Encouraging seasonal migration to mitigate the consequences of a seasonal famine in rural Bangladesh (Policy Brief)

  • In Bangladesh, during the annual seasonal famine, incomes decrease by 50-60% and expenditures on food drop by 10-25%. The government has instituted food or cash-for-work programs, while NGOs attempt to enhance income and employment mostly through credit and to a lesser extent through job training and marketing initiatives.
  • However, there is a need for long term solutions rather than consumption-smoothing interventions.
  • Seasonal migration can successfully mitigate the effects of the pre-harvest period from September to November that is plagued by seasonal poverty and famine, providing a long-run solution to a lack of income diversity and employment opportunities in sending areas, and an employment surplus in destination cities.
  • Despite the positive expected returns of out-migration, many households fail to take advantage because the cost of failure (spending money to migrate but not finding employment while your family is under the threat of famine) is devastating. Policies allowing people to take advantage of this investment must counter this constraint. A migration support program must ensure households against failure.
  • A limited-liability migration credit scheme, which has built-in insurance against the possibility of low labour demand at the destination, would encourage people to outmigrate during the famine.