Lake Chad is the centerpiece of critical socioeconomic and ecological activities within a transboundary zone surrounded by four countries—Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria. Ecologically, the lake contributes to the hydrological dynamics of the transboundary zone in which it is located [1
]. It has also been home to endemic biodiversity in the Sahel. Lake Chad has been serving as the source of valuable economic resources in the region. These include the lake water and its tributaries used for consumption; grasses around the lake shores and intertidal zones used as fodder, as well as raw materials for handicraft industries. Fish remain the key economic resource and is a source of protein for millions of people that depend on it [1
]. The lake is also an important economic resource for the Sahelian population in the four countries that surround it. Historically, it has always played a central role in the trans-Saharan trade. It is an important meeting place between socio-economic actors in different sectors of economic and social life.
Migration is defined as “any residential movement which occurs between administrative units over a given period of time” [4
]. Other definitions have made use of the “center of gravity” approach in understanding human migrations [5
]. These approaches define migration as the change in the center of gravity of an individual’s mobility pattern. They specify that the destinations of the mobility flows need not in themselves change as a result of the change in their center of gravity [5
]. Boyle et al. [6
] points to the need to make a distinction between movements which have a sense of permanency and involves displacements to generally ‘distant’ places, from those with a temporal character involving generally short distances. The meanings of ‘long’, ‘short’, ‘temporary’ or ‘permanent’ may vary depending on the context. Nonetheless, the former (permanent displacement involving long distances) could qualify as migration, while the latter (temporal displacement over short distances) rather qualifies as ‘residential mobility’ [7
Sinclair and Fryxell [8
] explained the human-nature interactions in the Sahel and the history of activities that gave birth to the cycles of famine that have become synonymous with food and other resource insecurities in the Sahel. The balance between human population and natural sources in African Sahel has been described as precarious, and in need of careful management, if sustainable outcomes are to be achieved [1
]. For a long time, human population in this region have been sustained by seasonal migrations to sources of nutritious food and cattle grazing grounds. It has been argued that as a result of such movements, the African Sahel has managed to sustain a higher population size than they could as sedentary populations [10
]. Through centuries of practice, migratory pastoralists have managed to sustain their cattle numbers and migratory practices in balance with the vegetation. The precarious nature of the ecosystem in the region came to focus in the 1950s and 1960s when the balance was disrupted by the settlement of pastoralists around wells, and the expansion of agriculture north into the herders’ grazing lands. This led to an increase in human and cattle populations which in turn triggered a loss in the land’s productivity from overgrazing and the intensive cultivation of cash crops. The cycles of famine which have become synonymous with life in Africa’s Sahel begun in 1968 and has its roots in the shift in human-nature interactions that occurred here in the 1950s and 1960s [8
Same as gradual and extreme environmental changes, an increase in the human as well as animal populations and depending on limited resources in fragile ecosystems have the potential of increasing pressures on such resources. Such new human pressures may compound existing environmental pressures associated with phenomena such as climate change [14
]. While the geographical extent and severity of these pressures remain unclear in the Lake Chad region, it seems likely that such combination of pressures may eventually reduce the land’s ability to sustain the agricultural, livestock, and ecosystem functions as they once did. Hunter and Nawrotzki reported that a fall in productivity resulting from the environment’s decreased ability to provide livelihood sustenance services has the potential of impacting livelihood decision-making and potentially fueling population movements [16
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that the African Sahel will experience an estimated 10% reduction in annual rainfall by 2050. Such a decrease in rainfall in this area with a pastoral nomadic lifestyle and seasonal rain-fed agriculture that has been developed over centuries could have substantial effects on food and water security in the region as it will be difficult to manage. Already, current changes in climate have already reduced the length of the growing season, the amount of land suitable for agriculture, and crop yields [17
]. Yields from some major rain-fed food crops are expected to fall by up to 50% in some countries in as early as 2020 [17
The relationship between the resources of Lake Chad and the millions of inhabitants it supports has been the focus of previous studies. Adams (1993) identified the strong dependence of populations around major wetlands in Africa (including Lake Chad) for farming, fishing, and pastoralism. Besides identifying the international importance of West African wetlands in supporting populations of wild fauna, the study also noted that development projects had the potential of contributing to negative outcomes for the ecology and economy of such wetlands [19
]. Béné [20
] recognized three resource management systems in the Lake Chad catchment area. Local government/community institutions are responsible for resource management in the majority of farming and fishing communities [21
]. In remote locations where state and traditional powers could not access, non-legitimated agents, purporting to act on behalf of governments were illegally controlling resource access and exploitation through illegal taxation [21
]. With the growth of armed groups around the lake basin, there have increasingly been areas that have been taken over by such groups, and where such groups exercise their form of rule and control over resources.
