Victims of Drought: A study on the effects of drought relief programms on migration aspirations of male smallholder farmers in Sertão Paraibano, Brazil

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Northeast Brazil faces recurring droughts, which contribute to regional poverty and underdevelopment compared to other Brazilian macroregions. The Sertão, a subregion of the Sertão dryland, is particularly affected by drought, with many living off smallholding agriculture. To counter the negative effects of drought, Brazilian governments implemented drought relief programs. This research aims to understand the impact of these programs on the migration aspirations of male smallholders in the Sertão Paraibano. The data shows that male smallholders have fragile livelihoods, often supported by government help. Socialist governments have created local conditions for smallholders to support their livelihoods, resulting in decreasing migration aspirations. However, some smallholders still migrate seasonally to improve their fragile conditions. Drought relief programs and other social programs have improved local livelihoods, but these remain fragile and not well prepared for climate change, shock events, or changing government discourses. Changes like climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, or different political courses could revive migration aspirations for most interviewed smallholders. To avoid loss of livelihoods and prevent recurrences of mass migration in the Sertão Paraibano, appropriate government policy should be developed to adapt to these changes
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