The Environmental Dimensions of Rural Outmigration in South Africa: Will Climate Change Constrain Livelihood Options?

Lori M. Hunter, University of Colorado at Boulder
Raphael Nawrotzki, University of Colorado at Boulder
Stefan Leyk, University of Colorado at Boulder
Galen Maclaurin, University of Colorado at Boulder
Wayne Twine, University of the Witwatersrand
Barend Erasmus, University of the Witwatersrand

The world’s climate is changing and rural households with daily dependence on local natural resources will clearly be impacted. Prior research demonstrates migration is a significant rural livelihood strategy, as households diversify assets. Yet much research remains to be done on migratory implications of contemporary climate change. We use demographic surveillance data to model the migration-environment association from a natural-resource dependent region of rural South Africa. We find natural resource availability particularly influential for temporary migration strategies, in years with both high and low rainfall -- suggesting migration is a consistent livelihood strategy, tending to be positively associated with the availability of natural capital. Interactions reveal natural resources may fuel migration especially within more educated households. On implications, in the wake of shifting environmental conditions, lack of predictability of natural capital portends uncertain future livelihood options, particulalry with regard to temporary labor migration.

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Presented in Session 14: Population, Health, and the Environment