Lake Chad is caught in a conflict trap. Violence between armed opposition groups – including the so-called ‘Islamic State West Africa Province’ and ‘Boko Haram’ – and state security forces has left 10.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Climate change is compounding these challenges. This report identifies key risks and proposes pragmatic solutions to shore up stability in the region.
This crisis is not simply collateral damage from harsh conditions in the Sahel. In fact, as a unique fresh water lake in the middle of the arid Sahara, Lake Chad is an ecological miracle. For millennia, it has been a source of life, resilience and even prosperity for the surrounding area. But since 2009, the parts of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon bordering Lake Chad—which are home to more than 17.4 million people—have been locked into multiple and overlapping crises. Whether it will be possible for people to break out of this conflict trap will depend on a nuanced understanding of how climate change and conflict interact in this specific context.
Through the joint analysis of climate change and conflict risks, the present assessment takes an evidence-based approach to understand the different and connected dimensions of risk and inform appropriate responses. This report is the first of its kind on the Lake Chad region and a pioneer among climate-fragility risk assessments globally. It is the product of an intensive two-year period of research across all four countries. The assessment draws on long-term hydrological data from the Lake Chad basin, including ground measurements as well as brand new analysis of 20 years of satellite observations. It also builds on more than 200 interviews with community members, including past and present members of armed opposition groups, experts and officials, and an extensive review of the literature on Lake Chad. It aims to present a balanced, fact-driven conflict and climate risk assessment of the Lake Chad region that identifies key risks and proposes pragmatic solutions.