Migration, Agriculture and Rural Development

Neither good nor bad, but a fact: Migration is an expanding global reality. It allows millions of people to seek new opportunities, but it also involves challenges for migrants and for societies, both in areas of origin and of destination. Making migration work for all is essential to build on its potentials and limit negative effects. These are some of the key messages of the State of Food and agriculture 2018 report that was presented and discussed during a panel discussion at CFS45 focuses on the relationship between migration, agriculture and rural development.

Andrea Cattaneo, Editor SOFA 2018, presented the report, noting an increase in regional migration among developing countries, which by far exceeds migration from developing to developed countries. He said policies should aim at maximizing the benefits of migration, highlighting that rural migration continues to be central to social and economic development. According to Paula Alvarez, International Organization for Migration (IOM), migrants contribute more to the local society than benefit from it. Migrants account for 9 percent of GDP on average, she said, calling for a more positive perception of migration. Alvarez also pledged for achieving policy coherence - to make migration policies more sensitive to the SDGs and to make sector policies more inclusive on migration. Problems usually occur when migrants are de-linked from local societies.

No Silo Thinking: Call for Territorial Approaches

This view was seconded by Bruno Losch, Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD). Policies tend to be like silos as there are policies for climate, policies for agriculture and other issues. “There are policies for this and that, but policy makers and analysts must recognize, that these policies tend to feed in each other.” “If reality is sliced too thinly, the point is missed. People live in places, not sectors! We must re-articulate sectors in space”, he said underlining a territorial approach and strengthening linkages between urban and rural development.

There was consensus regarding the drivers of migration: poverty, financial insecurity, environmental degradation and conflicts. Nadijurou Sall, Network of Farmers and Agricultural Producers’ Organisations from West Africa (ROPPA), articulated the viewpoint for Civil Sector Mechanism and discussed the challenges, namely, lack of education in the agricultural sector, a territorial approach to migration, and the status of youth and their access to financial mechanisms. He backed the statement with concrete figures: “80 percent of the poor live in rural areas. 40 percent have no basic education. 75 percent of young people in Africa live under the poverty threshold." The trend calls for massive concern towards youth, he continued: "Three million young people arrive on the labour market per year, but only 900,000 jobs are available for them.". Sall therefore encouraged the application of public policies that support employability and inclusion of young people in rural sectors.

Transparency and better data required

For Private Sector Mechanism, Hlamalani Ngwenya, University of Free State, South Africa, listed key needs, including: responsible rural investment, infrastructure development, a financing mechanism, diversification of enterprise and enabling policy frameworks. “The issue of migration is an issue of attraction – osmosis in reverse. Migration is a wicked problem, there is no single solution,” Ngwenya said, adding that one must not forget to look at corruption to assure that investment geared to rural development is properly invested.

During the session, delegates discussed inter alia: forced displacement vs. migration by choice, cross-border migration, the future of youth and rural women. Kosta Stamoulis, FAO Assistant Director-General who moderated the panel session, called migration a “force of development” and stressed the need for comparative data to better understand migratory flows. Better data on migration can help correct wrong assumptions and prejudices.

Key takeaway messages of SOFA 2018:

  • Migration, despite the challenges it may present, is part of economic, social and human development and a means of reducing inequality both within and between countries.

  • At different points in their development, all countries will be areas of origin, transit or destination for international migration – sometimes a combination of the three.

  • Globally, international migration is a significantly smaller phenomenon than internal migration.

  • International and internal migration flows share some of the same drivers and constitute an integrated system.

  • In developing regions with high urbanization rates, rural migration in all its forms accounts for at least 50 percent of all internal movements. In Sub-Saharan Africa the share is greater than 75 percent.

  • Rural out-migration can be a means of income diversification, as well as an adaptation mechanism to slow-onset environmental stressors such as severe water scarcity. However, it is not often an option for the poorest, who face the greatest constraints to mobility.

  • Rural areas host large numbers of displaced populations during protracted crises, leading to further challenges and potentially negative effects. This burden can be alleviated through rural development policies that focus on the economic and social integration of migrants, resulting in outcomes that benefit both displaced people and their host areas.

  • In many developed countries immigrants can help fill labour shortages in high-value agriculture activities that are difficult to mechanize, but integration can pose challenges both for immigrants and for host countries.

  • Policy coherence between migration and agriculture and rural development policies is essential to ensure safe, orderly, and regular migration. Policies should not aim to reduce or accelerate migratory flows, but rather to maximize the economic and social benefits while minimizing the costs to migrants and societies.