Male-Out Migration in Nepal Comes at a Price by Jeeyon Janet Kim, Elizabeth Stites, Patrick Webb, Mark A. Constas, Daniel Maxwell

Economic benefits and disadvantages of male-out migration in Nepal

New research from the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Nutrition was recently published in Food Security. “The effects of male out-migration on household food security in rural Nepal ” details gender and food insecurity focusing on male-out migration in the mountains of Far West Nepal. (To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study to examine male out-migration effects on household food security in this region in Nepal). Ninety percent of the male population travel looking for work overseas or in other parts of the country, leaving the women behind to subsist in conditions, fraught by prevalent food insecurity.

The paper presents findings about the effects of male out-migration and draws linkages to the household experiential domains of food insecurity. Its results point out that the economic benefits of male-out migration come at a cost when looking at its effects on food security. In-depth interviews and focus group discussions suggest that male out-migration is a double-edge sword. This highly gendered phenomenon can both lessen and  worsen how these households manage the insufficient quantity and inadequate quality of food, as well as uncertainty and worry  about food. 

For instance, migration can benefit households that stay behind because they can help cover basic expenses and assist female-led households to qualify for loans and credit, so that having enough food to eat is alleviated. However, these economic benefits are offset by the increased workload of the women in the household (e.g., childcare and housework) and in agriculture. The men also often face unsafe and undignified labor working conditions. The lack of a male population also impacts productivity in agricultural fieldwork, forcing households to rely on markets for their basic food needs. 

The paper recommends looking beyond the financial effects of migration and adopting a more holistic understanding about both the effects of migration and food security.