EACH-FOR, Environmental Change and Forced Migration Scenarios

Synthesis Report

Jäger, J., Frühmann, J., Grünberger S., Vag, A., (2009)

The EACH-FOR (Environmental Change and Forced Migration Scenarios) Project had two central aims: (1) to explore and describe the causes of forced migration in relation to
environmental change; and (2) to provide plausible future scenarios of environmentallyinduced forced migration.

These specific objectives were achieved by the systematic overview and analysis of the relevant natural and human-made environment degradation processes, as well as the socioeconomic, historical and demographic contexts, in the regions studied in the project; fieldwork or desk studies in 23 case study areas; and subsequent scenario development for 6
of the case study areas. The project was funded for 2 years and the budget permitted a first scoping of the issues, development and testing of the methodology and some preliminary
results and conclusions.

The extent of human-induced environmental degradation has been documented in a wide range of recent publications. The most commonly discussed environmental change resulting
from human activities is climate change, but there are many other signs of environmental change, some of them closely related to climate change, such as soil degradation,
deforestation and desertification. In addition, there are natural hazards, such as tropical cyclones and earthquakes that affect individuals and communities. At the same time,
humans face massive social, political and economic changes as a result of economic development processes, globalisation of the world’s economy and increasing communication.

The topic of environmental change and forced migration has been discussed for more than two decades both with regard to defining what forced migration is and to estimating current
and potential future numbers of forced migrants. A summary of previous literature was compiled during the early stages of the EACH-FOR project. There are several estimates of
future numbers of migrants as a result of climate change. The numbers are always given in millions, suggesting large flows of people. Likewise, there are available estimates of the
numbers of people displaced by infrastructure projects each year and the numbers affected by both natural and technological disasters. Many studies point, however, to the complex
relationships between migration and environment and the many other social, economic and political factors that play a role in decisions to migrate within a country and across borders.
These earlier studies provide an important motivation for the EACH-FOR research, since the numbers are not certain and there is a clear lack of empirical research in this area.

The key findings of the EACH-FOR project are:

  • Climate change is not the only potential environmental trigger for migration – the environmental problems faced by migrants, potential migrants and non-migrants in the case study areas are manifold;
  • The magnitude and frequency of many environmental hazards are increasing and further environmental degradation will take place due to global warming, so pressures to migrate are increasing.
  • Migration is a traditional coping mechanism but in some areas these traditional patterns have changed in recent decades due to rapidly changing socio-economic and environmental conditions;
  • Migration occurs when livelihoods cannot be maintained, especially when agriculture or herding is severely affected by environmental degradation or extreme events;
  • Longer term or permanent migration, in contrast to seasonal or temporary migration, is becoming more common, particularly among younger generations.
  • Migration decisions are complex reflecting the interconnectedness of environmental factors with economic, social and political factors;
  • People who want to leave their villages/regions/country can only do so if they have the necessary financial means and access to networks that support migration;
  • The study of forced displacement as a result of dam construction provides valuable lessons regarding the resettlement process, in particular the need for participatory processes with significant support and information for those being resettled.

These findings lead to a set of recommendations:

  • Development policies should support protection of natural resources and control the overexploitation of water and land resources.
  • Investment is needed in activities that generate jobs without destroying ecosystems and in traditional regional industries and traditional agricultural practices.
  • Investment in reducing vulnerability and improving the capacity of local communities to adapt is necessary in every policy implemented.
  • Recognising that seasonal migration is a viable coping strategy in response to environmental change or degradation for many households, efforts should be made to help migrants find viable work opportunities.
  • A multi-level approach is essential to reduce environmental degradation and hazards ranging from local support for reducing deforestation, soil degradation, water pollution etc. to international efforts to limit climate change.
  • Education campaigns could increase understanding of the causes and consequences of environmental degradation and available options to reduce it. Training of farmers (and herders and fishers) in sustainable practices would lower environmental degradation and a need for reactionary out-migration.
  • There is a strong need for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary networks to foster dialogue between experts and a wide range of other stakeholders on questions such as adaptation strategies, the linkages between environmental change and forced migration, and processes of resettlement.
  • More participatory resettlement processes that include suggestions for alternative and sustainable livelihoods for those households or individuals who are resettled would lead to better integration of migrants in resettlement locations.

There are several needs for further research that arise from this work, including extending many of the case studies that were carried out, further developing the methodology, case
studies in other areas, meta-analyses of case study results and participatory processes of scenario development and analysis.

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