people. Therefore, these punitive measures lead to the mass death of people. Additionally, the jihadist group took advantage of the seaport to hijack ships that brought humanitarian aid into the country. The main aim of the group was to tell the rest of the world that they were powerful and should be respected and recognized. Conclusively, the lack of necessities such as food caused by climate changes provided avenues for the empowerment of illegal groups in Somalia.

Urbanization in cities

Urbanization is common in the coastal cities of Kenya and Somalia. There is an upsurge in the number of people migrating into Mombasa city, Kenya and in Mogadishu city, Somalia to get a cake share of land adjacent to the ocean. The effects of urbanization like building next to the ocean have negative effects such as distorting the life of living organisms in the ocean. The high number of populations in these coastal cities are prone to the effects of climate change like sea level rise. When the water rises, it destroys the infrastructure of the area, displaces people, reduces the availability of land to farm and contamination of water is imminent due to pollution.

Migration to other areas

Climatic changes result in a drought that forces people to migrate to other regions. Some of the population in drought-stricken areas have no means of migration, especially the women and children; thus, they become trapped in the drought cycle which threatens their existence. There is a constant migration of people from Somalia to other border countries like Kenya. Kenya is grappling with the high influx of refugees of Somalia dissent in the northern part of the country. These migrations have compromised the security of Kenya as some of the migrants are linked to the Al-Shabaab groups who come to Kenya as immigrants and later returns to Somali to learn radicalization teachings. Some of the immigrants have caused Kenya a great deal by bombing and killing their people in suicide bombing attempts.

Climate changes threaten the fish supply

The population increase and industrialization in Africa are threatening the existence of fish in the oceans. Because African leaders lack goodwill, they are not keen in preserving the environment, industries which set up affect the climate change of the area; thus, killing most sea living organisms through their release of effluents to the seas and oceans. The effluents acidify the ocean resulting in depletion of source of food like fish. Some of the firms releasing waste to the oceans might be located in one country and will spill over to the neighboring country coastlines which bring a conflict of interest between the two nations. A conflict of fishing might erupt as fish supply reduces due to water pollution effects. An example of fishing feud is the conflict between Kenya and Uganda concerning the ownership of an island called Migingo. The island contains a lot of fish which the two nations fishers are fighting to control. The reason is that the other fishing areas in those states have decreased; therefore forcing their people to fight over this small island fish.

Statement of the problem

According to the report by IPCC (2014), the African continent has been identified as one of the regions hard hit by the changes in climate. The repercussions such as human conflict is widely witnessed in the Horn of Africa and the Sub-Saharan Africa regions. The rural-urban migration is expected to increase as global warming is threatening the existence of people in the African area. The report by UN (2013) projects the population of Sub-Saharan Africa to rise to almost 2billion by the year 2050. The World Bank report 2013 report asserts that war conflict in the DRC and South Sudan is also fueled by climate changes which bring about scarcity in food and water. The people in these countries are fighting to survive as food is not enough, and a smaller population of influential people controls the little resources available. If the problem of conflict due to the scarcity of food and water is not addressed by relevant authorities such as the African governments and UN agencies, the problem will escalate to uncontrollable levels. Climate change has a great influence on the African people and is a matter that African states are not putting enough effort into solving. The conflicts in South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somali are brought about by lack of grazing ground for the pastoralist communities. The shifters in the northern parts of Kenya come from neighboring states like Somali and Ethiopia who come to steal cattle and graze their animals in unauthorized parts bordering their countries. Most of the African countries rely on the western nations to solve their conflicts and also bring assistance of relief food through the UN. The African countries are endowed with good agricultural lands, but because of human conflict and bad leadership, fewer lands are utilized for farming purposes. Thus, when climate change comes, the states find themselves with lack of enough food as they did not farm and store enough for future purposes. Thus, climate change such as global warming has the impact of fueling conflict in the various African countries because there are no mitigation measures put across by the different countries in addressing food and water crises resulting from severe impacts of climate change. The current study seeks to understand how climate change affects the human conflict in Africa and recommend solutions which might be applied to tackle the menace.

Research questions

  • What are the effects of climate changes on the human conflict in Africa?
  • To what extent is human conflict in Africa contributed by the climate changes being witnessed in the world?
  • What are the negative effects of climate change on the Africa countries?



