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Module IV: Gender, migration, farming systems & land tenure

Module IV: Gender, migration, farming systems & land tenure

(Topouzis/du Guerny, SDWP, November 1995)

What have gender and migration to do with farming systems and land tenure?

Migration is radically changing the socio-economic, demographic and development pr of lie of developing countries, with far-reaching implications for agriculture-based economies. According to United Nations estimates, 50% of the projected increase in the world's urban population will come from rural-to-urban migration so that by 2025, over 1.1 billion of urban people in Less Developed Regions will be rural migrants. a Clearly, the socio-economic and demographic ramifications of this massive rural exodus will have a marked impact not only on urban but on rural areas alike. Rural-to-rural migration, which accounts for a large percentage of population movement and is primarily effected through marriage, similarly has important implications for agricultural and rural development.

(a The remainder 50% of the projected growth in the worlds urban population will be largely through natural increase of urban inhabitants.

Acknowledgments: The Population Programme Service would like to thank Horst Wanenbach, Farm Management and Production Economics Service, and Gerard Ciparisse, Agrarian Reform and Land Settlement Service, for their substantial contributions to this module and Tim Aldington, Sally gunning and Alain Marcoux for their comments.)

It is the impact of migration on rural areas, and particularly on farming systems and land tenure, that are the focus of this module. The first part of the module analyzes the linkages between gender, rural-to-urban migration and farming systems, while the second part identifies some linkages between gender, migration and land tenure using the Onchocerciasis Control Programme (OCP) in West Africa as a case study. Key questions to be addressed include the following: What is the gender differential impact of rural-to-urban migration on farming systems and the farm household? What are the implications of the changing composition and size of the rural labour force for farming systems? How does migration interface with gender and land tenure? Why is it important to consider demographic and gender variables in development projects such as the Onchocerciasis Control Programme?

The movement of men and women across a specific boundary for the purpose of establishing a new permanent residence. Migration can be internal (migration within a country, including rural-to-rural) or international (migration between countries).

Source: Adapted from The Population Handbook, The Population Reference Bureau, Washington D. C., 1991, p.57

(1 Definition of Migration)

The objective of this module is to stimulate discussion among farming systems gender and population specialists on the implications of the interface between migration, gender, farming systems and land tenure for population, agricultural and rural development programmes in order to identify key policy issues and related research needs.

A. Gender, rural-to-urban migration & farming systems

Rural-to-urban migration: a gender perspective

Rural-to-urban migration is a mechanism of individual and group adjustments to development gaps created between the dynamic and inviting industrial sector in urban and pert-urban areas and the often more inert and less attractive agricultural sector in rural areas.1 Such adjustments usually trigger both positive and negative effects. On the positive side, migration helps to reduce pressure on agricultural land and food supplies, provides opportunities for the rural unemployed and underemployed, and is associated with rising living standards and livelihood prospects at the household and community levels in urban as well as rural areas. On the negative side, new imbalances in both origin and destination areas are created. In most of urban Asia, Africa and Latin America, this is manifested in high unemployment and growing social unrest, while in rural areas it translates into declining agricultural output (at least for subsistence crops), growing pauperization (particularly among women), and a disruption of traditional family and social structures.2

For many development specialists and policy-makers, migration invariably tends to conjure the image of men moving to urban centers in search of employment. Surprisingly, even though rural exodus is known to be triggered by land degradation, extant literature tends to focus on the area of destination, viewing migration as a process of urbanization, rather than from the point of origin and destination. These stereotypes have concealed both the gender dimensions of migration as well as the rural-urban continuum b which can have significant repercussions on farming systems, land tenure, agricultural production, food security and sustainability.

(b While there are distinctive differences between intrinsically urban and intrinsically rural populations, urban/rural differentiation is more appropriately perceived as a continuum rather than a strict dichotomy. Graeme Hugo, "Migration and Rural-Urban Linkages in the ESCAP Region,- Migration and Urbanization in Asia and the Pacific: Interrelationships with Socio-Economic Development and Evolving Policy Issues, United Nations, New York, 1993, p. 92.)

Table l: Migrants to India's Urban Areas by Sex, 1961-1981


Number of Migrants


Male %

Female %

1961 -71






1971 -81






Source: Census of India, 1971 & 1981, in P. Pathak, "Urbanization, Female Migration and Employment in India," Issues in the Study of Rural-Urban Migration: Report and Pacers of the Expert Group Meeting on Trends, Patterns & Implications of Rural-Urban Migration, Bangkok, November 1992, United Nations, New York, 1994, p. 62.

