TransRe - Building resilience through translocality. Climate change, migration and social resilience of rural communities in Thailand

Submitted by Julia Barrott 19th July 2017 12:24
research sites

An overview of TransRe research sites in Thailand. Click to enlarge.

Introduction

Climate change and migration are drawing increasing interest from researchers and policy makers, as well as from the general public. Much attention has been given to climate change as a push factor contributing to migration, and to the potential conflicts and humanitarian crises that may result.

The TransRe project offers a fresh perspective on the environment-migration nexus. It starts from the assumption that, regardless of the accuracy of the projections of future environmental changes, migration is already occurring and will continue to be a major dynamic of global change. Migration is connecting people, transforming places, and facilitating flows of knowledge and resources, and thus creating networked and interconnected translocal spaces. Through this intensifying translocal connectedness, the ability of households and communities to respond to climatic risks and sustain their livelihoods and well-being – that is, their social resilience – has the potential to be strengthened.

This project, which runs from 2013 to 2018, focuses on resource-dependent households and rural communities that are particularly vulnerable to climate-related risks. It seeks to decipher the relations between migration, translocality and social resilience to climate change. TransRe's research design follows place-based as well as multi-sited fieldwork approaches and seeks to generate empirical evidence based on case studies carried out in Thailand and in the places of destination of migrants.

For an in-depth description of the TransRe project see the featured download in the right-hand column.

Research Area

In Thailand, a substantial part of the rural population still depends on agricultural livelihoods and is highly exposed to climate-related risks. At the same time, farmers in middle-income countries tend to have enough assets and resources to adapt to adverse environmental impacts. Thailand is also a country with high rates of internal and international migration. Traditionally, migration has long been a common strategy to adapt to economic crises, land shortage, and agricultural seasonality. This unique interplay of climatic, environmental, and socio-cultural factors makes rural Thailand an ideal research area for conducting an in-depth empirical analysis of the linkages between migration, climate risk, and social resilience.

Our project seeks to cover the main types of destination areas of rural out-migration in Thailand, which are specifically:

→ Urban and industrial areas within Thailand,
→ Regional destinations in Asia mainly for low-skilled migrant workers
→ And trans-continental destinations of high skilled migrants or marriage migration.

In order to reach this goal, TransRe conducts research in 28 individual villages in four Provinces of Thailand: Udon Thani, Buri Ram, Phitsanulok & Chiang Rai.

Objectives

The overall objective of TransRe is to understand the transformation induced by feedback processes of migration and translocality, and its effects – be they positive or negative – on social resilience to climate risks in the place of origin of migrants. The project combines the vulnerability and resilience approaches with insights from studies on migration and translocalism. It seeks to develop a concept of “translocal social resilience”.

In terms of TransRe’s relevance within and beyond the academic sphere, we aim to:

  1. Engage in academic debate,
  2. Inform climate adaptation policy,
  3. Influence public discourse,
  4. Support social resilience.

Hypothesis & Research Questions

The central hypothesis that is tested in the research process is that migration and translocality have a significant ability to strengthen the social resilience of groups and communities to climate change impacts and other environmental stresses. Eight major research questions addressed within the conceptual framework focus on issues of vulnerability and resilience to climatic risks; migration as a livelihoods strategy; migration networks and translocality; and social-ecological transformation:

  • Question 1: To what climate-related risks are smallholders exposed?
  • Question 2: What groups are particularly vulnerable to climatic risks?
  • Question 3: What role does migration play in the livelihoods system of smallholders?
  • Question 4: What patterns and pathways of migration-induced translocality can be identified?
  • Question 5: How does migration-induced translocality initiate social and ecological transformation in the places of origin?
  • Question 6: How do different existing policies on the international and national levels influence translocal social resilience?

The project also explicitly addresses a research gap in the climate change-migration nexus with the aim of providing relevant empirical evidence in order to guide policy-makers and shape practical solutions for building social resilience in the context of climate change.

The questions that specifically address to this end are:

  • Question 7: How can the social resilience to climatic risks of rural communities be strengthened through translocality?
  • Question 8: What is needed to enable policy-makers and practitioners to systematically integrate migration and translocality into climate change adaptation plans and strategies?

Methods and Tools

  • Theoretical approaches: Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice, Social Resilience, Translocality, Sustainable Livelihoods Approach
  • Research Principles: Actor-Oriented Approach, Place-Based & Multi-Sited Fieldwork
  • Methods applied: Quantitative (Survey, Mapping, GIS based Land Use Change Analysis, Network Analysis) and Qualitative (Expert and In-Depth Interviews, Participatory and Group Interviews, Observations) methods; “Follow the Migrants” approach
  • Knowledge-to-Action: Transfer of research insights and results to the policy sphere through policy talks and round tables; the design of a Toolkit for Integrating Migration and Translocality in community adaptation planning; and the publication of results on media with high outreach (blog, facebook, twitter).

Contributors

Partners

  • Federal Ministry for Education and Research Germany
  • Raks Thai Foundation (Care Thailand)
  • International Organization for Migration, Thailand
  • Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University, Bangkok (IPSR)
  • School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, Royal Melbourne Institute for Technologies (RMIT)
  • Department of Geography and Regional Research, University of Vienna (IfGR) Southeast Asia START Regional Center
  • United Nations University, Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)
  • German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)
  • Khon Kaen University, Multiple Cropping Center, Chiang Mai University (MCC);
  • Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore (ARI)

Further resources

  • The TransRe project in short
  • TransRe maintains a diverse portfolio of publications, including journal articles, working papers, and fact sheets, in order to engage with a wide variety of audiences.

    The fact sheet series focuses thematically on the complex relationship between migration, environmental change, and adaptation and disseminates scientific results, news, and other interesting information in a brief and accessible way.

    The TransRe working papers are typically works in progress and contain very early stage research, analysis, findings, and/or recommendations. There are four different types of working papers:

    1. Concepts - which analyzes more general or theoretical issues;
    2. Thesis - which presents bachelor and master’s students’ thesis work;
    3. Evidence - which introduces more empirical information, and
    4. Methods - which explores ways in which to operationalize complex issues on environment and migration.

    Many TransRe working papers are drafts that will be subsequently revised for a refereed journal or book. Other papers share timely and innovative knowledge that we consider valuable and policy-relevant, but which may not be intended for later publication.

    Find all our publications at: http://www.transre.org/en/publications/publications/