When the African World Forum on Sustainable Development met in N’Djamena, Chad, in October 2010, the declining capacity of a shrinking Lake Chad to support the estimated 30 million people that depended directly or indirectly on the lake basin’s resources was at the center of discussion [22
]. Political leaders of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) identified the shrinking of the lake as well as its declining ability to support ecosystems and livelihoods as key sustainable development and human security challenges for the region. As a result, the leaders insisted on a collective effort to save the lake. An understanding of resource dynamics in the Lake Chad basin is therefore essential, given the number of people depending directly on its resources for their livelihoods [1
Seasonal migration of populations to make use of resources outside their immediate geographical vicinities has been a defining feature of human history, especially in environments with a limited endowment in natural resources. In the Sahel, pastoralists have been embarking on seasonal migrations to wetlands for millennia. In areas around lakes, pastoral migrants are often found around seasonally-flooded lands and wetlands when surrounding rangelands and pasture areas dry out [19
]. At certain periods of the year, when grazing opportunities are limited the relatively small area of wetland around the lake, therefore, serves as a critical resource to sustain the very basis for economic life and livelihoods (cattle) for millions of people residing in a much larger area than the lake shores [19
In the Lake Chad basin, seasonal migration and temporary settlement in areas around the lake bed are therefore strategies adopted by farmers and graziers to maximize opportunities for farming and grazing offered by the reducing lake. For fisherfolk, seasonal migration towards the increasingly distant shores of a once bigger lake seems to be the only way of sustaining access to the lake waters and the fish potentials they provide. This study contributes to the understanding of strategies for the control of resources of the drying lake. The strategies that consist of seasonal migrations and settlement will be analysed in a context characterized by the presence of several actors: breeders (pastoralist), farmers, fishers, traditional rulers (Blama) and public authorities.
Understanding the drivers and dynamics of such resource control strategies are therefore essential in building policies that respond to some of the pressing challenges of the Lake Chad basin. Such challenges include the sustainable use of lake resources, adaptation measures for global environmental challenges, and the diversification of sources of livelihood beyond direct dependence on lake resources. This study, therefore, seeks to achieve the following aims:
Examine the nature of seasonal migration and temporary settlement in the Lake Chad basin area;
Assess the extent to which this migration affects the access of populations to key resources supported by the lake;
Identify relevant strategies that would support policy and practice in natural resource control/management in the context of an increasingly dry Lake.
2. Study Area
Lake Chad is located at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert and is bordered by Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon (Figure 1
). The lake was once the second-largest wetland in Africa. Its drainage basin is a hydrologically closed catchment of about 2,500,000 km2
which extends to eight countries: Algeria, Libya, Niger, Chad, the Republic of Sudan, Central African Republic, Cameroon, and Nigeria [1
The Cameroonian zone of the lake is a part of the southern basin called small lake [23
] with water for fishing and is characterized by settlements and seasonal migrations in its dry areas. Three districts that share the Cameroon portion of Lake Chad and its borders were selected for the study. These are the Blangoua, Makari, and Darak Subdivisions which administratively belong to the Logone and Chari Division in the Far North Region of Cameroon (Figure 1
). These Subdivisions are located between latitudes 12°30′ and 12°45′ North and longitudes 13° and 15°45′ East (Figure 1
Inhabitants around the lake basin have over a long period been well integrated, with strong cultural, social, and trade ties moving freely between the national borders. Over the last decade, however, the intensification of armed conflict on the Nigerian side of the border, which has seeped into the Cameroonian side, has reduced such close contacts. The environment around the lake basin is characterized by the presence of functional levee, dry beaches of the lake. From a climate perspective, it is a semi-arid area with less than 450 mm of rainfall, and with a high interannual variability. For analysis at the local level, the villages of Ndagalgui, Nanawadji, Boungour and some Fulani camps and KatikiméDarak were surveyed.
Over the last half-century, the area occupied by waters of the Lake Chad has been reducing steadily (Figure 2
). Many factors account for this decline, including high population growth rates that have contributed to an increase in lake water consumption as well as the appropriation of waters from tributaries that feed the lake. The population of people around Lake Chad currently stands at 51 million in 2015 with projections that it may reach 80 million by 2030 [24
]. Population increase implies an increase in demand for water resources for a variety of economic and livelihood activities [25
]. Past demographic increases prompted investments in better and more efficient means of accessing water in this relatively dry environment. This demand led to the conversion of several artesian wells to cement wells at an individual and household level, and to the widespread drilling of boreholes for rural water supply by local and state government institutions.
