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Remittances and potential for adaptation

Remittances, that is money sent home by internal or international migrants, could potentially become an important tool for poverty reduction and increased resilience both for a single family and an entire community that is suffering the consequences of environmental and climate change.

Evidence in the literature (among others, see: Adger et al. (2002), Agarwal & Horowitz (2002), Bendandi and Pauw (to be published), Deshingkar (2011), Lucas & Stark (1985), Scheffran et al. (2012)) shows how an internal or international migrant that is able to send money back home regularly can greatly contribute to the recipient’s household income and fund basic living needs such as food, housing and consumer goods. If substantial enough, a stable revenue can simplify financial planning, possibly enabling investments in different sectors: investments in education can increase the cultural capital of family members back home; investments in work tools and land can give them work and produce further income. This process can be severely hampered if remittances services are inefficient (e.g. if the cost of remittances services is too high or if it lacks transparency); for this reason, reliability and affordability as well as speed and security, regulations and control are essential conditions to ensure a convenient and efficient transaction.

In line with this logic, migrants that are able to send regularly remittances back home could become central actors in helping out and supporting their community of origin in facing the consequences of climate change. Indeed, remittances could increase the resilience of one or more households by providing immediate relief during droughts or floods or by supporting local long term projects and investments for climate change adaptation and disaster preparedness (e.g. matching funds, climate insurance, and market instruments). In this sense, senders could play a very important role in laying the foundations for a prosperous future for themselves, their family and their community. Of course, such plans would require government support, attractive investment conditions, rights and economic opportunities as well as international technical and financial support (including development assistance and climate funds). 



Adger, W. N. et al.
2002    Migration, remittances, livelihood trajectories, and social resiliance. Jorunal of the Human Environment, 31(4):358-366.

Agarwal, R. and A.W. Horowitz
2002    Are International Remittances Altruism or Insurance? Evidence from Guyana Using Multiple-Migrant Households. World Development, 30, pp.2033-44.

Bendandi, B. and B. Pauw
(to be published)    Remittances for adaptation: an 'alternative' source of climate finance? In IOM-UNU-GDI book project Migration, risk management and climate change: evidence and policy responses. Elsevier.

Deshingkar, P. 
2011    SR13: Are there examples of remittances being used to build local resilience to environmental change, especially through investment in soil and water conservation, or broader agriculture? Project Report.UK Government Office of Science, London.

Lucas, R. and O. Stark
1985    Motivations to Remit: Evidence from Botswana. Journal of Political Eonomy, 93(5):901-918.

Scheffran, J. et al.
2012    Migration as a contribution to resiliance and innovation in climate adaptation: Social networks and co-development in Northwest Africa. Applied Geography, 33:119-127.

2009    Overcoming barriers: Human Mobility and Development Report. UNDP, New York.

Global Project Coordinator, MECLEP
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