A house built by a migrant couple in their forties in Vinh Loi commune, Thanh Tri district, Soc Trang province, using the savings from their work in a factory in Dong Nai province, and borrowed money from relatives.
The house is complete, but the couple plans to continue migrating for few more years to pay back their debt and build up a small capital, in order to open a small business in Vinh Loi.
They choose to rent out their 3,000 m2 of farmland instead of farming it as the land surface is small.
Photo credit: ©Clara Jullien – 17/06/2022

This focus of Clara JULLIEN explores the relationship between changes in the environment and migration decisions. It is based on a literature review and multisite qualitative research into rural-to- urban migration in a context of environmental changes, in particular from the Mekong Delta to Ho Chi Minh City.

Key results show that environmental changes act as an underlying factor in the migration decision, masked by economic factors. Insufficient incomes from the agricultural sector and the lack of alternative job opportunities emerge as the primary reasons for moving – as consequences of the economic context, environmental changes and limited availability of farming land.

Environmental hazards do affect livelihoods, but they are rarely identified as migration factors by migrants themselves. Economic and social dynamics feed populations’ aspirations for upward social mobility, and propel them towards urban areas. Moreover, the research highlights that while out-migration from the Delta replaces or complements on-site adaptation strategies, it also can lead to multidimensional vulnerability in urban areas. Low-skilled rural migrants often make a long-term temporary move rather than a permanent one, before returning to the hometown where they have kept their land.

However, land availability and current environmental trends in the Mekong Delta call the durability of these strategies into question. Therefore, it is increasingly necessary to support the local population in the Delta by developing local job opportunities and livelihood aids – especially for landless farmers – as well as to provide information on the medium- and long-term impacts of climate change. At the same time, it is equally important to accompany migrants in their migration via dedicated public support structures, to prevent them from entering urban poverty.

Clara JULLIEN is a PhD student at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and CNRS-Géographie-cités laboratory. She is preparing a thesis on the theme: “Urban refuge: the urban insertion of environmentally displaced people in Vietnam”, under the supervision of Natacha AVELINE, research director at the CNRS and member of Géographie-cités.

Download Clara Jullien. Focus 7 Migration as adaptation. Woillez, M.-N. and Espagne, E. (ed.). The Mekong Delta Emergency, Climate and Environmental Adaptation Strategies to 2050. Final Report GEMMES Viet Nam project, Agence Française de Développement. 2022, pp.181-205.