When Is Migration a Maladaptive Response to Climate Change?


Jacobson, Chris, Stacy Crevello, Chanthan Chea, and Ben Jarihani. 2019. “When Is Migration a Maladaptive Response to Climate Change?” Regional Environmental Change 19 (1): 101–12. 

Authors: Chris Jacobson, Stacy Crevello, Chanthan Chea, Ben Jarihani


Climate change affects rainfall variability and food security, in some cases leading to migration. Improved understanding about the interactions between climate and food security is needed before we can determine whether migration is a truly adaptive response in poorer countries. Without this understanding, it is difficult to design effective strategies that ensure climate resilient development. We present an analysis of climate, food security, migration, and its consequences from 218 households in three locations in North-western Cambodia, the most climate vulnerable nation in SE Asia. Results show that migration occurs in up to 45% of households, over half of which is climate-related. Migration causes labour shortages and welfare issues, but does not necessarily improve food security. This and climate trends lead us to argue that migration may be maladaptive over the long term, resulting in a climate-induced poverty trap. Instead, livelihood adaptations are needed that address (i) changing community demographics resulting from young male migrants, (ii) migration seasonality, associated labour shortages and gender role implications, and (iii) the burden of food insecurity. Only then can we avoid the maladaptive climate migration poverty trap.

Keywords: food security, adaptation, Cambodia, resilience, gender

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Economies, Poverty, Environment, Climate Change, Gender, Gender Roles, Livelihoods, Security, Food Security Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2019

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