The results from the study will contribute to new facts in the academic world concerning the effects of climate changes on African people. Most of the research done on effects of climate change focused more on European, American and Asian continent countries; thus, the current study will contribute to the knowledge available by focusing on some of the African regions largely hit by climate changes. The high conflict rate witnessed in some of the African states is as a result of poor leadership that affect the redistribution of land resources for people to farm. Few individuals who are cartels control the land; thus, use the land selfishly to benefit themselves, their families and cronies. The study on the topic will provide insightful information and recommendations to African leaders on how they can manage the scarce resources available to promote the wellbeing of its citizens. The major concern is dealing with adverse effects of climate change, especially on food production and availability of clean water for people to drink. The remedies that will be provided on the research paper will act as an education background for various governments of the world to apply the highlighted solutions in managing the negative effects that come with changes in climate, especially on the human conflict aspect. The research findings establish some level of accountability on the part of the world leaders to take with a serious note on climate change effects because it is threatening the existence of humans in the world. Through the UN Secretariat, the report encourages the member states to focus on reducing the level of pollution and emissions which are responsible for global warming. The report motivates people not only in African states but also to the rest of the world to preserve the environment by planting trees and avoiding deforestation to ensure food and water will be enough for the current population and future offspring.

Literature review

The study by Maystadt, Jean-François, and Olivier Ecker (2014) looked into the relationship between extreme weather conditions and civil conflicts in Somalia. The authors found out that climate changes had the effect of fueling conflict in Somalia within a short period. A small change in weather significantly increases conflict in the country by a rate of 62 percent. In the Somalia region, most of the people are pastoralist who rely on the rearing and selling of livestock to earn some living. From the study, once the drought hit Somalia, most of the animals died forcing the market for livestock to deteriorate as there remained few animals to sell. The communities fought against each other for the few grazing lands that remained. The study focused on Somalia, but the current study will focus on countries on Sub-Saharan Africa and the Horn of Africa widely affected by climate change conflicts.

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Hendrix and Idean Salehyan (2012) researched the effects of climate change on the future eruption of conflicts. The study aimed at addressing whether the deviation of rainfall from the normal patterns experienced is likely to bring conflict in an area. The research looked at the extreme ends that are dry and wet seasons. Climate change might force high or low rainfall to be experienced in a certain region. A conclusion derived from the study was that climatic conditions such as heavy or no rainfall motivates people to involve themselves in political conflicts where they protest, riots and lobbies against the state for what they term as neglect of their suffering. The study utilized factors such as social war and civil war to establish a perfect relationship between climate change and conflict. The current research investigates on the general effects of climate changes such strong winds and rainfall in assessing its effects on the human conflict in some of the African states.

According to Hsiang et al. (2013) understanding the effects which climate change bring, especially to the relationship between human being is essential in promoting peace with the human race. Most of the social conflicts witnessed in society are as a result of extreme weather conditions. The study by Hsiang et al. (2013) investigated the relationship between climate changes and human conflicts. The study used secondary quantitative studies that focused on the topic to arrive at its conclusions. From the study, it was established that deviation of rainfall or normal temperatures significantly triggered anxiety among people, who out of frustrations decide to fight against each other to have a share of a limited supply of food or water occasioned by climate changes. Additionally, Hsiang et al. (2013) thought that prolonged climate changes would continue fueling conflicts in both the developing and developed countries of the world. The above study will highlight how different climate changes affect human conflicts in African nations.

Reuveny (2007) investigated how climate change had the triggering effect of inducing migration and violent conflict among diverse population race. The authors acknowledged the fact that people are in a position to predict the effects arising from climate changes; thus, can look for mitigation measures to address those impacts. Some of the environmental problems like flooding can make the people migrate to other regions or stay in those flooded areas and look for mitigating measures for the perennial problem. The various choices people pick will depend on the extent or level of climatic change that has affected the regions and the measures put in place to address those adverse impacts.  There is a likelihood of people living in emerging countries moving to other regions where they will cause conflict to erupt due to competition on already strained resources. In the current study, some of the effects of climate change addressed is the adverse impacts on the environment such as flooding, heating and wind pollution.

The environmental changes in South Sudan are caused by the migration of people and other returnees who are piling more pressure on the limited resources of the country. South Sudan is not largely endowed with farming lands, and that is why most of the communities like the Dinka engage in pastoralist activities. According to UNEP report of 2018, South Sudan social, environmental problems are as a result of lack of good and effective governing institutions which comes about from constant conflicts of control of the region resources like oil fields. The oil exploration taking place in the country is affecting the climate conditions of the area. These climate changes bring drought; thus, fueling social conflict in the country (Sudan, 2018). The report findings such as environmental pollution contributing to human conflicts form some of the effects the study utilizes in explaining how weather patterns affect the human conflict.

