Women in the climate crisis
Population growth, lack of rule of law, widespread corruption, and increasingly scarce natural resources due to climate change are fuelling an increasingly ruthless conflict in the Sahel region. The routes of the nomadic Fulani herders are increasingly blocked by the farms of the predominantly Christian smallholders. They depend on the land to feed their families. While subsistence farming continues to spread, the space for traditional migratory movements is shrinking.
The women of Lake Chad are particularly affected by the volatile situation and changing weather patterns caused by climate change: as it becomes increasingly difficult for their communities to be self-sufficient, they are forced to travel longer and more dangerous distances to access resources such as water or wood. At the same time, the knowledge and experience passed on by women over generations is indispensable for recognising climate disasters early-on and reinforcing the resilience of their communities in the long term. Therefore, they play a key role in developing appropriate adaptation and mitigation strategies in the face of the climate crisis.
A woman on her way to her farm in the village of Bare at Lake Chad (Nigeria). Some parts of the lake have already dried up, forcing the women to walk further and further to get water. The residents of the neighbouring village of Dasso are also reluctant to return to their farms after it was destroyed by Fulani nomads. This puts additional strain on the already scarce food resources of the Sahel region.
Halima with her favourite calf (Andamawa, Nigeria). 85 per cent of child labour on the African continent takes place in the agricultural sector (ILO). Around 73 million minors – one in five African children – work mainly on their families’ land and in family farms and businesses. They are mainly employed in fishing and palm oil production, as livestock herders or harvest workers.
Women in the Nigerian state of Andamawa at Lake Chad. Climate change particularly threatens the livelihoods of the female population: not only do women make up the vast majority of people living in poverty worldwide, they also account for 50 to 80 per cent of the global food production. Yet they own less than ten percent of the land used for it (UN). They are heavily dependent on local natural resources to make a living and are therefore particularly affected by the impacts of climate change.
A scene in the camp of the Fulani nomads: the children have breakfast before heading west towards Kiri (Andamawa, Nigeria). The Fulani move with their cattle through the Sahel region, where the conflict over grazing land and water between the predominantly Christian smallholders and the migrant herders is constantly coming to a head. In times of need, women and girls often work additionally to provide resources for the community that are necessary for survival. This leaves less time for education and independent income generation.
A young Nigerian girl in the Dar es Salam refugee camp in Chad: the camp housed around 15,000 refugees seeking protection from Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria – most of them women and children. The human right to education often falls by the wayside when people are forced to flee wars and natural disasters: according to UNCHR, four out of five underage refugees had no secure access to education in 2018.
Andy Spyra (born in 1984 in Hagen) is a German photographer and photojournalist. He became famous for his mostly black-and-white photographs of crisis regions. In spring 2020, he was one of the last reporters to travel to the Sahel region before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. This region has been fiercely contested for years and is marked by droughts, famine, poverty and violence.
With his photos, Spyra documents the dramatic effects of global warming in the region. His work highlights how climate change is becoming an accelerant for terror, ethnic conflicts and distribution struggles over water and land, and how violence and hunger are forcing millions of people to flee their homes. More impressions from the Sahel region can be found here.
Spyra’s photos appear in TIME Magazine, GEO, Stern, FAZ, SPIEGEL, Zeit and The New Yorker, among others.