Bonn University: TransRe Project on „Building Resilience through Translocality, Climate Change, Migration and Social Resilience of Rural Communities in Thailand“ now started

Project Outline

Climate change and migration are drawing increasing interest from researchers and policy makers, as well as from the general public. Much attention has been given to climate change as a push factor contributing to migration, and to the potential conflicts and humanitarian crises that may result. The proposed project offers a fresh perspective on the climate change-migration nexus. It starts from the assumption that, regardless of the accuracy of the projections of future environmental changes, migration is already occurring and will continue to be a major dynamic of global change. Migration is connecting people, transforming places, and facilitating flows of knowledge and resources, and thus creating networked and interconnected translocal spaces.

Through this intensifying translocal connectedness, the ability of households and communities to respond to climatic risks and sustain their livelihoods and well-being – that is, their social resilience – has the potential to be strengthened. The proposed project focuses on resource-dependent households and rural communities that are particularly vulnerable to climate-related risks. It seeks to decipher the relations between migration, translocality and social resilience to climate change. It follows a place-based and multi-sited fieldwork approach and seeks to generate empirical evidence based on case studies carried out in Thailand and in the places of destination of migrants. The research will focus on the following areas: 1) Vulnerability and resilience with regard to climatic risks; 2) The effects of migration networks on social resilience; 3) Translocal social practices and their effects on the place of origin of migrants; and 4) Stakeholder and policy analysis in the field of migration and climate-change adaptation.

The research program will employ various approaches from the fields of Development Geography, Geographic Migration Studies, Political Geography and Anthropology. It includes nine subprojects:

Subproject 1 – Joint panel survey: The project will start with a baseline household questionnaire, which will form the basis for the in-depth studies (subproject 2-5). The survey will be designed to establish representativeness on the sub-district level. The baseline household survey will provide information on socio-economic status, assets base, livelihood activities, migration, remittances, risk exposure and coping mechanisms.

Subproject 2 – Vulnerability and resilience to climatic risks: Using the data from the baseline survey, participatory rural appraisals (Kumar 2002) in combination with small-scale standardized quantitative in-depth surveys and qualitative social science research methods will be applied (Rademacher-Schulz et al. 2012). The aim of this subproject is to gain a detailed understanding of factors influencing vulnerability and resilience on both the household and community level. The subproject will also facilitate an understanding of the role of migration within the livelihood system.

Subproject 3 – Migration networks and social resilience: Subproject 3 will carry out social network analysis. A particular focus will be placed on properties of the networks on the one hand, and on the nature of flows through the networks on the other. The subproject will utilize available data from the Nang Rong Project (, particularly consolidated data on social networks and life history calendars, exploring the temporal dynamics of network over time. The aim is to understand the influence of network properties and flows on the ability of households to respond to climatic risks and to innovate and search for new livelihood pathways.

Subproject 4 – Social practices of translocality: Subproject 4 focuses on the everyday dynamics of translocality and the translocal social practices of migrants who are rooted in multiple localities. This subproject will carry out a multi-sited ethnography (Coleman & Von Hellermann 2011; Falzon 2009; Marcus 1995), with the aim of understanding translocal practices and their effects on the places of origin. The sub-project will focus on internal migration, and international migration flows.

Subproject 5 – Governing translocal social resilience: This subproject will not only create an understanding of the policy environment and its impact on social resilience, but will also help to guide policy dialogue and suggest how migration and translocality can be mainstreamed into climate-change adaptation policies. The subproject will significantly contribute to the development of the translocal resilience toolkit for practitioners (subproject 7).

In close cooperation with project partners from NGOs, the project will carry out two “from knowledge to action” subprojects:

Subproject 6 – Supporting community resilience through translocality: Informed by findings from other subprojects, this subproject will engage in participatory action research with the aim of identifying and initiating pathways of translocal resilience-building on the community level. In close collaboration with local partners and affected communities, the subproject will design and guide the implementation of pilot projects. This translocal resilience “from below” will be fostered through a Translocal Grassroots Innovation Initiative. The aim is to enable local ideas to be implemented effectively.

Subproject 7 – Translocal resilience toolkit for adaptation policy-makers and practitioners: Based on the research evidence generated throughout the project, and practical experience gathered from pilot projects on translocal community resilience-building, this subproject will develop a toolkit for supporting translocal social resilience-building for the local governments and NGOs working on community-based adaptation. The toolkit will consist of policy guidelines and practical support measures for effectively integrating migration-based social resilience support with community development and climate-change adaptation plans and policies.

Two higher level subprojects will take up an integrative function for the project:

Subproject 8 – Integrated understanding of translocal resilience: A comprehensive understanding of translocal social resilience will be reached through the integration and synthesis of insights from each subproject. This task will be coordinated and guided by subproject 8 (project leader) and realized through the following measures: a) geographic and temporal coordination of field work; b) quantitative integration through interlinking survey modules; c) qualitative integration through a case study approach.

Subproject Z – Data management: Following the recommendation of the German Science Foundation (DFG) on data management (DFG 1998, 2009, 2012) the project will set up a data infrastructure, formulate a data policy and a data management plan. The objective of data management within the project is data security, exchange and systematic archiving as well as making data publicly accessible for re-use. The potential for data reuse will be explored through the usage of data from the Narong data repository. The project considers data management as ethical responsibility. Knowledge that benefits the whole community is more powerful when shared widely.

In collaboration with the Raks Thai Foundation, a member of CARE International, the project will implement pilot projects aimed at resilience-building in translocal communities. It will also develop a toolkit for policy-makers and practitioners, which will guide the integration of migration-based social resilience support into community development and climate-change adaptation plans and policies. The project will seek to disseminate its findings to the scientific community, policy-makers and practitioners using a combination of dissemination instruments. Communication of the findings to relevant policy-makers on both the national and the international level will be ensured through collaboration with UNU-EHS, IOM Thailand, DIE, NGOs and high-level contacts with policy makers in Thailand.

Principle investigator: Patrick Sakdapolrak

Research associates: Sopon Naruchaikusol, Kayly Ober, Simon Alexander Peth, Luise Porst, Till Rockenbauch

Project duration: 01.10.2013 – 30.09.2017

Funded by: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

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