While male rural-to-urban migration has received considerable attention and has been the subject of extensive research, the gender (and population) dimensions of migration, particularly from the point of view of area of origin, have been largely neglected. These dimension include i) migration-induced changes in gender relations within the farm household and their demographic effects, including the demographic behaviour of female-headed farm households; ii) female rural-to-urban migration; c and iii) migration-induced changes in land tenure and their demographic implications. d

(c Recent migration research has shown that, contrary to popular belief, female migrants constitute roughly half of all internal migrants in developing countries. In some regions, female migrants even predominate: in most South-eastern Asian countries with data available, women outnumber men among rural-to-urban migrants (with the exception of Brunei Darussalam and the "frontier" area of Sabah in Malaysia). In the 1970s, the dominance of women among Thai and Filipino migrants was pronounced; and in most Latin American and Caribbean countries, women outnumber men in net rural-to-urban migration; see Hugo, 1994, op. cit., pp. 4753. Conversely, rural out-migration patterns tend to be predominantly male in all countries of Africa, parts of Asia and the Pacific, and the Near East.

d In some countries, like Lesotho, where just over half of adult males work in South Africa, more than half of all rural households are headed by women. The high incidence of female-headed households is reportedly having an impact on the land tenure system, as owners of land left uncultivated for up to two years lose title to such land. (See Aderanti Adepoju, “The Demographic Profile: Sustained High Mortality and Fertility and Migration for Employment," in Adepoju and Oppong, 1994, op. cit., p. 32) Analytical data is needed, however, to analyze the impact of increasing numbers of female-headed households on existing land tenure systems and the institutional mechanisms through which these households can be assisted with supportive land tenure arrangements.)

As a result of this neglect, the gender dimensions of migration have yet to be incorporated in the development agenda. The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development only refers to gender as "an interesting aspect of internal migration." e There is no analysis of the gender implications of female migration on farm households, on family demographic strategies, and on agricultural production and food security, and no mention of the impact of migration on the rural women left behind.

(e "Whereas in Gabon and the Congo, men constitute the majority of migrants to cities; in the Philippines and Panama it is the women who dominate the urban migration flows. As a result, in the rural areas of Gabon, there are only 83 men for every 100 women, while in the rural areas of Panama there are 114 men for every 100 women." National Perspectives on Population and Development: A Synthesis of 168 National Reports Prepared for the International Conference on Population and Development, 1995, p. 93.)

The neglect of the gender dimensions of migration is also reflected in data collection and analysis: statistical information on rural-to-urban migration by gender is often not available and data on female-headed farm households is limited. Information on female-headed farm households has focused on the heads of household per se rather than on the female-headed farm household unity3 As a result of such lacunas, decision-makers are not aware of related policy implications, and agricultural as well urbanization programmes do not often take into account gender as an integral variable of migration.

"Push/Pull" factors and gender selectivity

Urban "pull" factors (conditions encouraging people to move to the cities) for men tend to be similar worldwide, and include prospects of earning higher wages, a perceived demand for labour and better social services. "Push" factors (conditions encouraging people to leave the land) vary considerably among regions and countries, as well as among social groups, and between men and women. Rural unemployment resulting from rapid population growth and the mechanization of agricultural processes has been identified as the leading cause of rural-to-urban migration, especially in Latin America.4 Another major "push" factor out of rural areas is the growing shortage of fertile arable land in the context of high population growth, landholding inequality, environmental degradation, rural poverty, and the lack of infrastructure and social services in rural areas. Adverse environmental conditions, unfavorable macroeconomic policies and declining markets for certain types of produce are also important "push" factors for male out-migration in Africa.5

In the case of male rural-to-urban migration, young men seek employment in the cities, leaving behind female relatives to manage on their own and to provide for both the elderly and the young. This results not only in changes in family structure, but usually leads to adjustments in family roles, and more importantly, in the division of labour as well as in the way labour is utilised in the community of origin and destination.6 In the long term, it also leads to an aging of the labour force. As a result of these adjustments, women often assume major responsibilities for, and in some countries become the backbone of, subsistence food production {a phenomenon which has been termed the 'feminization of agriculture') and in the management of their families' livelihoods.

