Land Restoration: A Solution to West Africa’s Rural Exodus?


Rural communities in West Africa have historically used migration as a seasonal coping mechanism in times of poor harvests or extreme drought. Yet, in recent decades, seasonal migrations have been replaced by more permanent relocations, as devastating droughts, changes in the seasons, reduced rainfall and flashfloods have all taken a toll on local community livelihoods. No longer able to live off what the land produces due to the increased unpredictability of the weather, local communities in rural areas – particularly young men – are left with little other choice than to search for work in urban centres to support their families.

The Global Mechanism is working with the International Organization for Migration, to explore in more depth the complex linkages between land degradation and migration through the Italian-funded project, ‘West Africa: Promoting Sustainable Land Management (SLM) in migration prone areas through innovative financing mechanisms”.  The objective is to provide policy recommendations to upscale best practices and boost long-term investments into land restoration as part of the solution to stemming migration from rural areas.

On 18-19 May in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the Global Mechanism organized a regional workshop together with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), to advance the dialogue on this topic in 3 main areas:

  • How to use migration as a resilience strategy to tackle the intertwined challenges of desertification, land degradation, drought, climate change and migration
  • Promoting investments in sustainable land management and adaptation to climate change to build resilience in migration-prone areas in West Africa, including through the direct investments of migrants through remittances
  • Reducing vulnerability and insecurity caused by land degradation, in particular the negative effects of land degradation on population growth, migration and poverty and the increased risks of radicalization of young vulnerable people that might become a target for extremists groups

The event, which took place under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Government of Burkina Faso, was attended by more than 60 government officials from Burkina Faso, Niger and Senegal, as well as high-level representatives of ECOWAS and international experts specialized on environment, migration and security.

Experts at the event agreed that land-based green jobs are a crucial part of the solution to stemming the migration exodus of rural communities in West Africa. The Global Mechanism looks forward to publishing the results of its on-going project in the near future, paving the way for further action in this area.