News | West Africa - Socio-ecological Transformation - Climate Justice Fighting Climate Change in Casamance

For people living on the Senegalese coast, climate change is already very real



Ibrahima Thiam,

Fallen dead filao tree on the ocean coastline.

On February 14, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) started the final negotiations on the second part of its Sixth Assessment Report. On February 28, the agreen-on version of the report will be published. In these reports, thousands of scientists summarize the state of research on climate change. While the first part of the report deals with the causes of global warming, the second part focuses on the consequences of climate change that are to be expected. Or that are already being felt, as reports from our offices in Africa show: In Senegal, villages are being forced to give way to the rising sea, and rice farmers are losing their livelihoods. And in southern Africa, the worst drought in decades causes water shortages and famine  - phenomena that will become more frequent and more severe as temperatures rise.


Ibrahima Thiam works as a project manager in the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s West Africa Office in Dakar, Senegal.

This article first appeared at Climate Justice Central, an RLS-sponsored platform created to amplify the voices of young African journalists and activists around climate justice issues.

The encroaching sea has wiped out many communities along the Senegalese Atlantic coast. Salinization is also making it impossible for rural communities to grow rice, a staple food in the area. Some people are fighting back. They are planting trees, changing diets, and alerting the world to the changes that are already happening right now in Senegal. We spoke with a few of them about their stories of resilience and survival.

Demba Diatta from Diembering.

My name is Demba Diatta. I have lived here in Diembering all my life. The dead trees you see along the shoreline are called filao. The Department of Fisheries told us in the 1990s that if we planted filao trees, they would stop the ocean from advancing and flooding our farmlands. So we planted the trees. However, they are all dead now. The ocean has advanced by as much as one kilometre, as you can see. Most of these trees are in the ocean now. It is very frightening. 

We asked the youth to create an association called Douwate to alert the entire world and our government to what is going on here. We want them to know that in a few years’ time, there will be nothing left here. Diembering will disappear. It will be under water. It will all be gone and they will need to find us new homes. 

Bringing home some fish from the ocean.

There is nothing left between Diembering and the ocean. All that is left is water. When we are born, we all know that our profession is rice farmer — that we will all become rice farmers. There is nothing else to do here. We eat rice at breakfast, lunch, and supper. Thank God, we still have rice, but it is a lot less than what we used to produce. The encroaching sea is making it impossible for us to grow food. 

You are our eyes, mouth, and ears. We are grateful that you came here to see for yourself.

Through you, the government will see that climate change is real, that the consequences of climate change are real. If we do not find solutions quickly, the consequences will be devastating for many communities. Help us because we do not know how to do anything else. We are rice farmers. We cannot live in the city. 

René Jean Pierre Preira

My name is René Jean Pierre Preira, Chief of Sindone village. What we have here is an abandoned community — the entire community abandoned. We have two entire communities that were abandoned in 1995 due to the war in Casamance: Tranquil and Ndambour. 

We are now standing in a field that has not been cultivated since 1995 because it was flooded by seawater. All these fields have been contaminated with salt. We used to till all these fields. But they are almost useless now. The quantities of rice that we harvest now have dropped by half. 

Seawater is flooding some areas, making them too salty for farming.

We tried to reclaim this land with the help of an NGO — in vain. We don’t produce much rice any more. They have built a road here that prevents seawater from receding. The water in our fields is deeper now. We don’t catch any fish any more. People have to go looking elsewhere to get rice to eat, to supplement the reduced quantities that they produce now. Our farmers, fishermen, and hunters are all struggling. 

However, with the help of RENADE, we have hope. 

Aliou Cissé

Climate change has already had a major impact on our lives. If we cannot farm, we cannot get food to eat, we cannot get any money. We noticed that our land had been completely flooded by seawater. We noticed that people were very reluctant to work the land, to till their fields — all that due to salinization. 

Senegalese youth have created an association known as RENADE. It is an NGO that works in the area of sustainable development. They are very active in Ziguinchor and Casamance. 

When we were young, we used to catch a lot of fish here. Fish used to cost only five kobo (around USD 0.08). Now fields are being abandoned and farmers are becoming fishermen. We need to find solutions to all these problems in order for our community to survive. 

We have found a way to reclaim some of our farmland and start producing again. We also need to start producing our own fish. We have some ponds here and we need to dig more fish ponds along the entire shoreline — that way we get fish and it also stops seawater from flowing onto farmland. We can also breed and release some juvenile fish back into the ocean. That way we have a more sustainable stock.

Souleymane Ndiaye

I live in Diogué. I was born in 1953. I became a conservationist in order to help my country. This building you see behind me — it used to be in the middle of a forest. The forest is gone now. Rising sea levels have flooded the entire area. I started planting filao to help stop the encroaching sea. So many people have stopped farming rice because there is too much salt in some fields. 

You cannot stand in some areas anymore — you will be completely submerged by water. 

If we cannot stop the encroaching sea, it will not stop here in Diogué or Senegal. I hope that our children and our children’s children shall continue this effort because otherwise, there would be nothing left here.