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Terrorism and climate change are widely considered as the two most important threats of our time, but what few realize is the extent to which the two are related.
Although terrorism has developed its cruelty over time, the threat it represents today has cast a very long and shadowy shadow over the world. By systematically murdering, raping, persecuting and kidnapping the so-called Islamic State and the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram has contributed to the creation of social divisions beyond the countries where their ideologies emerged. And they have done it, in part, with the help of that other deeply disturbing issue of our times: climate change.
“As the climate is changing, so are the conditions in which non-state armed groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State operate,” says DW Lukas Rüttinger, an expert on peace and security and resources of the expert group “adelphi “, based in Berlin.
While stressing that climate change “does not create terrorists, rebels or criminals,” it says it helps create the kind of fragile environments in which such groups can thrive, by driving food insecurity and forcing local populations to compete for natural resources. dwindling as land and water.
The Islamic State, says Rüttinger, has used the shortage of the latter in particular, as a weapon of war and as a lever to recruit new recruits among rural communities where loss of crops and the death of livestock is very frequent.
“These groups can offer alternative livelihoods, economic incentives and, in some cases, can respond – even temporarily – to real social, political and economic problems,” says the expert.
Desertification equals despair
Yahaya Ahmed, founder of the Renewable Energy Development Association of Nigeria (DARE), cites a correlation between the reduction of Lake Chad and the emergence of Boko Haram as an example. “They came as a kind of Messiah for the masses.”
About eighty percent of those living in the Chad basin, which includes Chad, Cameroon, Niger and northeastern Nigeria, depend on the lake for agriculture and fisheries that form the basis of their existence. But as its drought progresses, more and more land in the region has become desert.
“We discovered that about ten kilometers from the Niger border, about 200 villages were affected by desertification,” says Ahmed. “People have to move, but there is no resettlement program, so they feel very frustrated, and many were indoctrinated to take up arms, because that’s the only thing they can do.”
Success story on a micro scale
Ahmed, whose work includes teaching people how to sensitize rural communities about sustainable stoves, as a means to reduce widespread deforestation – which in itself is a major contributor to desertification – has direct experience of such collateral benefits.
“The commander of the local police brought us four boys whom he had already arrested 17 times,” he explained. “Because he thought that locking them up would solve his problems, he asked if we could train them.” A “bit skeptical” to begin with, the DARE founder finally agreed and said he witnessed a 180 degree transformation in them, and that “the hardest boy” became one of his best coaches.
“Boko Haram could easily have recruited him,” Ahmed said, adding that there are many children and young people like him who roam the street begging and other times robbing to survive. The boys now earn a little and have acquired a new perspective to protect them from the advances of a terrorist group that uses money as a means of coercion.
“I see it as a very simple solution,” says Ahmed, adding that by giving the boys training, skills and perspectives, the terrorists would not have anyone to recruit. “I think Boko Haram could be stopped completely in six months.”