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Human mobility and resilience in the Nepali plains Human mobility and resilience in the Nepali plains (the Tarai) - case studies on perceptions of climate change and livelihood diversification strategies

Asheshwor Shrestha, Douglas Bardsley
Discipline of Geography, Environment and Population, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

This paper examines linkages between household perceptions of climate change and people's livelihood decisions. The research establishes that there is no clear direct link between climate change and human mobility, and yet migration exists as a vital adaptation mechanism to secure household welfare amidst changing social and environmental conditions. Given its fertile soils and favourable climate, the Tarai have provided a rich agricultural landscape and haven for internal migrants who wanted to escape the hard life in the hills. However, the surveys in two South Nepal municipalities, Damak and Dhangadhi identified that households are increasing exposed to high inter-annual variability of monsoon rainfall, inadequate and unreliable irrigation infrastructure and to frequent flash-floods which have affected their agricultural yields. Particularly, the research has revealed that social and environmental changes in the region have significantly altered the livelihood values of the Nepali plains. Consequently, households have resorted to migration as a supportive source of income and a potential risk management strategy. The research found that whilst more than 80% of surveyed households were involved in agriculture and livestock rearing, about half of the households also had at least one migrant member. The contemporary migration pattern is dominated by linkages to distant international destinations, which have become more important than traditional destinations. Furthermore, it is anticipated that in the absence of proper compensatory mechanisms in the case of crop failure, agricultural practices on the Tarai could become less lucrative and migration would become a prominent route to escape poverty traps in the future.