Climate change-induced droughts trigger forced migrations

As the El-Nino phenomenon lingers in southern Africa and other parts of the world, there are signs and telling markers that while other regions may receive normal rainfall, others will be below average and some nothing at all.

guest column: Peter Makwanya

This would lead to water scarcities, moisture stress and general dryness in those regions.

As the signs of drought begin to show, the skies also appear sufficiently deceiving as well. In some cases, the heat is becoming unbearable, threatening some thunderstorms while at the same time it may be too cold.

As such, one wonders what to expect as the situation becomes unpredictable when the elements fail to complement each other, and when the situation threatens to go out of hand.

Farmers in particular, appear troubled and one can read worry all over their faces.

Yes, in other regions some farmers are yet to realise meaningful harvests for quite some time, as the seasons are somewhat unpredictable.

In the minds of many, the word drought is one they would not want to hear because of the uncertainties and suffering it is associated with.

For this reason, the idea to provide for their families even during the times of shortages and scarcities will drive the able-bodied out of their homes and countries, to look for some work, elsewhere.

When the situation becomes unbearable, not all people will leave their homes, but those who remain behind will continue to check the weather conditions, hoping for an improvement.

Those with stressed and wilting crops will be hoping that one day, the heavens will open up, their crops will be revived and the soils rejuvenated, or will rather watch helplessly as the crops continue to be starved of water until they wilt.


Harsh El-Nino-linked drought conditions will drive people from their homes to other countries with better economic prospects in search of greener pastures.

Those who remain behind will also migrate to towns and cities, in search of jobs that will give them a little income to keep them going.

As they move from rural to urban areas, others will turn to the forests as their only source of livelihoods.

From the forests, they can source firewood, fruits, poles and charcoal for sale while some will engage in illicit mining activities, thereby degrading land and destroying the environment.

Of course, the exploitation of natural resources has never been new, but it’s the extent of destruction and careless regard of the environment that has become a cause for concern.

Those who migrate to other countries will not normally find it easy, as they would be classified as economic refugees on top of being given other derogatory names.

In their newly-found environments, academic qualifications and specialised skills would not count, and what will count is the ability to survive.

For this reason, they will be abused while doing menial jobs paying them next to nothing.

This kind of migration will also contribute to families breaking up, as some family members will go for good and never return.

Young people, will also venture into all forms of thuggery and vices such as prostitution in order to survive. The reasons behind these activities are that, there won’t be any form of meaningful jobs to occupy them.

Climate-induced droughts are a cause for concern since they affect all people.

Even without formal employment, people can still derive their living from working on the land.

But when the drought takes its toll, then the land will no longer be as useful as it used to be.

In some instances, as droughts continue for quite a number of years, the hopes of recovery, realising sustainable climate shocks and resilience will be diminishing as well.

In this regard, climate change induced droughts will create vicious cycles of poverty, suffering, malnutrition, breaking of the moral fabric and environmental destruction.

Livestock numbers will also be severely reduced and restocking will take decades.

To those who remain behind, governments may institute recovery programmes for them by engaging non-governmental organisations to come up with food handouts as safety nets.

But these handouts may not be enough, and they can also be open to abuse and they may not even reach their intended beneficiaries.

According to expert predictions, climate change will not just increase temperatures but also contribute to extreme weather conditions such as droughts, storms and floods.

This is what the region is going to experience and it is important for governments in the region to invest in sustainable safety shocks and resilience.

Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his capacity and can be contacted on: petrovmoyt@gmail.com

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