A climate for conflict

by  Nichole Sobecki

Somalia is considered one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change.

In one generation, the country changed from semi-arid to desert. The two major annual rainfall seasons that ensure subsistence agriculture for the inhabitants are no longer present and the drought is since 2011 an increasingly severe and delicate reality.


Access to water and food has become increasingly difficult and the expert estimate is that the amount of rainfall has dropped by about 15% in recent years.

Since 1991, a civil war has plagued the country and left heavy casualties and a track of violence that is far from over: over 1/4 milions of dead and about 300,000 people seeking refuge, many of them to neighboring Kenya, where there are some of the largest refugee camps in the world, such as Dadaab, where is in threat of imminent closure.


The Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab extremist group has since 2000 been mastering more and more areas of the country, recruiting new members into the most fragile population, controlling schools and implementing training camps for foreign fighters. The attacks have been frequent in Somalia but have also spread to Kenya.

For those who do not flee from Somalia, the situation is of imminent choice in the face of new realities brought about by conflict and climate change.


Over 18 months, photographer and filmmaker Nichole Sobecki and writer Laura Heaton made six trips to Somalia and Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya to document this transformation and its human consequences.

The Nichole Sobecki’s documentary, “A Climate for Conflict,” combines the expertise of Somali activists and scientists with the personal stories of people struggling to cope with a changing environment, like a fisherman who becomes a pirate, after the waters have been "invaded" by foreign vessels that have fished the region's resources, a camel keeper who goes to war with his neighbors due to lack of water and pastures, the history of a peasant who joins Al-Shabaab when the drought becomes unbearable and the famine as well. The story of the father who is afraid for his children, for the future and for the country.


This is an objective and concrete document that shows people in their daily struggle in subsistence and in the will not to lose an identity, a place and a country. The work of Nichole Sobecki, built in a visually very interesting way, demonstrates the fragility of communities and social systems based on natural cycles and totally dependent on them.

With climate change, social contradictions become evident, and a relationship of forces that tends to oppress and subdue those with the least resources and tools is evident. This is thus a work of enormous interest and importance to those who tend to make quick and assertive decisions and to judge very clearly the right and the wrong, the good and the bad. There are not only two sides, white and black, there is a huge range of gray for which it is necessary to look, reflect and understand.



15 minutes

Directed by Nichole Sobecki and Laura Heaton

Produced by The Groundtruth Project