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Using a migration systems approach to understand the link between climate change and urbanisation in Malawi

Using a migration systems approach to understand the link between climate change and urbanisation in Malawi
Using a migration systems approach to understand the link between climate change and urbanisation in Malawi
Most scholarship on rural–urban migration in Sub-Saharan Africa demonstrates that migrants tend to move in a “circular” fashion and only spend short periods of time in cities before returning home to rural villages. However, some scholars working on the impacts of climate change on migration suggest that deteriorating environmental conditions may undermine rural livelihoods and lead people to move to cities for longer periods of time. If this is true, then climate change threatens to accelerate urbanisation and lead to renewed stress on urban infrastructure. The purpose of this paper is to explore these positions and we do so by collecting survey [n = 241], in-depth interview [n = 75] and focus group [n = 123 participants] data from rural and urban Malawi. Two key results stand out as significant. The first is that migrants in Malawi's capital city tend to stay in the urban environment for longer periods of time than conventional understandings of migration would predict. The second key result is that climate change may actually lead, in the case of Malawi, to reverse (i.e urban–rural) migration. This is because many of the people in Malawi's cities depend on products produced in rural environments (e.g. food and fuelwood). If climate change undermines rural livelihoods, then many urban residents will find the basis of their livelihoods removed and will likely respond by moving back to rural villages. Overall, our results, therefore, suggest that in at least one case the effect of climate change on migration may not be to increase migration towards cities but to stimulate an exodus from cities and back to the rural countryside.
0143-6228
244-252
Suckall, Natalie
6403cd8a-dab8-4fed-9136-ab293700d4fe
Fraser, Evan
a2405cc0-3f79-46a7-82d4-ee38a2d281f9
Forster, Piers
3ae7aebb-70f2-49e2-8589-74cce2dfdfec
Mkwambisi, David
a6658f7f-65c9-4363-9f21-7b2eb386d770
Suckall, Natalie
6403cd8a-dab8-4fed-9136-ab293700d4fe
Fraser, Evan
a2405cc0-3f79-46a7-82d4-ee38a2d281f9
Forster, Piers
3ae7aebb-70f2-49e2-8589-74cce2dfdfec
Mkwambisi, David
a6658f7f-65c9-4363-9f21-7b2eb386d770

Suckall, Natalie, Fraser, Evan, Forster, Piers and Mkwambisi, David (2015) Using a migration systems approach to understand the link between climate change and urbanisation in Malawi. Applied Geography, 63, 244-252. (doi:10.1016/j.apgeog.2015.07.004).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Most scholarship on rural–urban migration in Sub-Saharan Africa demonstrates that migrants tend to move in a “circular” fashion and only spend short periods of time in cities before returning home to rural villages. However, some scholars working on the impacts of climate change on migration suggest that deteriorating environmental conditions may undermine rural livelihoods and lead people to move to cities for longer periods of time. If this is true, then climate change threatens to accelerate urbanisation and lead to renewed stress on urban infrastructure. The purpose of this paper is to explore these positions and we do so by collecting survey [n = 241], in-depth interview [n = 75] and focus group [n = 123 participants] data from rural and urban Malawi. Two key results stand out as significant. The first is that migrants in Malawi's capital city tend to stay in the urban environment for longer periods of time than conventional understandings of migration would predict. The second key result is that climate change may actually lead, in the case of Malawi, to reverse (i.e urban–rural) migration. This is because many of the people in Malawi's cities depend on products produced in rural environments (e.g. food and fuelwood). If climate change undermines rural livelihoods, then many urban residents will find the basis of their livelihoods removed and will likely respond by moving back to rural villages. Overall, our results, therefore, suggest that in at least one case the effect of climate change on migration may not be to increase migration towards cities but to stimulate an exodus from cities and back to the rural countryside.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 6 July 2015
e-pub ahead of print date: 17 July 2015
Published date: September 2015
Organisations: Geography & Environment

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 379392
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/379392
ISSN: 0143-6228
PURE UUID: 3ff3a0d4-d3dd-4f34-85c2-e60f7dffdeee

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Date deposited: 28 Jul 2015 10:14
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 20:44

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Contributors

Author: Natalie Suckall
Author: Evan Fraser
Author: Piers Forster
Author: David Mkwambisi

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