2018 State of Food and Agriculture: What You Didn’t Know about Migration – Test Your Knowledge!

cover.pngQUESTION 1
Choose the correct statement
Migration is a modern phenomenon
Migration has occurred throughout human history

Although international migration is today the subject of great concern and attention, migration has always been a part of the history of humankind and accompanies the evolution of societies. Between 1990 and 2015, the number of international migrants has increased from 153 million to 248 million.

However, to put things into perspective, as a share of the world population, this increase is only from 2.9 percent to 3.3 percent.

Equally important to know, more people migrate within countries, therefore internally, than internationally.

Global international migration is a significantly smaller phenomenon than internal migration

The numbers for internal migration, in fact, are even greater than those for international migration. FAO estimates that over 1.3 billion people living in developing countries have migrated within their own country.

In developing countries there are seven times the number of internal lifetime migrants (having lived in an area other than their birthplace) as there are international lifetime migrants.

How many migrants move from developing countries to developed countries?
Over 90%  
55 – 60% – 35%
More international migrants move between developing countries than from developing to developed countries.

Despite many misconceptions, more international migrants (38 percent) have moved between developing countries than from a developing to a developed country (35 percent).

A large share of international migration takes place between south-south regions and countries.

Many of these flows take place between countries that are undergoing a process of structural transformation and urbanization in which agriculture and rural areas are significant in terms of their share of the population and contribution to the GDP, but as part of this process, people are also moving towards non-agricultural sectors where productivity and wages are presumably higher.

People migrate for a number of reasons. Under normal conditions, the decision to migrate can be determined by the search of better employment opportunities, higher-earning jobs, and more or better public services, for instance, those related to education or health.

However, in some situations, the decision to migrate is made forcefully in the absence of better alternatives or out of necessity.

Migration is not always a choice

Over the last ten years, the world has witnessed a sharp rise in crises due to armed conflicts or extreme climate events, threatening the livelihoods of many people and causing an increase in the number of refugees and internally displaced people.

As many as 25 million refugees have left their countries because of conflicts and crises. Worldwide in 2016, there were 66 million forcibly displaced people as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence and human rights violations, of which 40 million were internally displaced persons (IDPs), with the remainder being refugees and asylum seekers.


“Even though it’s hard to leave my country and integrate with a new community, it’s still better than living under bombs and without safety,” Yunus says. READ THE STORY

Most international refugees are:
hosted in one of the countries of the European Union
hosted by developing countries
hosted by the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom
Around nine out of ten refugees are hosted by developing countries.

High-income destination countries increasingly perceive international migration as a major challenge.

However, international refugees are hosted nearly entirely by developing countries (85 percent). Around nine out of ten refugees are hosted by developing countries.

Rural populations of those countries often feel the largest impact. Globally, at least one-third of the refugee population is located in rural areas, with the share exceeding 80 percent in the case of sub-Saharan Africa.

Rural migration is an important component of all international and national movements

Rural migration is defined as migration that takes place to, from or between rural areas, independent of the destination or origin or of the duration of the migratory movement. Rural migration is an important component of both internal (within countries) and international (between countries) migration.

Migrants only move from rural areas to cities and urban areas.
Migrants also move between rural areas, and in some countries, more migrants move from one rural area to another rather than from rura
Migrants also move between rural areas, and in some countries, more migrants move from one rural area to another rather than from rural areas to urban ones.

Due to the complexity of factors that drive it, rural migration usually takes different forms.

It can be permanent or temporary, often taking the form of seasonal movements between urban and rural areas in search of employment. It may be voluntary or forced. It can also take the form of rural–rural migration.

In fact, on average in developing countries, a larger share of people migrate between rural areas than from rural to urban areas.

Migration between rural areas is particularly important in rural-dominated societies such as in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, while rural–urban and urban–urban migration is most common in more urbanized societies such as in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in the Near East and North Africa, when one speaks about the developing world.

Internal and international migration are connected

Internal migration is often linked to international migration in that people who have already undertaken internal migration are more likely to migrate internationally. For instance, a migrant may initially move internally and later on migrate internationally, or vice versa. Indeed, across all country income groups, the share of people planning to migrate internationally is higher for those who have moved internally in the last five years, compared to those who have not.

What percentage of international migrants are female?
Over 90%
Less than 10%
Women make up half of international migrants.

Not only men migrate

Women’s participation in international migration has been increasing. They now represent approximately half of all international migrants. This varies by region, however, as males constitute the majority of international migrants in sub-Saharan Africa – from 60 percent in Eastern Africa to 80 percent in Western Africa.

It varies by age as well: in Western Africa, boys younger than age 15 rarely migrate but young girls often do.

