Floods in the Sahel: An analysis of anomalies, memory, and anticipatory learning

This study explores the implications of recent extreme rainfall and flood events in the Sahel and the wider West African region for climate change adaptation. Are these events merely a temporal nuisance as suggested by the lingering desertification discourse or will more climatic extremes characterize the region over the next century? After reviewing incidences of severe rainfall and projected future climate variability, the paper examines local flood knowledge and decision-making, drawing upon a case study in Ghana. The data demonstrate that a variety of response strategies to flooding exist; yet, knowledge of and access to climate forecasts and other learning tools are essentially absent. So far, floods have not triggered mass displacement although cumulative environmental deterioration is likely to cause environmental refugees. The paper recommends to lay to rest the desertification narrative, consider the possibility of both floods and droughts, and mobilize local memory for anticipatory learning and practical adaptation.

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