All of these, combined with declining rainfall have contributed to a fall in the water level of the lake [28
]. Rainfall variability has also been attributed to a decline in the area of Lake Chad [30
]. Coe and Foley [31
] as well as Gao, et al. [32
] reported that since the early 1960’s, rainfall over the basin decreased significantly while irrigation (bolstered by the demographic growth) increased dramatically over the same period. It is reported that the reason why the lake has been especially vulnerable to climate variability is because of its rather shallow depth of less than 7 m [30
]. For Lemoalle and Magrin [23
], variations of the level of Lake Chad is linked to the reduction of rainfall: “The current phase of Small Chad results from the transition between a relatively wet period (1950–1970) and a phase of drought in the Sahel and on the Chari River (1970–1990), particularly increased during the dry episodes (1972–1973 and 1983–1984).” The result has been a reduction in the lake water surface of more than 90% over roughly 35 years [1
]. This reduction is putting pressure on challenges for sustainable food production, wetland habitat conservation, water management in transboundary basins, and adaptation to climatic change [30
5. Applying DPSIR Framework to Seasonal Migrations in the Case Study
In the study area, primary “driving forces” that contribute to shaping the local environment are a rapid increase in population numbers chiefly from immigration into the community, spurred by political instability (in neighboring Nigeria) and opportunities for pasture arising from the reducing shores of the Lake Chad Rapid land use change owing to increased cultivation of food crops is also a driving force. The most desirable areas for food crop farming are dried-up areas in the dry season or new islands. These are areas of high fertility that are capable of supporting the off-season crops such as maize, groundnuts, and tubers (cassava). They also have the potential of supporting all year-round orchards (Figure 6
The most significant driving force, however, is the increase in the number of animals brought into the region by semi-nomadic herdsmen from other parts of the region (displaced by conflict, as well as drawn by opportunities of more abundant pasture as the lake reduces). In this case study, increased and unsustainable resource use are the main “pressures”. These include overgrazing of fragile pastures; unsustainable farming of lands that are vulnerable to wind and water erosion; and the increased use of water resources (Figure 7
). The current phenomenon of migrant flows into the study area is still quite recent. Many of the stated variables that such migration flows can disrupt are still in their very early stages. It can be expected that given the pressures of overpopulation, overgrazing, and unsustainable farming practices the “state” of the region’s land, water and natural vegetation may be affected. Increased population pressure is also leading to the development of settlements in areas that were not formally inhabited, putting pressures on the natural resources of those areas. Overgrazing is “impacting” the fragile ecosystems of the region (vegetation, biodiversity, soil organisms, water organisms). Poor farming practices are affecting the soil quality (reducing surface cover and protection from erosional forces, contributing to the physical, and biological degradation of the soil). As earlier mentioned, the problem of population movements in the study area is very recent and is current. Two of the key drivers of these movements (the shrinking of Lake Chad) and the political instability associated to the insurgency in northeastern Nigeria is ongoing. Much of the “response” remains a military endeavor to control the political instability and keep it from spreading into the Cameroonian side. Problems of environmental degradation can hardly take precedence under such circumstances.
It seems to suggest therefore that the ecology and economy of fragile environments could suffer even in the absence of sophisticated technologies for resource exploitation. The increase in population numbers coupled with the absence of sustainable processes of resource exploitation can as well have as much negative impact as the use of any sophisticated modern process for the unsustainable exploitation of resources.
While driving factors such as human population growth, land use change, and growth in demand for resources (see Figure 7
) may directly be contributing to pressures on in the Lake Chad Basin, there are underlying factors that explain the roots of these pressures. In an extensive comparative study of institutional changes and the politics of resource management in African floodplains, Fokou [24
] identified institutional weakness as a primary underlying cause of the poor management of common pool resources in the region. In a bid to establish state control, the government dismantled local groups that were managing common pool resources as common property regimes in areas of the floodplain [24
]. The state did not replace the role of these groups with any viable state ownership and management structure—thereby making resource extraction and governance to become uncontrolled and a de facto open access [24
]. Locally perceived signs of overuse in the floodplain, as well as the increase of conflicts between groups, are therefore symptoms of a weak state as a major feature of the institutional change [24
The current symptoms of resource pressures in the Lake Chad basin, therefore, have at their foundation a circumstance of weak governance. The driving forces in Figure 7
tend to manifest well because neither local nor state institutions regulating the access to resources are properly functional, nor can help to organize this new changing situation in an orderly way. The situation of governance can be understood through the framework of “fit” developed by Haller et al. [25
]. In this framework, “fit” refers to the local actors’ capacity to design institutions and to cope with problems in a particular context. “Fit” would explain the role of important features in local actors’ capacity such as flexibility, leadership, and mutual economic benefit as driving factors to address problems and cope with particular contexts [25
]. “Fit” cannot be achieved in the absence of local participation. Within this context, we can say that the uncontrolled process of influx into the Lake Chad basin, as well as the contributing factors to pressures on resources and their pattern of use, does not illustrate a “Tragedy of the Commons”. It rather demonstrates a failure in the process of institutional change and realignment of governance.
