Migration as a Risk Management Strategy in the Context of Climate Change: Evidence from the Bolivian Andes

Part of the Global Migration Issues book series (IOMS, volume 6)


Mountain regions are among the most vulnerable areas with regard to global environmental changes. In the Bolivian Andes, for example, environmental risks, such as those related to climate change, are numerous and often closely intertwined with social risks. Rural households are therefore characterized by high mobility, which is a traditional strategy of risk management. Nowadays, most rural households are involved in multi-residency or circular migratory movements at a regional, national, and international scale. Taking the case of two rural areas close to the city of La Paz, we analyzed migration patterns and drivers behind migrant household decisions in the Bolivian Andes. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with selected respondents from 68 households. The drivers for migration were categorized, their relative importance was calculated, and generalized linear mixed models were applied for statistical analyses. Our results underline that migration is a traditional peasant household strategy to increase income and manage livelihood risks under rising economic pressures, scarcity of land, insufficient local off-farm work opportunities, and low agricultural productivity. Migration predominantly occurs to nearby urban areas located in the same region. Climatic variability and water scarcity, which have increased through climate change, play crucial roles as additional stressors for agricultural production. Our results suggest that environmental factors do not drive migration independently, but are rather combined with socio-economic factors. There is a need for more research on the links between environmental changes driven by climate change and other factors and their effects on migration dynamics and rural development in the Bolivian Andes and adjacent areas.


Bolivian Andes Climate change Glacier retreat Migration Peasant farming Water scarcity 



Funding was granted by the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst), Bonn, Germany. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all interviewees who shared their experience and time with us. We also acknowledge the cooperating Instituto de Ecología (Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz) and the project PRAA (“Adaptación al Impacto del Retroceso Acelerado de Glaciares en los Andes Tropicales”, Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Agua, Bolivia). In addition, we are very grateful to the staff members of CARE Bolivia for providing field work logistics, and to AguaSustentable, BMI (Bolivian Mountain Institute) and CATIE (Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza) for their scientific input. Our sincere thanks also go to André Lindner, Verónica Agner, Vladimir Mendieta and Gunnar Seidler for their support in coordination, interview translation, transcription and preparation of the map, as well as to Mihai Popa for his helpful comments on the manuscript. Finally, we would like to thank the reviewers who contributed to improving this chapter.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Formerly International Network on Climate Change (INCA), Institute of International Forestry and Forest ProductsTechnical University DresdenTharandtGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Biology/Geobotany and Botanical GardenMartin-Luther-University Halle-WittenbergHalle/SaaleGermany
  3. 3.Institute of GeographyUniversity of NeuchâtelNeuchâtelSwitzerland
  4. 4.German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-LeipzigLeipzigGermany

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