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Director-General  José Graziano da Silva
An opinion article by FAO-Director General José Graziano da Silva

Making migration a choice, not a necessity

 

Much has been said about the migration crisis facing the international community today. But let’s be clear, migration is not “bad” per se. People have always moved from place to place in search of wider horizons and new opportunities.

Indeed, migration has since our earliest days been essential to the human story — the source of multiple economic and cultural benefits.

However, distress migration – the forced movement of massive numbers of people due to conflict or changes to climate that we are witnessing today – is a new chapter in that story. It poses novel challenges to our ability to sustainably increase agricultural production and boost food security to feed a rapidly growing world population. Tanzania, which in recent years has generously hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing crises in neighbouring countries, is no stranger to the phenomenon.

The drivers and impacts of migration are intimately linked to the global goals of fighting hunger and achieving food security, reducing rural poverty, and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources. A large share of migrants come from rural areas, where more than 75 percent of the world’s poor and food insecure depend on agriculture and natural resource-based livelihoods.

These are the reasons why the United Nations has made the theme of this year’s World Food Day (16 October) “Change the Future of Migration.” And these are the issues I will be discussing this week as I visit Tanzania and meet with leaders of Government, farmers, and civil society groups.

Sustainable agriculture and rural development offer us a way to tackle the root causes of migration, including poverty, hunger, inequality, unemployment, environmental degradation and climate change.

Investing in sustainable rural development, climate change adaptation and resilient rural livelihoods must be core components in our joint response to the migration challenges we currently face.

The Government of Tanzania is to be lauded for its work with partners to channel investments to rural development, particularly in transport, communication and infrastructure (electrification).

In terms of agriculture, Tanzania’s in-depth Five Year Development Plan and Agricultural Sector Development Programme (II) ambitiously emphasize creating a policy environment conducive to agricultural development, increasing the use of modern technologies, deepening value chains, promoting agro-processing and the commercialization of agriculture, and helping producers gain better access to financial services. These are key pillars for lifting many rural poor out of poverty.

Young people are also the future of farming and food. Efforts to get more youth into agriculture are critical to rural development plans that can help address the lack of opportunities that often drive rural – urban migration.

No young person should have to choose to run away from poverty; they should be able to find their opportunities where they will. When young people are forced to leave rural areas it has knock-on effects for agriculture and food security, as farming is left to the elderly and productivity declines.

Spreading the use of modern practices and affordable, improved agricultural technologies can help motivate more youth to take up farming. This is precisely what is happening at the Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools being promoted here in Tanzania.These schools are helping thousands of young men and women acquire agricultural entrepreneurship knowledge and skills.

This is the sort of direction we must take as we work to make migration a choice, not a necessity; a source of stability, not of conflict; a driver of development and economic growth, not a drain on resources.

 

 

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