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Peru is located in western and inter-tropical South America, facing the Pacific Ocean. It is bounded on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, by Chile on the south, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. Under international law, the country claims 200 nautical miles of the Pacific Ocean  along its coast as part of its territory.

The research was conducted in three villages— Acopalca, Paccha and Chamisería— in the Shullcas river sub-basin of the Mantaro River basin in the Department of Junin in the Peruvian Central Andes. The villages, located in Huancayo Province, are situated at elevations ranging from 2,500-3,500 (Quechua ecological zone) to 4,000-4,800 (Puna ecological zone) meters above sea level. At lower elevations, households depend primarily on small-scale agriculture and various types of regular or casual employment in the nearby city of Huancayo. In more isolated locations at higher elevations, the economy is largely dependent on livestock-raising.

Overall, more than one third of the population is employed in agriculture, and farmers report declining yields due to “tired” soil. The poverty level in the Department of Junin was reported at 32.5% in 2010, with 13.8% extreme poverty; chronic malnutrition in the poorest mountainous areas can reach nearly 50%. Of the surveyed households, 50% were landless, 43% small farmers and 7% were large farmers. The elderly, single women and widows, and the extremely poor are the most vulnerable segments of society in the research area, and they have been rendered more vulnerable by the decline in communal institutions over recent decades. Despite the important roles they play, women and girls remain largely excluded from decision-making processes at community level (and higher), and their access to education also remains less than that afforded to men and boys.

Climate change is expected to have significant negative consequences for Peru, but the impacts will vary by location due to the very diverse nature of the country’s topography and agro-ecology. The research area is experiencing rapid glacial retreat, with the Huayatapallana glacier, on which the growing city of Huancayo depends for its drinking water, having experienced a reduction of 36.4% over the last 25 year. Other projected impacts of climate change in Peru include a temperature increase of 1.3º C by 2050, increased number of frost days, and 10-19% reduction in rainfall, in addition to the 15% decrease in rainfall already experienced in the research area over the last 50 years.  Women bear the brunt of the impacts of environmental change, given that their responsibilities include the collection of water and firewood, in addition to the role they play in livestock-raising and agriculture.

Findings from the project’s research support the perception of increasingly unpredictable rainfall patterns that, together with frost and heat waves, negatively impact agricultural production. The main reported changes in rainfall patterns in the research area include delayed onset of rains (by 1-2 months), higher intensity and lower frequency of rainfall events, more heavy rains at unexpected times, and longer dry spells during the rainy season. The impact of changing rainfall on food production was severe for 53% of the households and “only a little” for an additional 41% of the households responding. While variations in rainfall can thus be seen to directly impact household food security, the effects are less severe now than in past due to lesser dependence on agriculture-based livelihoods and expanded employment opportunities in non-farming activities in cities and towns, especially Huancayo, the population of which grew by 50% since the 1980s.

The results of this case study show that migration is a very common practice among high Andean communities where climate change is being perceived as an increasing threat, and that it is valued as an important diversification strategy for livelihood, income generation, risk management and adaptation to climate change. Migrants from the research villages are predominantly adult males and young people, and they engage primarily in temporal, rather than seasonal, migration. Since the majority of migrants are male, women have to shoulder additional work and emotional burdens when men migrate for extended periods of time.  Among personal reasons for migration, the highest scored reason was “better job opportunities in the city” while among economic reasons for migrating “not enough income”, “unemployment”, “not enough crop production”, and “not enough land for farming” were the top four reasons for migrating.

Migration to Lima and various international destinations, including other South American countries and the United States, is also not uncommon in the study area, which has experienced increased net out-migration over the last three decades. Land tenure arrangements have a significant impact on household livelihood strategies, with land fragmentation a growing problem in lowland agricultural areas. By contrast, in highland areas where communal land tenure systems are still common, this is less important as a driver of mobility. On the other hand, the absence of viable livelihoods other than livestock in higher elevation makes migration a more likely adaptation strategy there than in villages closer to urban centers where people can stay and commute to Huancayo on a daily basis.

Whether and how households use migration to achieve more resilient livelihoods would also seem to vary significantly based on factors such as socio-economic conditions of the household, proximity to urban centers, elevation, and other factors (e.g. membership in support structures such as communidades campesinas).

© 2007 Sarah Bramley/CARE