Mukherjee 2009 – Seasonality and coping in Asia

The paper is based on 6 case studies in seasonal poverty, vulnerability and ill-being and coping mechanisms of poor farmers and agriculture labourers from 6 Asian developing countries –BANGLADESH, CAMBODIA, CHINA, INDIA, LAO PDR and NEPAL. The paper draws upon comparative lessons, effectiveness of social protection measures and policy implications from the field. Over long periods, the poor people in developing Asia have been dependent on common property resources (CPRs) and seasonal migration to cope with the vulnerabilities of seasonality. However, CPRs in Asia have proved to be fragile given their rapid depletion and issues in „access for several reasons such as deforestation, logging, privatization, fencing and environmental degradation. Case studies from LAO PDR, and CAMBODIA show that the two coping mechanisms – dependence on CPRs and seasonal migration have not been adequate to deal with the several dimensions of seasonality faced by poor households ranging from seasonal disasters to life-threatening diseases. While the case from BANGLADESH highlights the fact how in a process of disempowerment the problems compound for poor women (including women-headed households) during deficit seasons who have limited mobility and increase in workload and ill-being. The case study from INDIA shows how adverse impacts of seasonality have reduced through a basket of options including social protection measures. While the case study from CHINA with the Yao ethnic minority illustrates how a local government window is open for the poor to take rice loans and reduce food deficit and also migrate on a daily basis. The case study from NEPAL illustrates how asset transfer in the form of forest land can help reduce vulnerabilities for the poor. Hence, it is of utmost importance that more concrete steps are taken in terms of policy making and implementation to offset various forms of seasonal forces and to ensure social protection and social justice for the poor. In this regard, both INDIA and CHINA have adopted/redefined relatively new policy mechanisms for social protection, cash transfer schemes, asset transfer programmes and poverty reduction schemes, which can help proofing against seasonal vulnerabilities faced by poor households. For instance, INDIA’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS)1, below-the-poverty line „red Antyodaya ration cards2, grain transfer under the Annapurna Antyodaya grain scheme for elderly women and cash transfers under old age pension scheme are some specific illustrations. For CHINA rice loans, subsidized agriculture loans, training for jobless migrants and extension of the State poverty alleviation programme3 from 2 million in 2007 to 40.07 million in 20094 are some illustrations. So also is NEPALs leasehold forestry scheme5 which involves asset transfer of forest land to poor households. However, much remains to be done in this area.

File: Mukherjee 2009 - Seasonality and coping in Asia.pdf