Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Building Adaptive Capacity in Assam

Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Building Adaptive Capacity in Assam

Article excerpt

Assam state in north-eastern India experiences annual floods which displace people, destroy crops, kill livestock and damage infrastructure. Dependence on natural resource-based livelihoods in an area that is also less developed makes local households vulnerable to floods. Lakhimpur district of Assam is among the worst flood-affected districts in the state. Remittances are increasingly becoming a vital component of household income in Lakhimpur and can be a potential financing mechanism to fulfil the unmet adaptation requirements of recipient households.1

The migrant workers from this district who send back the remittances are generally male and work in the informal sector in urban centres within Assam or across India. This out-migration of men exposes women to new tasks related to disaster preparedness, food security and farm management, for which they are often unprepared. Women will not have had the same opportunities to access markets, extension services and government programmes as men do. Out-migration of men therefore requires women to acquire new skills, capacities and knowledge to deal with new challenges.

Remittance inflow increases in the aftermath of the floods that occur in this area and is used to procure provisions, rebuild livelihoods and repair houses. The recipient households' flood responses are primarily focused on coping during the flood (e.g. temporary shelter for livestock and people, storing food or drinking water) and on recovery in the immediate aftermath of the flood. Flood preparedness is sporadic and constrained by: uncertainty about the benefits of building household-level adaptive capacity while basic needs (e.g. food, health care, shelter) remain unaddressed, low volume of remittances, lack of financial literacy and access to financial services (particularly among women who are often the recipients and managers of remittances), and lack of understanding and access to technical inputs on how to invest remittances in 'low-cost' disaster preparedness and livelihood diversification options.

Financial literacy

In action research conducted by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development's Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme with the Institute of Integrated Resource Management, and Swayam Sikshan Prayog, women recipients of remittances are envisaged as the household level 'change-makers'. Financial literacy and flood preparedness trainings are envisaged to enhance the human capital of the recipient households whom this action research identifies as a special interest group in the rural communities. …

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