The road to climate resilience: migration as an adaptation strategy

from Overseas Development Institute
Published on 30 Apr 2018 View Original

Key Messages

• Future climate projections for Pakistan show an increase in temperature throughout the country and a decrease in rainfall in the monsoon belt, which is mainly arid and semi-arid.
These changes will directly affect agricultural productivity and drive increasing numbers of people out of rural semi-arid areas, unless alternative economic opportunities are provided in villages.

•Planned rural out-migration has the potential to enhance the livelihood resilience of rural households by increasing households’ abilities to anticipate risk, absorb shocks and adapt to current and future threats to their livelihoods, including climate change threats.

•The findings of this research project call for better management of the migration process, especially with regards to internal migration.


For Pakistan, climate change is not a far-fetched future threat, rather a reality that is already impacting lives and livelihoods adversely

Rural livelihoods are particularly at stake as a result of climate change impacts such as rising temperatures, erratic rainfalls and more intense and frequent climate-related extreme events, particularly in semi-arid regions (Salik et al., 2015). Periodic episodes of floods, droughts and heat waves have become a common occurrence in the past decade in these regions, which have immense implications for agricultural production in terms of declining crop productivity and failure of crops (Hussain, 2010).
Such impacts, influenced by the already weak economic structures in the rural areas, may motivate many young people to move away from villages in search of better opportunities. However, the linkages between climate change and migration are difficult to untangle as migration can be driven by complex interactions of many factors (Etzold and Mallick, 2016).

The Fifth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2014) recognizes that planned migration can reduce vulnerabilities of populations who are exposed to sudden and slow onset impacts of climate change.

Based on research which considers migration as an adaptation strategy (Myers, 2005; Scheffran et al., 2011; Krishnamurthy, 2012), the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) undertook a project to explore the linkages between climate change and migration and to analyse whether planned rural to urban migration has the potential to enhance rural livelihood resilience by enhancing economic opportunities. This study was undertaken as part of a multi-country research programme titled, ‘Pathways to Resilience in Semi-arid Economies (PRISE)’ that aims to create new knowledge for climate resilient economic development. The project found the affirmative potential of migration to build livelihood resilience by increasing rural households’ capacities to anticipate risks, absorb the impacts and adapt their livelihoods to develop more resilience to slow and sudden climate impacts.

Read the full report here