Upland Livelihoods between Local Land and Global Labour Market Dependencies: Evidence from Northern Chin State, Myanmar
Journal article, 2018
Livelihoods and agrarian change processes across upland South-East Asia have been
explored for decades. Yet, knowledge gaps remain about contemporary livelihood strategies
and land dependence in areas previously inaccessible to academic research, such as in upland
Myanmar. Moreover, new strands of inquiry arise with continued globalisation, e.g., into the effects
of remittances and labour migration on household incomes and livelihoods in distant upland areas.
This study applied clustering techniques to income accounts of 94 households from northern Chin
State, Myanmar to: (i) Identify households’ livelihood strategies; (ii) assess their dependence on
access to land and natural resources; and (iii) compare absolute and relative incomes across strategies.
We show that households engaged in six relatively distinct livelihood strategies: Relying primarily
on own farming activities; making a living off the land with mixed income from agriculture and
forest resources; engaging in wage employment; living from remittances; practicing non-forest tree
husbandry; or engaging in self-employed business activities. We found significant income inequalities
across clusters, with households engaging in remittance and wage-oriented livelihood strategies
realizing higher incomes than those primarily involved in land-based activities. Our findings point
to differentiated vulnerabilities associated with the identified livelihood strategies—to climate risks,
shifting land-governance regimes and labour market forces.