6. Policy Implications
The policy implications of changes in the patterns of seasonal migration around Lake Chad are multi-faceted. This is because the phenomenon affects different aspects of the social, economic and political life in the region. Given the threats to fisheries and fishing by anthropogenic factors (overpopulation, deforestation, and other unsustainable practices of resource extraction) and the shrinking of the lake, careful management, and a long-term perspective needs to be applied in the management of this activity in the region. Ongoing efforts by the Lake Chad Basin Commission which is responsible for fishery policy and coordinating remains insufficient and the organization is facing challenges of limited human, material and financial resources needed to address the range of challenges.
One important area of policy action may involve the creation of a viable network for the monitoring and the assessment of environmental resources of the lake, as well as the sources and dynamics of pressures that contribute to changes in these resources. While in theory, the Lake Chad Basin Commission envisions the existence of such a body that could be providing systematic updates on the state of the region, resource constraints do not permit the achievement of these efforts. Such monitoring can lay the groundwork for understanding ways in which resources and ecosystems are exploited more accurately, identifying and preventing pollution and contamination of the lake environments, assessing and implementing strategies for sectoral water demand, and improve flood plain management. The precarious political landscape demands a coordination of policies at the political level—a situation that is already being achieved by collaboration between Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, and Niger in the fight against extremist. A peaceful environment for the practice of livelihood activities can be conducive to the design and implementation of long-term policies of sustainable management in the region.
While the question of governance remains paramount in arriving at better strategies for managing resources in the Lake Chad region, all-inclusive participatory approaches to the management of natural resources also remain essential. Participatory approaches to resource governance and management that engage both local and immigrant populations in the discussion on how new rules for the management of the “old” commons, as well the “physically newly emerging commons” around the lake have the potential of contributing to better and sustainable outcomes. In relation to enhancing the governance of common pool resources, Chabwela and Haller [35
] identify the re-establishment of a sense of ownership by empowering local actors and facilitating participatory decision-making processes including all actors involved as relevant. Constitutionality is one of the tested approaches for analyzing bottom-up institution-building processes in situations such as in the Lake Chad basin [36
]. It emphasizes local perceptions and local agency in the management common pool resources.
This study had set out to examine the nature of seasonal migrations and temporary settlement in the Lake Chad basin area, and analyze strategies for accessing lake resources within the context of a decline in the area occupied by waters of the Lake Chad. Field observation based on surveys with local actors complemented with secondary data constitutes the principal method of data collection. It contributes to the understanding of the nature of migration and settlement in the Cameroon zone of Lake Chad and strategies for the control of resources in a context of environmental changes, diversification of rural actors (fishers, farmers, breeders) and weak resource management. Fishing remains the main activity in the Lake, but the gradual settlement of semi-nomadic pastoralists on the border south of Lake Chad is an important step for the occupation of this changing space. This is illustrated by the creation of several villages since the early 1980s. In fact, the very fertile lands exposed as a result of the shrinking of the lake are an opportunity for the development of the off-season agriculture in this area which is traditionally known for its practice of fishing and livestock rearing. The case of an increase in the area under maize production, reaching 22,000 ha, and producing 44,000 metric tons is a good illustration of this situation. The agricultural potential offered by the shrinking lake and the change in livelihood strategies adopted by both local populations and immigrants increases the complexity in the management of natural resources in this ecologically fragile zone of Cameroon. Conflicts among nationals of different countries over control of the lake’s water, land, and related resources in some villages, conflicts between small landowners and those involving large landowners are the consequences of the pressure linked to new settlements. It raises new questions and issues of land tenure for pastoral and agricultural activities, and sustainable water management to support these activities and the populations that depend on them. In addition to the traditional seasonal mobility of pastoralists in search of pasture for the survival of semi-nomadic pastoralism, there is the settlement of farmers and agro-pastoralist like the Arab chaos, Fulani, Hausa, Mousgoum, Massa, and others. This is a new situation that must be taken into account in the formulation of policies for the management of natural resources in the Lake Chad area. The evaluation and the monitoring of environmental resources and the analysis of the sources and dynamics of pressures on resources should be necessary.