In terms of internal migration, comparable data by gender does not exist at a global level; however, country-level data show that, in many societies, female out-migration is more prevalent than male out-migration.

Of the 31 countries being considered in the report, over 50 percent of the population – 58 percent of women and 56 percent of men – have moved internally at least once.


During the rainy season, Sarah was able to harvest vegetables, cowpeas, okra and sweet potato. | ©FAO/Sven G. Simonsen

“When we first came here a year ago, I felt stranded and confused. And I didn’t know how I could farm here,” states Sarah, a farmer and refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo now living in Kenya. READ THE STORY.

What you need to know about migration and agriculture

Migration does not impact only destination countries

Rural migration can have profound effects on the country of origin in terms of rural development, food security and nutrition. There are both benefits and costs. The impacts are felt in three main ways:

“My husband has a big family. To support everyone he had to go abroad to find work. He thought going overseas to earn money would make me happy,” Laxmi describes.

  1. Loss for sending household– The sending household loses labour and the household composition changes. This also impacts rural labour markets. Coping with the reduction in family labour can be challenging for farming households if the labour cannot be replaced. The loss of family labour can negatively affect levels of household farm and non-farm production, and may encourage households engaged in agriculture to shift production towards less labour-intensive crops and activities.
  2. Remittances for sending household– Migrant remittances can help cash-constrained households invest in new technologies. By diversifying income, remittances provide an insurance against risk and can encourage households to adopt higher-return production technologies in agriculture or to launch non-farm business activities. It can also allow households to invest more in the education of children, to build wealth and to invest in assets.
  3. Social remittances– There may be non-monetary transfers as well – referred to as “social” remittances – such as ideas, skills, technology transfers and new social patterns brought back or transmitted by returning migrants.

The positive impacts of out-migration can spread to entire rural communities, as out-migration pushes up local wages and remittances are spent on local goods and invested in local economic activities, leading to increased incomes and employment.

However, we cannot ignore the challenges and costs associated with migration. For individuals, these costs can be high at the economic, social and personal levels.

It can be disruptive for families and for communities of origin, not least when it leads to the loss of often the most dynamic part of the workforce, since it is generally the younger and better educated who migrate.

The balance between the benefits and the costs is not always positive for those who move or for those who are left behind.

In terms of employment, only the migrants themselves benefit from migration.
Migrants often fill labour shortages in the destination country or region. For example, in many countries that are facing depopulation of rural areas, migration provides labour that upholds agricultural production.

Migration can also support developed destination countries

For many developed countries experiencing rural depopulation, international migrants can contribute to the development of rural areas by filling labour shortages in agriculture.

In North America and Europe for instance, foreign labour constitutes the backbone of agricultural production. However, protection of labour rights and the working conditions of migrants are often poor.

In many rural areas agricultural labourers often work informally, earn less than legal salaries and are subject to exploitation. Providing decent working conditions for migrant agricultural workers can ensure that the migration experience is positive both for migrants and their host countries.

Country contexts are important in understanding migration

Migration assumes various forms and presents different challenges and opportunities for migrants and societies depending on the country context. There are five broad country profiles and the different policy areas that need to be prioritized within them:

  1. Fragile and conflict-affected states In fragile contexts such as prolonged conflicts and protracted crises, people may be forced to move for reasons of safety and security, presenting enormous challenges for areas of origin and destination. In these cases, migratory flows usually begin with internal displacements which, depending on the intensity and the duration of conflict, become frequent and may lead to large international out-migration.
  2. Countries facing a rural youth employment challenge in fragile contexts– These include countries where rural youth employment is a challenge because they have large and/or growing populations of rural youth, without the development momentum to absorb added labour market entrants. This is typical in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where urbanization has not been matched by comparable growth in manufacturing or modern service sectors and where people exiting low-productivity agriculture move mostly into low-productivity informal services, usually in urban areas. This challenge is made more acute by the prediction that in the decades ahead, sub-Saharan Africa in particular will face large increases in its rural youth population. Survival migration is also frequent due to a high incidence of extreme poverty and food insecurity.
  3. Countries with development momentum,includes countries that have a large pool of youth in rural areas, but also a reasonable degree of economic momentum to generate employment for youth, either in rural or in urban areas. Net rural–urban migration is usually positive, but rural–rural migration is considerable, at least in countries with a big agricultural base. Currently countries in this category are major sources of emigration, which could accelerate if economic development increases. Although facing a similar challenge of large numbers of rural youth, countries with development momentum can generate employment and use the demographic profile to their advantage.
  4. Transitioning countries are those that have made advances in terms of economic development and governance. This is reflected in their birth and urbanization rates, resulting in fewer youth per hectare of agricultural land. Internal migration is diversified, with urban–urban migration dominating. Many of these transitioning countries are both origins and destinations of international migration. If current trends continue, some of them will soon join the “aspirational destination” group.
  5. Aspirational destinations with high levels of development– Many of the countries that are now in this category were once a major origin of migrants, but now are major destinations of international migration. Some of these countries now have a low number of youth in rural areas, and often they will need migration to those areas in order to meet labour demand in agriculture and/or need to invest heavily in mechanization. Net internal rural–urban migration is low, as rural areas are mostly depopulated while commuting and circular mobility are very high. Out-migration from these countries mostly involves either highly skilled workers – usually migrating to other developed countries – or migrants returning to their countries of origin after a relatively long period of migration.
Choose the missing word:

