Where the rain falls: Evidence from 8 countries on how vulnerable households use migration to manage the risk of rainfall variability and food insecurity

Koko Warner, United Nations University

Up to present, research relating environmental change to human mobility has found out that environmental factors can play a role in migration without being conclusive. Further, in the context of climate change, scholarly literature on migration ranges across a host of climatic stressors and geographies, making it difficult to date to solve the debate whether migration is a form of adaptation or an indicator of limits to adaptation. To address both of these debates, original research was undertaken to answer the question ‘under what circumstances do households (HHs) use migration as a risk management strategy when facing rainfall variability and food insecurity?’. This research administered a HH survey (n = 1300) and participatory research (n = 2000 respondents) in districts in eight countries (Guatemala, Peru, Ghana, Tanzania, Bangladesh, India, Thailand, and Vietnam). The findings reveal that the answer to how climatic stressors affect migration decisions and the degree to which migration improves the adaptive capacity of those HHs lie in the vulnerability of the HH and its sensitivity to climatic factors. The data reveal for the first time in a comparable global study distinct HH profiles of ‘resilience’ and ‘vulnerability’. At the same time, the article distinguishes between ‘content’ migration – rather associated with resilient HHs – and ‘erosive’ migration – rather associated with vulnerable HHs. However, the article also highlights that there are not always clear cuts but very often grey areas and overlaps among the HHs of the study when applying these typologies. Moreover, the article relates these profiles to an agentbased modelling approach applied in the Tanzania case to explore under what scenarios rainfall variability and food security have the potential to become significant drivers of human mobility in particular regions of the world in the next two to three decades.

About the speaker
Dr. Koko Warner (United Nations University) researches the impacts of climate change in communities across the world. The International Council of Science recently named Koko one of the top 20 women making waves in the climate change debate. She is a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change´s Fifth Assessment Report, Working Group 2 on Adaptation. Koko speaks and writes about these findings widely, and she also leads an innovation lab –the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative--that tests new ideas about climate risk management strategies in practice. Koko and brings these findings and possible solutions to decision makers in national and international policy fora like the UNFCCC climate negotiations.

Date: 15 June 2015

Time: 14:00 - 14:45


UNU-MERIT