Climate experts seek ‘quick, viable’ policy response to tackle rainfall variability impacts
Published: November 30, 2012
DOHA: Exacerbating rainfall variability, now at a faster pace, caused by climate change has accelerated migration, deepened food and livelihood security, the climate, food security and development groups found out through a latest study.
The findings of the innovative comparative research study ‘Where the Rain Falls’ confirm that variability in rainfall and mounting food insecurity are key drivers for what they called human migration. “The migration has really induced manifold with increased rainfall variability in Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Ghana, Tanzania, Guatemala and Peru,” said Koko Warner, scientific director at the U.N. University for Where the Rain Falls project.
Migration is often temporary and seasonal, but can be permanent if options for survival cannot be found to cope with variability in rainfall and food security, the study found out. It further says that rural people – in the eight countries surveyed – perceive climate changes happening today in the shape of changing rainfall patterns, according to the study.
The first generation of empirical research as a precursor for rainfalls – conducted recently in the eight countries jointly by the United Nations University in Bonn, CARE International and financially supported by the AXA Group Research Fund and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation – unravels close relationship between climate change, food insecurity and migration in the global south.
The evidence-based research, launched on Nov 29 at the side event of the two-week-long global climate talks in Doha, shows that the changes in timing, quality, quantity and overall predictability of rainfall affect households’ risk management decisions including migration.
The largely agriculture-based households in the eight research countries report that rainfall variability is negatively affecting production and contributing to food and likelihood insecurity. In the research countries, rainfall has a direct relationship through food insecurity with household migration decisions in research sites, where the dependence on rain-fed agriculture was high and local livelihood diversification options were low, the study highlights.
The study also reveals that although migrations are driven by livelihood-related needs (household income) in most countries, but with a growing number of migrations seek improved skill sets (e.g. through education) in countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Peru to better cope with climate change impacts.
On the other hand, a mix of rural-rural and rural-urban with more productive agricultural areas in Ghana, Bangladesh, Tanzania, nearby urban centres in Peru and India, mining areas in Ghana and industrial estates in Thailand and Vietnam as the most common destinations, the study says.
Koko Warner explained, “Although we have seen through our research that levels of food insecurity vary across the sites, migration decisions are more intimately inter-linked to downpour in places, where reliance on rain-fed farming was high and local livelihood diversification options were quite limited.” “When we look into the future, our modeling results for Tanzania reveal that migration from vulnerable households could double during the next 25 years under the most extreme drying scenario.”
Referring to the research study, Tonya Rawe, senior policy advocate for CARE USA, said that unsustainable livelihoods like rain-fed agriculture and livestock farming are increasingly at peril as rainfall variability becomes severer.
“The communities that participated in the eight-country study have tenuous livelihoods, which are more susceptible to changing rainfall patterns. And, as the impacts of climate change – like floods or droughts or shifting seasons and rainfall pattern – increase, they [communities] move closer to the edge,” Rawe told The Lahore Times.
The vulnerable communities, she underlined, need urgently a real viable policy and workable solutions today at all levels, particularly in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). For, as impacts proliferate, households grow more vulnerable and have less capacity to adapt, potentially resulting in increased migration driven by hunger, she argued.
Meanwhile, forward-looking Henry of the CARE France said that the understanding of how climate factors affect migration decisions can really help frame better policies and adaptation investments that ensure that whatever strategies households use including migration will contribute to increased climate change resilience.
“If national and global policymakers do not act quickly, both to mitigate global warming and support rural communities to adapt, food insecurity and migration are most likely to intensify in decades to come – but with all the political, security and humanitarian consequences,” he believes.
A U.N study reveals that the temperatures are set to rise 3 and 5 degree Celsius by 2100. Even after mitigation actions have been taken and adaptation choices have been made, climate impacts are likely to outstrip the options available to vulnerable countries, communities and households. It is likely to worsen the situation in parts of the world that already experience high levels of food insecurity.
The consequences of greater variability of rainfall conditions – less predictable seasons, more erratic rainfall, unseasonable events or the loss of transitional seasons have significant impacts for food security, the livelihoods of missions of people and the migration decisions of vulnerable households. This may plung many into a downward spiral of worsening livelihoods and food insecurity, creating loss and damage to their well-being that exceeds in aggregate anything yet experienced.
Ms Warner told The Lahore Times that the in-depth studies seek to influence climate change policy and its implementation with key applied aspects to fight poverty and protect the most vulnerable people.
“The key objective of bringing these studies here are taking key stakeholders onboard on findings here [at the Nov. 26 to Dec. 7 climate talks in Doha]and sensitise them on how gravely rainfall variability is an increasing threat to the humans and their survival,” she said while spelling out major purpose and philosophy of the research study.
“While migration is a major risk management strategy for vulnerable households in the eight countries, land scarce households trying to deal with food security send migrants during the hunger season to in search of food or money to buy food,” said CARE France’s Kevin Henry, project coordinator for Where the Rain Falls.
However, through advocacy and practice, the Where the Rain Falls project – launched in 2011 – also provides a stage for stakeholders including southern civil society organisations to contribute in policy plans and practical interventions at nation, regional and local levels, Henry said.
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