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Clouds gather in the sky, but no rain falls. Vulnerability to rainfall variability and food insecurity in Northern Bangladesh and its effects on migration

This article presents empirical evidence on changing rainfall patterns in Kurigram district in northern Bangladesh, on the local people's perception of these changes, and on their decision to migrate, or not, in order to cope with rainfall variability and food insecurity. Our study was conducted as one of eight case studies within the ‘Where the Rain Falls’ Project. Taking on a social vulnerability perspective, we show that migration from the region is not driven by climatic changes, but rather by the existing livelihood and labour migration systems. First, there is a distinct seasonality and thus rainfall dependency of rural livelihoods, which makes the rural population sensitive to changing rainfall patterns. Second, rainfall variability and food security are closely intertwined. Third, the distinct rhythm in the labour migration system is largely structured by seasonal hunger (Monga) in northern Bangladesh and by the demand for agricultural labourers and informal workers at the respective destinations. Fourth, persisting local patterns of social inequality shape both people's condition of food security and their decision to migrate for work or not. We conclude that, instead of climate change, social inequality and food insecurity as well as structural economic differences are the strongest drivers of migration inside Bangladesh.