On the 13thof December 2021, We the People hosted a delegation of community activists and climate justice campaigners from Senegal in its Port Harcourt office. The exchange visit which is part of We the People’s plan to collaboratively establish a West Africa Climate Justice Movement, provided an opportunity for climate and environmental activists from both countries to share experiences on the ecological and livelihood impacts of climate change and oil extraction.
According to the delegation from Senegal, their communities are already living with the impacts of climate change. In the last decade, there has been noticeable rise in sea level which has caused flooding and salinization. These massive annual floods have resulted in inundation of farms causing severe food insecurity, as well as increased migration of community folks. This is similar to recent occurrences in Nigeria. Recall that since 2012, several Nigerian communities lying along the coastal plains of the south have been exposed to annual floods that destroy farms and whole communities.
Interestingly crude oil has recently been discovered in exploitable quantities in parts of Senegal. The meeting provided opportunity for members of Niger delta communities where oil has been extracted from for the last 7 decades, to share experiences on the impacts of oil extraction on their lives and livelihoods.
Unfortunately, the similarities of climate impacts as well as the causal linkages between many of the climate induced crises in West Africa have not been sufficiently established, especially in government policies and responses. These are often treated as isolated and independent occurrences. As a result of this, the frustration and anger occasioned by these climate stresses have found expression in conflicts and migrations, rather than in collective push to address the sources and impacts of climate change.
The interaction resolved to identify and highlight the common impacts of climate change in the West Africa region, and collectively establish strategies and frameworks for addressing them. It further resolved to work towards ensuring that the voices of frontline communities in the region are amplified and projected.
The delegation visited degraded environment in Ogoniland and oil polluted fishing communities in Port Harcourt.