Stephen A. Adaawen and Jürgen Scheffran


The impacts of environmental change and degradation on human populations, including the possibility of sharp increases in the number of people considered “environmental migrants” have gained considerable attention. Migrating communities may try to distribute their members along particular lines of kinship, gender, marriage and/or services linked to land exploitation and agriculture. This paper explores archives and narratives of African migrants in northwestern Benin and northeastern Ghana. These regions have been marked by severe ecological change and resource deterioration over the years, as well as changes in marital patterns, family relations and customary practices. In the case of Benin, the paper looks at different ethnic groups that migrated from neighboring countries to the study region. It then focuses on the Biali, who undertake marriage journeys after practicing rituals, which are often related to agricultural activities. The Frafra (Ghana), who, in their bid to out-migrate as a livelihood/coping strategy in the advent of environmental deterioration and rainfall variability, are confronted with high bride prices, changing family relations and customary practices. The paper concludes by highlighting socio-cultural changes that ensue in the face of outmigration among different ethnic groups, especially the Biali and Frafra, and the relationship between non-environmental and environmental factors, and mobility strategies.