New Era (Windhoek)

30 November 2012

Africa: Climate Change Triggers Nomadic Lifestyle

Doha — Humans have resorted to 'nomadic' lifestyles as they try to weather out the climate change storm. Only in this case the nomadic lifestyle is not only on finding greener pasture for subsistance farming, but also on humans migrating in search of job opportunities so that they can send remmittances home.

This is according to an empirical research among eight communities in Asia, Latin America and Africa. The study found a definite relationship between rainfall variability, food security and human mobility. CARE International and the United Nations University carried out the study titled 'Where the Rain Falls' in Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Ghana, Tanzania, Guatemala and Peru, which revealed that migration is an important risk management strategy for vulnerable households.

"Our evidence-based research shows that rural people perceive climate changes happening today in the form of rainfall variability. The changes in timing, quality, quantity and overall predictability of rainfall affect households' risk management decisions, including migration," said Dr Koko Warner the United Nations University scientific director for the research, on the sidelines of the 18th session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) underway in Doha, Qatar.

The research is based on 1 300 household survey and participatory research sessions involving 2 000 individuals. It found that although the levels of food insecurity vary across the sites, migration decisions were more closely linked to rainfall in places where the dependence on rain-fed agriculture was high and local livelihood diversification options were low. Warner said although migration can be seen as a coping mechanism to avoid household food insecurity, it cannot be a sustainable coping measure in future, as migrants only depend on their basic skills.

However, in some cases the remittances help with important household necessities such as paying for children's education. "In some cases, women have to eat less to feed the children before they can eat," Warner added. According to Warner, even marginal changes in rainfall patterns dramatically affect households and migration patterns. "We need to make sure that they have options," she said.

According to the report, migration is often temporary and seasonal, if migrants are successful, but can be permanent if options cannot be found to deal with rainfall variability and rural food insecurity.

Senior policy advocate for CARE USA, Tonya Rawe, said it is vital to target the fundamental problem, saying the communities that participated in the 'Where the Rain Falls' research have fragile livelihoods, and as the impacts of climate change increase move closer to the edge of crisis.

"They need real policy and practical solutions today, at all levels, including here in the UNFCCC. As impacts increase, households grow more vulnerable and have less capacity to adapt, potentially leading to more migration driven by hunger, undertaken as a last resort, and further increasing vulnerability," Rawe said. Hence the need for a clear path of financial support for these communities, with immediate, drastic actions.

"We need a better sense from parties how they will get this money and the adaptation committee has a role to play to address these vulnerable households. We need a full conversation of these things," said Rawe.

Rawe reiterated the call from Least Developed Countries (LDCs), that there should be a mechanism for loss and damage to cater for vulnerable communities, which are affected by climate change and global warming.

Kevin Henry, the research coordinator at CARE France, said understanding how climate factors affect migration decisions can help shape both policies and adaptation investments, which will contribute to increased resilience to climate change. The absence of speedy reaction from policy makers would likely result in humanitarian, political and security threats.

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