New DECCMA brief “Climate change and the economic future of deltas in Africa and Asia”

The DECCMA Economics team have released a new policy brief “Climate change and the economic future of deltas in Africa and Asia“.  The policy brief is led by the team from the Basque Centre for Climate Change, and summarises some of the key findings on the current and future economic status of deltas, taking into account climate change, and distills information from papers published in the peer-reviewed literature (including “The socioeconomic future of deltas in a changing environment” by Arto et al).

The brief highlights how climate change has the potential to reduce GDP per capita by 8.5-14.5% in the deltas, through impacts on infrastructure, agriculture and fisheries. Traditional adaptation options, such as embankments and protection and restoration of mangroves, could only reduce these effects by up to 40-50%, thus minimising but not ruling out negative impacts.

Exploring the impact of out-migration and how it impacts women’s ability to adapt to weather hazards: key insights from the Indian Bengal Delta

by Lindsay Jane Sian Roberts

The vulnerability of delta environments is increasingly recognised, with a multitude of stressors threatening the lives of communities and re-shaping livelihood decisions. As a vulnerable and marginalised group, women experience this the most acutely.

Migration is recognised as one of three sustainable livelihood strategies, alongside livelihood diversification and agricultural intensification. Within the Indian Bengal delta, men are most likely to migrate with women often left behind to look after the household and livelihoods. There is limited research exploring the impacts of out-migration and the adaptive strategies women undertake. To gain further insight into out-migration and add to my analysis of the DECCMA household survey data, I undertook interviews for my Masters dissertation in the villages of Dulki and Sonagar (the dissertation is available here).

Migration impacts depend on circumstances

The impacts of out-migration depend on the reason and type of the migration – for example whether it was involuntary or voluntary, or permanent or seasonal.  The extent to which women are affected by out-migration depends on their social support networks at home.  For those women with supportive friends, relatives and neighbours, this can counteract the increased loneliness and isolation that results from losing the daily presence of a family member.

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Remittances are an important enabler of proactive adaptive strategies

Remittances play an important role in supporting women when a household member migrates. When remittances are received, they can enable women to employ proactive adaptive strategies to reduce risks of climate change.  Such strategies can include stopping working outside the home and increasing social interaction. However, not all households receive remittances. 

Empowerment and Decision-Making

Women often become the de facto household head during out-migration, and in turn they assume responsibility for decisions that might otherwise be made by their husbands. Findings show that decision making powers are often transferred to the women when men migrate, which had implications for the adaptive strategies they undertake. Participation in self-help groups is an example of a strategy that empowers women to make choices that affect their lives and, in turn the adaptive strategies they undertake.

Overcoming Fieldwork Challenges

Together with my fellow University of Southampton students, I experienced several challenges during fieldwork from weather to undertaking research. These challenges were all overcome with preparation and assistance from the Jadavpur University team. I became close friends with my research assistant translator, who aided my research extensively. She was not only responsive and considerate during interviews, allowing me and the interviewee to engage across two languages, but we had insightful talks about the gender representation within England and India, helping me gain further context for my research. As well as the team, all the delta women were extremely welcoming, inviting and accommodating, which allowed me to conduct 17 interviews during my time in the delta.

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New release “Climate change, migration and adaptation in deltas. Key findings from the DECCMA project”

DECCMA has just released a new publication, “Climate change, migration and adaptation in deltas. Key findings from the DECCMA project” available to download in optimal resolution (15MB) and lower resolution (6MB). The publication summarises our key findings on the present and future situation of deltas, highlights some of the impacts our research has had on policies and plans in Bangladesh, India and Ghana, and reflects on the capacity that has been built through the DECCMA project.

What influences how crop farmers adapt? Insights from the Indian Bengal delta

by Martin Watts

Undertaking Masters research in the delta

Crop farming provides a livelihood to millions living on or below the poverty line in the Indian Bengal delta (IBD). Crop farmers are especially vulnerable to adverse effects stemming from environmental change, as the availability and quality of natural resources for production is changing. Deltaic crop farmers have meagre adaptive capacities owing to their geographical and economic marginalisation, and thus cannot always adapt sufficiently. To understand what influences crop farmers’ processes of adaptation, and to build on my initial analysis of the DECCMA household survey, in June I visited the villages of Dulki and Sonagar to undertake interviews with crop farmers.


Martin in the delta

Three key emerging findings

Poor coordination undermines some adaptation strategies

While several government and NGO run agricultural extension services were encouraging organic farming as a sustainable approach to enable cultivation in increasingly saline soils, a fundamental constraint is that market actors did not distribute it to village shops. Instead, chemical products, which farmers recognised had adverse environmental implications, were intensely advertised and sold. This indicates a lack of coordination in the area’s governance network, which had ramifications on farmers’ and government’s goals to operationalise organic agriculture.

