Livelihoods on the Move: Understanding the Linkages Between Migration and Household Food Security in India

Author : Chetan Choithani | 2016 |
Published By: The University of Sydney

This thesis examines the role of internal migration as a livelihood strategy in influencing food access among rural households. Internal migration has become a key component of livelihood strategies for an increasing number of rural households across many countries in the developing world. Importantly, unlike earlier periods when migration was often viewed as a problem, there is now a growing consensus among academics and policy makers on the potential positive effects of migration in reducing poverty and promoting sustainable human development. Concurrently, the significance of “food security for all” as an important development objective has been rising, particularly since the 2007-08 global food crisis. However, the academic and policy discussions on these two issues have largely tended to proceed in silos, with little attention devoted to the relationship they bear with each other. This thesis attempts to fill this gap in the specific context of India, the country with the most underfed people in the world and where internal migration has traditionally been central to rural livelihoods. Using a case study approach, involving primary survey data collected from an equally representative sample of 392 migrant and non-migrant households from the high outmigration district of Siwan in western Bihar, this thesis provides empirical household-level insights on the interface between migration and food security. Contrary to conventional wisdom that posits migration as a household food security strategy only in times of food shortages, this thesis argues that the relationship between them is bidirectional. Food insecurity can be a critical driver of households’ migration decisions, and subsequent remittances can ease household food insecurity. The empirical evidence in this thesis asserts an appreciation of three key pathways that shape these forward-backward linkages: i) the role of food and livelihood safety nets in influencing households’ food security situation and their migration decisions; ii) the extent to which migrants’ remittances are received by households and the manner in which they are used; and iii) the ways that migration affects gender dynamics within households. The evidence presented in this thesis shows that these processes manifest at various levels, and hence produce complex outcomes with respect to the migration-food security relationship. In the wake of recent evidence on the rising significance of migration in rural livelihood systems in India, and indeed, across a number of developing countries, the findings reported in this thesis warrant a pressing policy need to better integrate migration in future food policy research and practice.

URL : 20170816012723.pdf

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