A phenomenon can already be observed in the Sahel today that will become more common in the future. Population growth, lawlessness and dwindling resources, accelerated by climate change, are leading to conflicts that leave thousands dead across the Sahel every year.
“Nowhere on Earth is the population growing faster than in the West African Sahel. That this area is at the same time home to the poorest countries is no coincidence. Poverty drives high birth rates, and those make it harder to escape poverty. The longer-term population forecasts for the Sahel are therefore unrealistic. Population figures will not double or triple in the coming decades as has been projected. Under the existing economic conditions and in light of climate change it will be impossible to provide for that many people. Many will leave their homelands or perish from hunger, disease or wars. Only rapid socioeconomic development driven by massive investments in healthcare services, education systems and jobs would be able to prevent this disaster. As soon as people are offered prospects for themselves, birth rates quickly drop and population growth slows down.”
– Reiner Klingholz –
Reiner Klingholz holds a doctorate in chemistry. His research focuses mainly on the devastating impact of homo sapiens on the environment. From 2003 to 2019 he served as managing director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, a think tank on global demographic issues.
Around Lake Chad in Central Africa, climate change has dramatically altered the environment in recent years. Crops are failing. Large areas of the lake have become inaccessible. And because nature can no longer sustain the people who live here, conflict has broken out over the resources that remain. An example of how climate change fuels war.
The consequences of these changes to the climate predominantly affect population groups whose livelihoods depend on farming and cattle breeding, for example in Nigeria. Fulani nomads drive their herds hundreds of kilometres to the watering holes in the south of the country. But since more and more people have been competing for water and pastureland that has become increasingly scarce thanks to global warming, conflict between (Christian) farmers and (Muslim) nomads has escalated.
About the photographer
Andy Spyra, born in 1984 in Hagen, is a German photographer and photojournalist known for his mainly black-and-white photographs from crisis regions. In the spring of 2020 he was one of the last reporters to travel the Sahel before the outbreak of the covid pandemic.
The region has been heavily fought over for years and is characterised by drought, famine, poverty and violence. In his photographs Spyra documents the dramatic impact of global warming on the region. His work reveals how climate change is becoming an accelerant for terror, ethnic conflict and resource wars over water and land, and how violence and hunger drive millions of people to flee their homes.
His photographs have appeared in TIME Magazine, GEO, Stern, FAZ, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit and The New Yorker, among others.