Environmental change and translocal vulnerability in Senegal

Schöfberger, Irene
External Publications (2018)

Geneva: International Organization for Migration (Migration, Environment and Climate Change: Policy Brief Series 3 (4))


Mobility has constituted a key element of livelihood strategies in the West African Sahel region and in Senegal for a long time. It has allowed households to diversify the places and sources of revenue accessible to them, and in this way, adapt to a resource-poor environment. In the last decades, however, natural and man-made factors have accelerated environmental degradation and exacerbated the vulnerability of local households. Simultaneously, coping strategies based on mobility have been increasingly hindered by factors such as changes in migration and land policies.Against this background, this brief presents findings and recommendations based on empirical research conducted in four villages in Senegal and at two migration destinations in Italy and Spain. It provides an analysis of the links between household vulnerability, exposure to environmental degradation and migration. Firstly, it investigates how vulnerability influences the exposure of households to environmental degradation. Secondly, it analyses migration as an adaptation strategy to environmental change. Thirdly, it examines the impact of vulnerability on the households’ ability to adopt translocal livelihood strategies. Migration can be an effective strategy of adaptation to environmental change. However, vulnerability has an impact not only on the households’ exposure to environmental degradation, but also on their ability to migrate. If not addressed, vulnerability can furthermore be transmitted from the places of origin to the places of destination of migrants. Consequently, this brief advocates that policy action is required to tackle the influence of vulnerability factors on the ability of households to cope with environmental degradation through migration. This could strengthen the potential of mobility for resilience.

About the author

Schöfberger, Irene

Human geographer


Further experts

Aleksandrova, Mariya

Climate risk governance 

Dombrowsky, Ines


Flaig, Merlin

Social Science 

Hernandez, Ariel


Kuhnt, Jana

Development Economist 

Lehmann, Ina

Political Science 

Martin-Shields, Charles

Political Scientist 

Schoderer, Mirja

Environmental Researcher 

Scholz, Imme


Schraven, Benjamin

Political Scientist 

Trautner, Bernhard

Political Science