COP18/CMP8: New International Study Links Climate Change, Food Insecurity And Migration

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Emmanuel Okella
Doha. Dec, 2012

At the ongoing UN-Climate Change Conference, findings of a study have been released confirming that rain variability and food insecurity are key drivers for human migration in developing countries.

The empirical research carried out by CARE International and the United Nations University in eight developing countries in Asia Africa and Latin America, links the relationship between climate change, food security and migration.

It reveals that during drought, land scarce households trying to cope with food insecurity send migrants to find food or money to buy food. The report further points out that migration was only temporary where migrants were successful, but frequently permanent in situations where options could not be found to deal with rainfall unpredictability and rural food insecurity.

Due to lack of water, constructors of the Qatar Convention Center where the COP18/CMP8 is taking place, used drip irrigation method to deliver water to the flowers around the magnificent center. By Fredrick Mugira
Due to lack of water, constructors of the Qatar Convention Center where the COP18/CMP8 is taking place, used drip irrigation method to deliver water to the flowers around the magnificent center. By Fredrick Mugira

“Even though we have seen that the levels of food insecurity vary across site, migration decisions were more closely linked to rainfall in places where the dependence on rain-fed agriculture was high” said Dr. Koko Warner, the Scientific Director of the ‘Where the Rain Falls’ project.

“When we look into the future, our modeling results for Tanzania show that migration from vulnerable households could double over the next 25 years under the most extreme drying scenario” she told a news conference at the sidelines of the Doha climate meeting.

The study gives African decision makers particularly in East African, that has recently been struggling with the worst drought in 60 years, ideas about who is migrating, under what circumstances and what needs to be done to make migration a choice and not force.

Tonya Rawe, a senior policy advocate for CARE USA, said the adaptation committee of the UN climate talks needs to find ways to help guide where and how climate finance can be targetted to help vulnerable communities adapt to the changing weather patterns and ensure food security.

She said communities that participated in the research have shaky livelihoods, and as the impacts of climate change increase- like floods and droughts, they move closer to the edge of crisis.

“They need real policy and practice 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 last resort” she noted.

The researchers warned that if national and global policy makers do not act quickly- both to mitigate global warming and support rural communities to adapt, food insecurity and emigration from areas most affected by climate change are likely to grow in the coming decade.

Already there are efforts like by the Rockefeller Foundation that has invested millions of dollars in partnerships with African governments and civic institutions like Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) to tackle issues—from climate change to rapid urbanization—that are hindering the progress of so many people, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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