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Social networks are essential for equitable transmission of information required to enable adaptation through changed practices

Farmer-to-farmer social actions were found to increase the adoption of crop management strategies, such as crop diversification. This was because even the most uneducated farmers understood information communicated practically, contrasting to the approach extension services undertook that encompassed more theoretical teaching. This particularly hindered the adoption of climate-tolerant crops, meaning that most farming systems exhibited low climate resilience.

Access to financial capital enables access to adaptation options 

On a positive note, banks loan schemes specific to farmers were enabling the uptake of irrigation systems and new crop varieties due to greater financial capacity. The latter strategy was highly important, given that many farmers cultivated mono-crop. This permitting them to spread out risks of production loss that was perceived to result from an increasingly unpredictable climate.

Reflections on my first visit to the delta

For me, the field visit in general was extremely insightful. Having spent time previously analysing survey variables, adaptation strategies and quantitative associations, actually viewing the strategies and hearing farmers’ accounts was quite stimulating. As most social science researchers experience, there were challenges relating to the weather, especially the humidity, and interviewee participation. Regarding the latter, it was not simple to keep participants discussing the research agenda, since I was perceived by some farmers to be from foreign aid organisations. However, this usefully enabled farmers to elaborate on the current institutional context which can restrict the suite of adaption options available to them. Coming away from the fieldwork with 16 interviews completed, not only did I gain rich experiential data, but the survey became much more comprehensible and aided further quantitative analysis.

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Beekeeping and crab fattening-Alternative livelihoods in the Indian Bengal delta

by Sumana Banerjee, Tuhin Ghosh and Shruti Thakur

Environmental change in the Indian Bengal delta is making traditional livelihoods, such as agriculture fishing, increasingly challenging. Other economic activities, such as going to the forest to collect crabs and honey, puts people at risk of tiger attacks. In a new photo story, Sumana Banerjee, Tuhin Ghosh and Shruti Thakur elaborate how beekeeping and crab fattening are providing alternative livelihood opportunities.

What is life like in the Indian Bengal delta? New video clip of recent fieldwork

In June 2018 a group of students from the University of Southampton and the DECCMA India team visited Dulki, a village within the Indian Bengal delta, to investigate migration and adaptation and their opportunities and challenges. This short video clip provides insights into the nature of livelihoods in Dulki, how they are affected by climate and environmental change, and how they respond.

The aftermath of Aila-The lingering effects of a tropical cyclone in the Indian Bengal delta

by Katharine Vincent and Sumana Banerjee

When a tropical cyclone hits, the loss of life and destruction of land and property is immediately evident. But the effects of such extreme weather events can endure for years. In a new photostory  “THE AFTERMATH OF AILA. The lingering effects of a tropical cyclone in the Indian Bengal delta”, Katharine Vincent and Sumana Banerjee reflect on how, nearly a decade after it occurred, cyclone Aila still has an impact on the lives and livelihoods of island residents in the Indian Bengal delta.

Dulki village, Gosaba block, Indian Bengal delta (photo: Katharine Vincent)

Deltas: present and future-new infographic from DECCMA

DECCMA has released a new infographic that summarises what we know about deltas in the present and future. Deltas are already exposed to sea level rise, coastal erosion, flooding and salinisation. In the future climate risk will increase beyond 2050, but the particular nature of hazards differs between deltas. In the Volta in Ghana, for example, erosion and flooding is driven by waves and sea level rise; whereas the future of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna is more dependent on sediment input than other deltas.

Deltas are already important contributors to national economies. In the future agriculture will become less significant in economies due to land degradation and erosion, but models show a slight increase in the productivity of brackish fisheries.

People in deltas are already mobile but in future mobility will be exacerbated by the effects of climate and environmental stresses on livelihood options.

Adaptation is already taking place, but more will be required in future. Infrastructural adaptations, such as dykes and embankments, are required, as is effective planning, such as the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100. Policy frameworks should be revisited to enable gender-equitable adaptation and support for internally displaced persons. Migration also provides opportunities for adaptation.

DECCMA researcher selected to take part in international summer school on environmental changes and migration


DECCMA India PhD researcher Shouvik Das has been selected to participate in the EDGE International Summer School on environmental changes and migration.  The 5 day summer school is the third to take place within the Horizon 2020-funded EDGE programme, a collaboration between three European partners: Sciences Po in France, the University of Economics in Bratislava and the University of Liege in Belgium. It will take place in Liege in September. Shouvik’s PhD topic is “Environmental change and migration in the lower delta plain of West Bengal, India”.

Shouvik Das (photo: Klaus Wohlmann)