At different points in their development, ____ countries will be areas of origin, transit or destination for international migration.

Just as European countries have become destinations for migration after having been a long-time source of migration, emerging countries are likely to become regional hubs and receive more immigrants as they advance in their development.

For most types of countries, the type of development they undertake will dictate which rural–urban linkages are relevant for their migration flows and patterns. A territorial development approach that focuses on these linkages can help offer solutions to some of the challenges.

How to make migration work for all

Policies must aim to harness the benefits of rural migration while reducing the negative impacts

The vastly unequal distribution of opportunities in the world – both within and between countries – is bound to continue driving migration, internal and international. Rural migration will remain a large component of these migration flows.

The differences in opportunities also imply that migration has the potential to contribute to economic, social and human development. Gradually shifting labour out of low-productivity employment, often in rural areas, and into more productive sectors, mostly in urban areas, offers huge potential for economic gains.

However, migration also involves costs for the migrants themselves, as well as for areas or communities of destination and origin.

As much as possible, migration must be a voluntary decision made by migrants, based on real and informed choices.

In terms of rural migration, this involves creating attractive rural livelihood opportunities. It also requires removing constraints to rural migration and facilitating regular migration for those who decide to move, as well as developing human capital in rural areas through training and skills development, allowing prospective migrants to take advantage of opportunities.

Furthermore, this involves preventing crises that lead to forced migration and limiting the negative impacts on migrants and host communities.

Migration must be a choice

The movement of people within and between countries is an integral part of successful agricultural and rural development and is linked to structural changes in the economy.

The overarching rural migration objective must be to ensure that migration represents a voluntary decision by migrants and their families – one based on informed choices between different options and real opportunities, and one that contributes to sustainable economic and social development.

This implies mitigating as much as possible any element of coercion, so that people who are not well-positioned to migrate are not compelled to do so because they have no other option.

At the same time, this also implies reducing constraints for those migrants who are well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by migration. To meet this goal, policies should address a set of basic challenges, taking into consideration each country’s specific priorities, conditions and available resources.

Territorial development: a win-win approach

A territorial development approach that meets the needs of potential migrants before they decide to leave and focuses on rural–urban linkages can help address some of the migration dilemmas; it helps make migration more a choice than an obligation.

Fill in the blank

By investing in ____________ and linking them to rural areas, rural people have more opportunities for improving their livelihoods and migration becomes more a choice than a necessity.

mega cities
small cities and town
Improved territorial planning of metropolitan areas, small cities and towns, together with improved connective infrastructure, can dampen rates of out-migration to overburdened large cities or to other countries by generating opportunities closer to rural areas.

Improved territorial planning of metropolitan areas, small cities and towns, together with improved connective infrastructure, can dampen rates of out-migration to overburdened large cities or to other countries by generating opportunities in closer proximity to rural areas.

Where local jobs are lacking, investments in other aspects of the food system – such as warehousing, cold storage and wholesale markets – can generate employment in both agriculture and the nonfarm economy.

Investments in education, health, communication and leisure facilities in small cities and towns distributed over a territory and in proximity to rural areas, can also reduce rates of out-migration to overburdened larger cities, as people are generally attracted by more prosperous conditions in urban centres.

These investments in rural towns and neighbouring small cities can make these more attractive for farmers and rural dwellers and can open up a wider range of opportunities for rural dwellers, who may then choose to commute rather than migrating to other areas.

For people who still see migration as a desirable choice, these investments offer opportunities to build the financial capital that enables their internal or international mobility.

Rural migration will continue to be an essential element of processes of economic and social development. Developing clear and coherent policies, both for migration and for rural development more broadly, is essential for a successful process of development that can benefit migrants, their areas of origin and their areas of destination.

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*SOURCE: FAO – UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Go to ORIGINAL

2018 Human Wrongs Watch

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