In the case of female rural-to-urban migration, "pull" factors are often reduced to a false distinction between associational (non-economic, such as wanting to join the family} and economic motives. Associational "pull" factors have to some extent hidden an often very different reality. In Latin America, rural women out-migrate due to lack of access to land and the mechanization of agricultural production, and move to the cities in search of employment in textiles, food processing and other labour intensive industries, as well as in the informal sector.7 In French-speaking Africa, a recent United Nations study found that more than half of migrant women interviewed reported economic resorts, and particularly employment, as the main reason behind their decision to migrate. Family reasons came a far second (35%).8 In Thailand, one survey found that 74% of single female migrants reported moving for economic reasons, while 52% of married female migrants had migrated for economic reasons and 26% for family reasons.9

Migration can be particularly significant for women as it usually entails a marked change in status -- from unpaid family farm workers to employees or to self employment in urban areas.10 To date, however, there is no consensus about whether migration improves or erodes women's position vis-a-vis men, as a result of the diverse factors that condition and mediate the effects of migration on women's position and the diversity of women's circumstances across developing countries.11

Linkages between gender, rural-to-urban migration & farming systems

Rural-to-urban migration is an imporant factor influencing the evolution of farming systems, along with changes in the rate of capital formation in the agricultural sector and the relative decline in agricultural prices.12 One study on the impact of heavy male circular migrations from rural areas in Indonesia found that in eastern Kalimantan, women's involvement in rice and vegetable production increased as a direct result of male out-migration.13

The impact of rural-to-urban migration on a farm household, and more specifically, on a farming system, mainly depends on three factors: a) the gender and age of the migrant (whether it is a parent or offspring/man or woman that is migrating); b) the type of migration movement (whether it is temporary or permanent); and c) the employment conditions and self-sufficiency of migrants. In addition, the impact of migration varies between and within countries, depending on the particular socioeconomic circumstances of the migrants, the agro-ecological environment, prevailing socio-cultural conditions and a wide range of other factors.

(1 Circular migration refers to short-term sojourners. One form of circular migration is seasonal migration, with the migrant returning to the rural area at times when his labour is needed for agriculture.)

FIGURE 2: Working Conceptual Model on the Linkages Between Labour, Farming Systems and Demographic Characteristics & Strategies

Rural-to-urban migration impacts on gender roles and relations in the farm household through adjustments in three productive resources: labour, capital and land. Rural-to-urban labour migration may be beneficial to the farm household through migrants' remittances which may be used to invest in the land, to acquire more land or to hire labour. However, besides reducing the available labour supply on the farm, migration may also have a negative effect on food production and security. In fact, it has recently been argued that the effects of rural-to-urban migration on food production may be amplified as a result of the way family labour is divided by gender and age.14

i) Farm Labour Shortages

Long-term male rural-to-urban migration may fundamentally change the gender division of labour in a farm household. Men may not be available for ploughing and planting which are both time- and energy-intensive.15 For women, this translates into a marked increase in agricultural work, including a wider range of farm tasks, a heavier workload and less time for domestic tasks and childcare. For instance, in Myanmar, migration has been cited a one of the reasons why women have taken up ploughing and water collection by bullock-cart.16

With a diminishing supply of labour for male and shared farm tasks, women must either depend on hired labour (which many cannot afford) or resort to limiting agricultural operations. For example, if women have problems hiring and/or supervising labour, then ploughing may be undertaken less frequently, or on less land.17 Thus, labour shortages may lead to a reduction in total agricultural output and underutilized or idle productive land. This may, in turn, result in changes in cropping patterns with direct repercussions on dietary standards, family nutrition and welfare. It may also undermine food security and contribute to the adoption of unsustainable agricultural practices and to land degradation.

Furthermore, out-migration of men and working-age youths -- which is especially common in Latin America -- can have negative effects on rural households by transferring workloads from adults to the elderly and by increasing the labour burden of girl children, which may have important repercussions on their fertility behaviour. Older daughters, who are usually responsible for caring for younger siblings and for helping with domestic chores, may have to take part in a variety of economically productive activities on the family farm instead. However, once younger sisters take over some of these tasks, older daughters are expected to marry or are encouraged to seek wage labour in cities.18

Women's greater involvement in agricultural production and increased responsibility in managing households, may or may not modify their socio-economic status. In Latin America and parts of Africa (i.e. Eritrea), some women have gained greater power in making decisions about agricultural activities, in controlling and handling farm earnings, and in investing remittances, but have tended to revert to their subordinate role upon the man's return.19 Usually, the reason why women's position does not improve in the long-term is because they are denied formal rights to land, have no security of tenure and no access to other productive resources. In sub-Saharan Africa, while day to-day management of the farm is undertaken by women, decisions affecting long-term investments continue to be made by migrant men, and usually only upon their return.20

