Adapt or Depart? Examining the Nexus of Scarcity of Water and Environmental Migration in East Africa | “The Next Wave of Water Governance” Diffused Conference Thematic Seminars

September 18, 2024

Postponed to September, date TBC

“Adapt or Depart? Examining the Nexus of Scarcity of Water and Environmental Migration in East Africa” by Sinafekesh Girma Wolde (NEWAVE ESR3)

The global intensification of hydroclimatic events has increasingly intertwined the challenge of water security with issues of food security and human migration. Warming trends, aridification, and the intensification of extreme hydroclimatic events, combined with underlying non-environmental drivers, have set millions of people on the move. This research analyzes metadata and investigates the complex web of environmental drivers of migration in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), while also highlighting subregional differences in the predominant environmental forces. Furthermore, the analysis of migration drivers in Ethiopia and Somalia evaluates the ongoing influence of scarcity of water indicators on both observed and future migration patterns in the region. As a region heavily reliant on rainfed agriculture, extreme hydroclimatic changes critically disrupt peoples ability to adapt, relentlessly intensifying the pressure on these vulnerable communities. 

Therefore, our research uses geospatial data, demographic surveys, hydrological modeling, and multivariate spatial analysis to examine the multifaceted challenges posed by agricultural water scarcity, food insecurity, and drought on environmental migration trends. The study considers both natural factors (such as rainfall patterns and hydrological changes) and anthropogenic factors (such as agricultural practices and productivity). Findings highlight critical intervention points for policymakers by quantifying the causal linkages and interdependencies between different hydroclimatic events. These insights aim to guide the development of climate-resilient water management, sustainable agriculture, and livelihood diversification strategies. Addressing these interconnected issues is crucial for water security and climate change adaptation in East Africa, which is vital for sustainable development and regional stability in the face of a changing climate.


About the speaker

Sinafekesh Girma is an early-career researcher, PhD candidate, and youth advocate with a robust educational background in civil engineering and Integrated water resources management (IWRM). Her professional journey spans from engineering to humanitarian and development projects across East Africa, where she has played a pivotal role in providing WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) and water supply facilities to communities in arid regions. Her unique blend of technical expertise and hands-on humanitarian and development work has provided her with a user-centric mindset, which is crucial for her research on global water governance and the critical intersections of water and migration in Ethiopia and Somalia. In addition to academics, Sinafekesh is a passionate advocate for young water professionals, serving on the boards of the Water Youth Network and the Ethiopian Geophysical Union International. Her proactive engagement has led to speaking at the UN Water Conference 2023 and presenting and translating research works to academics and the public through conferences, workshops, and scientific publications.

Moderators & discussants

Maria Cristina Rulli is Professor of Hydrology at the Politecnico di Milano, Italy. Her research focuses on the mutual interaction between hydrological processes and humanity.

Paolo D’Odorico is a Thomas J. Graff Professor of Natural Resources. His research focuses on the role of hydrological processes in the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems.

This seminar is part of the “The Next Wave of Water Governance” Diffused Conference Thematic Seminar series. The series includes bi-weekly seminars on the key topics of water governance investigated by the NEWAVE Early Stage Researchers. You can register for learn more and see the full schedule of the upcoming sessions at this link.