 Research methodology

The methodology applied in the paper is sampling all the literature review materials available on the topic and use the finding to arrive at an informed conclusion. From the literature materials available, the following were established regarding the effects of climate changes on human conflict in Africa:

Human insecurity

Food security is an important aspect for any nation to maintain stability. According to Gleditsch (2015), when a state government is unable to provide enough food to the citizens, then civil and social unrest or protests are likely to happen (p.88). Food and water are one of the basic security needs of the people. Once scarcity occurs, people scramble for the little resources available, and thus people will arm themselves to protect the little stock of food they contain (Brown, 1142). The Darfur conflict is one of the major human conflicts arising as a result of adverse climate conditions that hit the different parts of Africa. The state experience low precipitation which angered the people to turn against each other and fight for the remaining food reserves. This social conflict gave rise to rebel groups who were fighting the government due to its inability to feed the people.

Human-animal conflict

Climate change affects the environmental vegetation growth; thus animals and human will compete for the limited ground for vegetation resulting in human-animal conflict. Most people in the Horn of Africa are pastoralists who move from one location to another in search of grazing lands for their livestock. Recently, with the drought being experienced, people have moved to forests where they clear trees with a bid to start farming. The wild animals that depend on the forest are affected by these human activities. Once the wild animals and human being compete for forest resources conflict erupts where humans kill wild animals while some wild animals like elephants destroy human plantations and carnivores like lions eat human livestock (Dube, Thulani, et al. 256).

Environmental degradation

Climate change affects the environment in different forms. First, in the case where there is a severe rise in temperatures, global warming is likely to take effect where glaciers will melt, and the sea levels rise resulting in flooding (Adams, Courtland, et al. 200). The floods will displace people staying in flooded areas. The high temperatures witnessed in countries like Somalia and Ethiopia, and northern parts of Kenya brings drought forcing people living around the area to engage in social conflict to fight for survival due to scarcity availability of food and water. The delays in rainfall witnessed in the East African countries resulted in hunger that forced the people to turn against their government. The recent strong winds witnessed in Mozambique left several people dead and building destroyed was as a result of climate change. The Mozambique citizens staged for protest against the state for lacking mitigating measures that could have saved their lives and properties.

Impoverished citizens

Most of the African country citizens live in dilapidated conditions occasioned by conflicts and climate changes. Countries like the DRC, Nigeria, Somali, and Sudan is frequently occasioned by violence and extremist groups who fight to control the natural resources of the country. War has to a great extent to impoverish the nations. Adding the problem of climate changes is likely to increase the rate of poverty in these countries (Mwiturubani, Donald, and Jo-Ansie, 261). The citizens in these countries live below a dollar a day. They lack basic needs. Human conflict is common in the African region. Climate changes occasioned by high temperatures and little rainfall means food will reduce and thus people will continue to languish in hunger and poverty. The land will not produce enough food to feed the already population living in poverty levels.

Migration menace

People migrate in search of greener pastures and to run away from conflicts. When there is a severe drought in a region, people tend to migrate where drought is less severe; thus, evoking conflict in the receiving regions. Naturally, resources are scarce, and with poor leadership in African countries, mismanagement of these resources leaves the larger population suffering. The recent migration of African people from West Africa to Europe is caused by human conflict resulting from limited food and water resources. Human activities such as pollution are responsible for the climate changes in the region (Reuveny, 670). African countries lack leaders with effective skills of leading people as the greed of enriching themselves controls them. Even if climate change affects the country, the leaders have no mitigation measures to cushion the citizens; therefore many will migrate to other areas. The migration journey is faced with lots of hurdles where many immigrants end up dying due to thirst and hunger.

Recommendations/ Remedies

The first recommendation is African governments to put long term mitigation measures to reduce the impacts that come with global warming (Dedring, 607). Additionally, the state should educate their citizens on some of the measures they could put in place to curb the adverse effects of climate change. The state should protect its border states to reduce influx into the country. Secondly, people in Africa should reduce human activities like cutting down trees and pollution that affect weather patterns of the region. Instead, people should plant more trees and preserve the environment to promote good weather conditions favorable for farming and rearing of livestock. The building of preventive gabions will reduce flooding along planes and thus preventing sweeping of topsoil used for farming. Caring for the environment by being accountable to one’s actions will promote peace as people will treat effluents before sending to rivers and the air. Electing leaders who are after putting an end to the human conflict will enhance peace in African states, and even if climate change occurs, the government will be prepared to handle human conflict by redistributing resources such as food and water.

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