In Asia, it has been argued that rural-to-urban migration has benefited neither urban nor rural areas, and has created serious problems both at the point of origin as well as at the point of destination. Studies for several Asian countries have conclusively shown that it is primarily the young, able-bodied and better educated rural inhabitants who emigrate, leaving substantial gaps in the agricultural and rural labour forced g As farming is essentially a family enterprise in most Asian countries, the out migration of able-bodied young workers leaves the burden on older and younger persons in rural areas who tend to be less productively21 The long-term implications of agricultural labour force shortages are likely to result in a decline in food production and in the health status of rural families (including a rise in mortality).

(g In Malaysia, rural-to-urban migration has resulted in labour shortages and the ageing of the labour force in the traditional plantation agriculture. See Tey Nai Peng and Halimah Awang, Some Implications of Rural-Urban Migration in the ESCAP Region, Issues in the Study of Rural-Urban Migration: Report and Papers of the Expert Group Meeting on Trends, Patterns and Implications of Rural-Urban Migration, Bangkok, Thailand, 3-6 November 1992, United Nations, 1994, p. 25.)

Similarly, in the case of sub-Saharan Africa, where land is not generally scarce, any reduction in the labour force is likely to decrease overall production of subsistence crops, even with a very low marginal productivity, unless it is compensated by technological means.22 It has, in fact, been argued that rural-to-urban migration is one of the main factors contributing to the reduction (in terms of relative value) of the time devoted to subsistence farming,23 thereby leading to national food deficits and rising food prices in many African countries.24

In one hamlet in Usambara, Lushoto district, Tanzania, young men migrate to urban centers or to plantations as soon as they marry, to save money in order to invest in agriculture, and particularly to buy land and agricultural inputs. The main reason why they migrate is because their village is surrounded by plantation forest and can therefore mot expand any further. Meanwhile, population pressure is intensifying. Male migrants visit their village of origin about twice a year.. The women left behind Tend to: employ hired labour to make up for the :labour- shortage or else work as wage labourers themselves in nearby vegetable cultivation. Clearly, men's decision to marry before they migrate shows that demographic :strategies influence the structure of farm households and of farming systems.

At first glance,. it: appears that :there is no clearly visible impact of this male migration on the farming system the women continue their vegetable (cash crop) cultivation using traditional irrigation systems, but are also involved in commercial crop production. However, an: investigation of how the :division of labour is adjusted to compensate for male absence, how childcare and-nutritional status are affected as a result of women's increased on- and off-farm-responsibilities, and how this, in turn affects fertility decisions could reveal otherwise.

Source: Personal communication, Horst Wattenbach, FAO,. AGSP, August: 1995

(3 Migration, Demography and Farming Systems)

The decline in food production in sub-Saharan Africa has been associated not with the first wave of migration which involved men (and which reinforced women's specialization in subsistence farming), but with the second wave of migration which involved women. The fact that women farmers are not paid for subsistence farming could contribute to a crisis in the subsistence sector, prompting women to out migrate. h Strong socio-economic ties within the extended family can exert two opposing influences, which, combined, can undermine food security. On the one hand, the dissociation of child-bearing from the cost of child-rearing resulting from the support provided by the extended family could slow down fertility decline, thereby increasing population growth. On the other hand, non-commercial circulation of subsistence crop surpluses (through exchanges of foodstuffs for manufactured goods between urban and rural areas within families with migrant members) could discourage farmers from growing them, thereby reducing food production.25 If what farmers receive from their urban kin does not exceed what they provide them with in return, and they do not reap enough profit from this exchange, this system of family assistance could threaten subsistence production.

(h Fargues argues that the reason why (unpaid) subsistence farming survives, in much of Africa is because it is run by women, op. cit.. 1989, p. 57.)

ii) Income Diversification and Management

Remittances can be of great significance to a rural family and comprise a considerable portion of the household income. The complexity and wide range of impact of remittances in rural areas has been well illustrated in a study in the Philippines which showed that: a) for some families, remittances are a survival strategy than ensures subsistence but does not necessarily lead to significant improvement in living standards; b) for other families, remittances are a means with which to invest in agriculture or in their children's education; and c) relatively better off families use remittances to invest in productive activities through purchasing agricultural land and growing cash crops.26

