The Lake Chad region is facing a nexus of interconnected problems including fragility, violent conflict, forced displacement, and scarcity of water and other resources, further aggravated by climate change. Focusing on northeast Nigeria, this study aims to answer the following questions: (1) What role does access to water and farming play in out-migration and return in northeast Nigeria? (2) What is the potential of tensions between internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities? Data for this study were collected between March and May 2019 by interviewing 304 local residents and IDPs in northeast Nigeria, as well as experts on migration, environmental, humanitarian and conflict-related issues in research centers and governmental institutions in Abuja. Given the pronounced water scarcity in the region, the results show that between 47% and 95% of rural community members interviewed in northeast Nigeria would be willing to migrate in cases of water scarcity. At the time of study, only 2.5% to 7% of respondents had migrated previously in response to water scarcity, indicating that insecurity and conflict were, however, more relevant drivers of displacement. Regarding our second research question, we find a potential for tensions between IDPs and host communities, as 85% of the interviewed host community members oppose the presence of the IDPs. Hence, measures are needed to improve relations between the two groups. In order to avoid a future scenario where water scarcity becomes a significant driver of migration, efficient management of water resources is paramount. Such action would not only address the issue of migration, but also strengthen the resilience of communities in northern Nigeria.
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