Social Science Baha

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A Third of Migrant Households in Sunsari Remain Poor: Study

The Kathmandu Post
17 December 2017

While migration is seen as a driver of economic upliftment for families, not everyone has been able to walk out of poverty even after migrating to overseas in search of better opportunities.

A recent study conducted among 170 rural households in Sunsari district has shown that nearly one third of migrant households remained poor despite migrating for jobs abroad.

“There is a popular narrative that economic status of those migrating for gainful employment opportunities goes up. At times, it doesn’t happen like that,” said Ramesh Sunam, a researcher with the United Nations University, adding that many other factors have their role in improving the condition of migrant workers.

Those families which are totally dependent on remittance for sustenance remained poor while those with diversified income opportunities upgraded their economic status, Sunam explained.

“Families with remittance as sole income source remained poor, however those who still continued with agricultural activities, working as daily wage workers among other income opportunities were seen doing better,” he noted.

The research also came out with the results that suggest about 30 percent households, who were previously better off, became rather poorer after migrating overseas in search of better lifestyle because of high debt, low-income at workplace and cheating. Participants at an event, organised by Social Science Baha,

International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and Center for International Forestry Research (Cifor), have discussed migration and its implications for land and social changes in Nepal.

The participants agreed that rampant migration, both internal and transnational, have impacted many sectors like agriculture, economy, social life, gender roles among others in the country.

Jeevan Baniya from Social Science Baha said that migration, being male-dominated, has put pressure on women, burdening them with household and agricultural responsibilities.

“Migration has played complimentary role in improving economy. However, a higher share of remittance has been spent on food, education and health services,” he said. “But the absence of male members in the house has resulted in women heading the houses.”

The high outflow of labour force has also affected the agriculture sector as arable lands have been left uncultivated due to dearth of farm labour.

According to the UNFPA, an estimated 244 million people live outside their country of origin whereas 740 millions are internal migrant in 2016.

Another study, trying to understand the link between migration and change in use of agricultural land over two decades in Gandaki River Basin area, has shown differential impacts of internal and international migration on farm land.

“The agricultural sector which is already vulnerable due to climate change is facing threats from migration. Urbanisation and migration have been affecting land usage,” said Vishwas Sudhir Chitale from International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (Icimod). His findings are based on the studies in Lamjung, Nuwakot and Chitwan districts.

While experts pointed out people preferring farming over labour migration and increasing commercialisation of farmland into housing plots, it has also given rise to a new group of landowners who were earlier landless, especially in the Tarai.

“Increase in land ownership in the Dalit and Madhesi communities has contributed to change in class relations,” said Tula Narayan Shah, executive director of Nepal Madhesh Foundation.


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