Climate Change

Short-distance migrations help communities manage climate shocks: Study

Many migrate short distances inside their own countries to harness opportunities out there or adapt to shocks and stressors in their life

By Arya Rohini
Published: Thursday 09 March 2023
Most migratory movements, contrary to popular belief, involve short-distance relocation. Representative photo: iStock.

Short-distance migration — accounting for the most considerable portion of global migratory movements — is very critical for climate change adaptation, according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Most migratory movements, contrary to popular belief, involve short-distance relocation caused primarily by economic, social and environmental variables such as climate change, said Everyday mobility and changing livelihood trajectories: Implications for vulnerability and adaptation in dryland regions report.

Also read: Migration out of climate change

The study, published on March 9, 2023, concentrated on those living in the drylands of India and parts of Africa.

The fields of research in India were Karnataka’s Kolar and Gulbarga districts. Diversification to non-farm labour and the daily commute to Bangalore are common sites in Kolar, a town in north Karnataka.

Gulbarga, a district where agricultural livelihoods dominate, has seen much historical outmigration to large cities, the document noted.

The focus had always been on international migration and how climate change will force many to flee across borders. A large number of people migrate short distances inside their own countries to harness opportunities out there or adapt to shocks and stressors in their life, Mark Tebboth, who led the research.

“Supporting and enabling this migration will help people to continue to adapt to the pressures in their lives,” Tebboth said in a press release.

The drylands of Ghana, Kenya and Namibia are the areas analysed when it comes to Africa. Arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas are collectively known as drylands — the largest global biome — covering 45 per cent of the Earth’s surface and home to more than a third of the population.

Also read: Climate dystopia: As debate continues over COP27 outcomes, a world upside down is not far off

Drylands are distinguished by poor and extremely unpredictable water supply and high temperatures.

Multiple pressures — increasing rates of aridity and soil degradation; poorly planned and implemented development interventions; rapid population growth; historically high rates of poverty; poor communication infrastructure; and isolation from national centres of power — exert stress on these regions.

These variables strain natural resource-based livelihoods, forcing communities to migrate. Such migration “is normalised within lives and livelihoods and these movements are crucial in helping people to manage different shocks and stresses within their lives, including increasing climate variability,” Tebboth noted.

Most mobility, especially that in which environmental change is of some influence, is and will remain local, added Tebboth.

“Land degradation lowered agricultural incomes in Ghana by $4.2 billion between 2006 and 2015, increasing the national poverty rate by 5.4 per cent in 2015,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had pointed out.

Environmental and land degradation increased mobility in Kenya, it added. “Fragmentation of habitats, reduction in the range of livestock grazing and higher stocking rates are considered to be the main drivers for vegetation structure loss in the rangelands of Kenya,” the report said.

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