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Journal Article

Climate, Agriculture, and Migration: Exploring the Vulnerability and Outmigration Nexus in the Indian Himalayan Region


Biella,  Riccardo
External Organizations;


Hoffmann,  Roman
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Upadhyay,  Himani
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

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Biella, R., Hoffmann, R., Upadhyay, H. (2022): Climate, Agriculture, and Migration: Exploring the Vulnerability and Outmigration Nexus in the Indian Himalayan Region. - Mountain Research and Development, 42, 2, R9-R21.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_28062
Climate change is increasingly affecting mountain communities around the world with major implications for human livelihoods and wellbeing. With its predominantly rural population and limited resources, the Indian Himalayan Region is particularly vulnerable. While previous research has highlighted the destructive potential of climate change, we focused on the socioeconomic and ecological drivers of climate vulnerabilities and their links to migration and depopulation trends, which can be observed in the area. A mixed-methods case study approach was used to explore these relationships in the state of Uttarakhand in the western Indian Himalayan Region. Combining evidence from an aggregate vulnerability index, migration data, and insights from qualitative interviews, we found a close link between local climate vulnerabilities and migration. Considering different drivers, we show that limited adaptive capacities are the decisive factor shaping vulnerabilities and migration in the region, in particular, the high dependency on rainfed agriculture together with ecological, infrastructural, human, and financial constraints. With higher vulnerability, migrants tend to become younger, engage more in short-term migration, and increasingly employ migration in response to structural vulnerabilities and livelihood risks. The outmigration of young males has major implications for their origin communities, as the population left behind becomes older and more feminized.