I’ve been pointing out for several years that failure of sub-Saharan Africans to lower their fertility to sustainable levels the way almost everybody on Earth has done presents humanity with quite likely the single biggest challenge facing the world in the 21st Century.
AGADEZ, Niger — The world dismisses them as economic migrants. The law treats them as criminals who show up at a nation’s borders uninvited. Prayers alone protect them on the journey across the merciless Sahara.
But peel back the layers of their stories and you find a complex bundle of trouble and want that prompts the men and boys of West Africa to leave home, endure beatings and bribes, board a smuggler’s pickup truck and try to make a living far, far away.
Some go to the cities first, only to find jobs are scarce. Some come from countries ruled by dictators, like Gambia, whose longtime ruler recently refused to accept the results of an election he lost.
His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen Babili Mansa, Commander in Chief of The Armed Forces and Chief Custodian of the Sacred Constitution of the Gambia (and also a Kentucky colonel and a Nebraska admiral), alleged Russian hacking. No just kidding:
Although he initially conceded defeat, on 9 December 2016, he rejected the result citing “unacceptable abnormalities”. He subsequently announced he had annulled the result, pending a new vote. He then filed a petition with the Supreme Court of the Gambia to contest the result.
Sounds like if this recount thing doesn’t work out for him, he could get a job with Jill Stein. Or, judging from his witch-hunting skills, with the SPLC. From the NYT in 2009:
The president, it seems, had become concerned about witches in this country of mango trees, tropical scrub, dirt roads, innumerable police checkpoints and Atlantic coastline frequented by sun-seeking European tourists mostly unaware of the activities at nearby Mile 2 State Central Prison, where many opponents of the regime are taken.
To the accompaniment of drums, and directed by men in red tunics bedecked with mirrors and cowrie shells, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Gambians were taken from their villages and driven by bus to secret locations. There they were forced to drink a foul-smelling concoction that made them hallucinate, gave them severe stomach pains, induced some to try digging a hole in a tiled floor, made others try climbing up a wall and in some cases killed them, according to the villagers themselves and Amnesty International.
The objective was to root out witches, evil sorcerers who were harming the country, the villagers were told. Terrified, dozens of other people fled into the bush or across the border into Senegal to escape the dragnet, villagers said, leaving whole regions deserted. Amnesty estimates that at least six people died after being forced to drink the potion, whose composition is unknown.
This journey has become a rite of passage for West Africans of his generation. The slow burn of climate change makes subsistence farming, already risky business in a hot, arid region, even more of a gamble. Pressures on land and water fuel clashes, big and small. Insurgencies simmer across the region, prompting United States counterterrorism forces to keep watch from a base on the outskirts of Agadez.
This year, more than 311,000 people have passed through Agadez on their way to either Algeria or Libya, and some onward to Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration. The largest numbers are from Niger and its West African neighbors, including Mr. Bokoum’s home, Mali.
Scholars of migration count people like Mr. Bokoum among the millions who could be displaced around the world in coming decades as rising seas, widening deserts and erratic weather threaten traditional livelihoods. For the men who pour through Agadez, these hardships are tangled up with intense economic, political and demographic pressures.
“Climate change on its own doesn’t force people to move but it amplifies pre-existing vulnerabilities,” said Jane McAdam, an Australian law professor who studies the trend. They move when they can no longer imagine a future living off their land — or as she said, “when life becomes increasingly intolerable.”
But many of these people fall through the cracks of international law. The United Nations 1951 refugee convention applies only to those fleeing war and persecution, and even that treaty’s obligation to offer protection is increasingly flouted by many countries wary of foreigners. …
As Mr. Idi, 33, led me through his fields, he recalled hearing stories of what Chana looked like before a great drought swept across the Sahel in the 1970s and 1980s. The village was encircled by trees, he was told.
Sub-Saharan Africa is in the throes of a population boom, which means that people have to grow more food precisely at a time when climate change is making it all the more difficult. Fertility rates remain higher than in other parts of the world, and Niger has the highest in the entire world: Women bear more than seven children on average.
Once every three years, according to scientists from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, or FEWS Net, Niger faces food insecurity, or a lack of adequate food to eat. Hunger here is among the worst in the world: About 45 percent of Niger’s children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition.