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Migration for Adaptation: A Guidebook for Integrating Migration and Translocality into Community-Based Adaptation

This guide makes the case for integrating aspects of migration in community development.
Multiple Authors
Migration for Adaptation Guidebook


This guide makes the case for integrating aspects of migration in community development. This is necessary because migration often has direct implications for the outcomes of development work at the local level and beyond. Only through careful planning can development practitioners help to shape migration-related outcomes – to both harness positive impacts and limit potential negative aspects of migration on local livelihoods.

There is an array of potential positive impacts of migration that can be harnessed through community development work:

  • Financial remittances to sustain rural livelihoods.
  • Ideas, knowledge, and skills to drive adaptive changes.
  • Social remittances that may change social norms and institutions.
  • “Translocal connectedness” and participation back home.

At the same time, migration and translocality can also lead to potentially negative consequences for community development:

  • Declining labour availability and community skill sets.
  • Disrupting social cohesion and increasing socio-economic disparities.
  • Burdening of the “left behind” and separation of families.

The primary purpose of the guide is to strengthen human capacity to sustain livelihoods in the face of environmental change by realising the potential of migration for community development. By adopting a translocality perspective to community development, the guide has two primary objectives:

  • To assist community development workers with analysing the actual and potential roles that migration can play for community development;
  • To increase the capacity of community development workers for harnessing the potential of migration for community development.

This guide has been developed by the TransRe – Building resilience through translocality project.

*Download the full article from the right hand column. The key messages from the report are provided below. See the full text for much more detail.

In this guide

The chapters of this guide are structured in the following way: ƒ

  • Chapter A provides an introduction to the topic and explains why migration is important for community development. ƒ
  • Chapter B provides an explanation about the concept of translocality and introduces to translocal perspective on migration and community development. It also presents general principles for participatory community development work that can be applied to work on translocality and migration. ƒ
  • Chapter C presents a number of activities that can be used to assess and analyse the role of translocality and migration for community development and adaptation. ƒ
  • Chapter D proposes some activities that can help to capture the benefits and opportunities of translocality and migration in community development projects.

The guidebook closes with a list of resources, providing reference to a number of reports, websites, and materials for further reading on the topics of migration, translocality, and climate change adaptation or resilience.

Approach: A Translocal Perspective

What is Translocality?

Translocality describes the fact that places and localities can no longer be seen as spatially andsocio-economically isolated. In times of globalization and diversifying migration flows, localities are more than ever connected to outside places. Conditions or events (e.g. floods, droughts, economic downturns) at one place simultaneously influence the conditions or decisions taken at other places (e.g. remittances, job changes, household expenditures).

Though translocal connections are not solely linked to migration, human mobility plays a key role in establishing these “translocal spaces”. People are increasingly on the move and they connect their places of origin to other places by exchanging resources (e.g. remittances, goods and commodities), information (e.g. about available jobs), and also skills and knowledge (e.g. business ideas, agricultural innovations), which can be of great value in different places.

By using the concept of translocality, attention can be shifted to translocal connections made by migration. These can be taken into account in community development projects and programmes – with the potential to increase the effectiveness of such programmes. Adopting a translocality perspective in migration and community development implies that migration (and the effects of migration) cannot be understood separately from translocal connectedness. Translocal connections are based on the joint activities of migrating and non-migrating household members (at both the place of destination and the community of origin) to sustain individual households and improve their livelihoods. Migrants are in most cases still members of their household and community of origin, despite being physically absent for a period of time. Drawing on their contributions to the village and tapping the potential of translocal connectedness may thus be a fruitful approach to enhance community resilience towards climate change impacts and other forms of environmental change.

Translocality in practice

Adopting a translocality perspective to community development raises a number of basic but also more fundamental questions, such as:

  • How many people are migrating, where to, and for how long?
  • Who is migrating and why?
  • What are the consequences of migration for community project goals?
  • What are the resources migrants send back home?
  • How are these resources used?
  • Can these resources be used in a way that also supports the project goals, yet without patronising migrants and pre-empting household decisions?
  • How can the knowledge and skills that migrants have gained from migrating contribute to reaching project goals, and how could these resources be factored in?

When it comes to working with communities on harnessing the benefits of translocality and migration, the challenge lies in not only integrating community members but also actively including current migrants (i.e. those not residing in the community) in the analysis and decision-making process. As a means to that, this guide draws on methods commonly used by community development practitioners, such as participatory rural appraisal (PRA) and a range of related participatory facilitation approaches, and adapts them to fit a migration and translocality context.

Activities for Analysis

This guide uses activities that can help to better understand the occurrence and impacts of different forms of migration and translocality in a given community. These analytical activities are based on well-known participatory community development planning methods, but in addition to standard methods, they highlight different aspects of translocality and migration. They can therefore be integrated into existing appraisal and assessment activities at the beginning of engaging a community in development planning.

The guide provides guidance on seven activities:

  1. Mobility mapping: assessing patterns and dynamics of translocal livelihoods. This activity combines a focus group discussion with participatory mobility mapping and explores migration patterns.

  2. Stakeholder analysis: identifying key actors in migration. This activity is a Venn-diagram exercise for getting information on stakeholders who are important for migration.

  3. Impact diagramming: identifying the socio-economic effects of migration and translocality. This activity uses a variation of impact diagramming to help analyse the impacts of migration on households and the communities of origin.

  4. Capturing climate change: identifying climate risks and adaptation strategies. This activity helps to identify climate change adaptation strategies used by the participants.

  5. Adaptation and migration mapping: exploring migration as adaptation strategy. This activity explores the role of migration for adaptation strategies by focusing on the existing but untapped potential of migration.

  6. Distilling analysis results: identifying factors for community livelihood improved and adaptation. This activity helps to systematically review and analyse information that has been gathered before.

  7. Translocal visioning: integrating the migrants’ perspective. This activity is a community visioning process aimed at developing a shared vision of positive change, usually facilitated by external experts.

Activities for Implementation

This guide concludes by proposing some activities that can help to capture the benefits and opportunities of translocality and migration in community development projects. These activities are intended as ‘inspirational’, and of course they need to be adapted to fit the different contexts and needs of communities and practitioners.These activities are presented alongside supporting case studies and include:

  1. Planning and Policy Making. This involves integrating migrants, migration and translocality into community development activities; and integrating the topics of translocal connectivity, demographic change, and other effects of migration into planning processes on higher levels (for example, sub-district, district, etc.).

  2. Financial Remittances. This involves pooling (a part of household) remittances for community projects that are not necessarily migration-related, such as schools, medical centres, etc.; creating community funds and/or taking advantage of existing ones, as a means of both pooling and channelling remittances for community benefit, but also as an investment opportunity for households; financial training for individuals and households (e.g. savings, or investment in economic activities and business development); and making remittance transfers easier and safer.

  3. Social Remittances and Innovation. This involves raising awareness for the value of knowledge and ideas conveyed by migrants and return migrants for innovation processes; organising public meetings with returning migrants, who have been flagged as especially charismatic or outspoken, at the neighbourhood or village level where returnees share their experiences and plans for the future; and facilitating an atmosphere in which new ideas and innovations are valued and can thrive, and can thus have positive effects.

  4. Mitigating the Negative Effects of Migration. This involves preventing people from engaging in dangerous and harmful migration pathways and/or occupations at their destination, e.g. by providing reliable information and advice before migration; mitigating the negative effects of the separation of families, households, and communities; dealing with labour shortages and lack of skilled individuals in the places of origin; considering that migration can also lead to further social-economic disparities in the community, taking into account especially the very poor and their poverty-induced immobility.

Suggested Citation

TransRe (2018): Migration for Adaptation. A Guidebook for Integrating Migration and Translocality
into Community-Based Adaptation. Bonn.

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