Remittances sometimes help to alleviate rural poverty and relieve women from physical burden by withdrawing them from arduous farm labour. For example, in the Near East-- where remittances have raised rural living standards significantly in a number of areas -- many families are able to subsist without increasing female farm labour. In other cases, however, women continue to produce most of the food for the family, while remittances are used for other purposes.27

However, male migration does not always lead to more income for the farm household. In Lesotho, where nearly half of rural households are headed by women, one survey found that fewer than half of those women received any remittances from their absent men. Research in Pakistan and India shows that migrant men send remittances to their fathers -- to pay debts or buy land-- rather than to their wives who are running the households.28 In Malaysia, most of the remittances are used to maintain rural families or repay social debt and only a small portion of the remittances are used directly as investment for rural development.29

Remittances may not always end up in the area of origin of the migrant and, if they do, they are not always put to productive use within the village or the community. Often, they are simply too low to bring the family above the poverty line, and women's dependence on their husbands and kinsmen increases. If wives receive remittances only irregularly or not at all they are forced to engage in whatever non-agricultural wage-jobs are available in order to provide for their families.30

Moreover, remittances do not always improve women's position within their families, as key decisions may still continue to be made by men. Nevertheless, there is evidence that the status of women can be enhanced through higher living standard thanks to migrant remittances. A study in Egypt, for example, shows that migrant wives acquire major new financial, productive, and supervisory responsibilities and, in fact, succeed in separating themselves from the traditional patterns of extended household production and consumption. Some invest in farming, but, most frequently, remittances are used to invest in women's non-agricultural occupations.31 From the perspective of women's needs, the positive effects of the use of migrants' remittances in many countries have been improvements in community infrastructure and services, ranging from health care centers to technological modernization, such as the installation of communal grain mills, motor pumps, etc.

Female remittances appear to end up more frequently in the area of origin than male remittances. In Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand migrant unmarried daughters are subject to greater pressures than sons to share their income with the family. One study of migrant women in Bangkok found that three in four sent back remittances.32 Little is known, however, on how female remittances are spent and/or invested in farm and off-farm activities. The significance of migrant contributions in general to agricultural investment and the resulting impact on farming systems has yet to be systematically analyzed and the repercussions on gender (division of labour, status, etc.) remain to be assessed.

iii) Family Structure and Fertility

Male rural-to-urban migration tends to conserve the traditional kinship relations and patriarchal and seniority values, thus reinforcing gender asymmetries in intra-household distribution and management of productive resources. This has been recorded across sub-Saharan Africa,33 as well as in Latin America and Asia. For example, studies in Mexico and the Dominican Republic have shown that it is the extended family that decides who will migrate with the view to consolidating the extended family structure.34

Evidence on the impact of migration on fertility is inconclusive. It has been argued that rather than lowering fertility, migration seems to maintain it at high levels, by undermining the socio-economic security of women. In order to cope with their own and their families' insecurity and increased farm, off-farm and house tasks, having a large number of children is for many women a "technological solution" (in the absence of time-and labour-saving farm and home technologies), and a means of ensuring future financial support. Clearly, expectations outweigh any perceived burden of child dependency.35

Evidence from Africa also suggests that cash cropping and wage migration tend to reinforce patriarchal relations and large family-size. From a woman's perspective, the physical and income costs of child-bearing are offset by the compatibility of child care and work with food and export crop production, and by children's contributions to her labour burden. In the case of Asia, however, it has been shown that as migration has increased in incidence, the decline in household size has also increased. One survey of rural Thai households found that out-migration reduced household size by an average of approximately half a person.36

Female-headed farm households

Migration has potentially far-reaching effects on household structure by increasing the incidence of female-headed households through the sex-selectivity of migration.37 Female-headed households are most vulnerable among the rural poor to seasonal stress and are dependent on access to common property resources. When temporary migration becomes long-term or permanent, de facto female-headed households become farmers in their own right but encounter a variety of production constraints. With, or without, the assistance of their children, women often find it increasingly difficult to adequately offset the labour contributions of their absentee husbands.38

A study in Botswana shows that female-headed households are significantly poorer than other households as women are handicapped in crop cultivation if they do not have a team of oxen or if they lack the physical strength to handle ploughing oxen. Some women hire farm labour, but scarcity of male labour at ploughing time makes this help expensive in relation to women's earnings potential. Also, while sizeable areas of land are hard to cultivate without purchased inputs, women heads of household seldom have the cash to purchase these in sufficient quantities, and thus tend to cultivate smaller tracts than male heads of households.39

Furthermore, agricultural modernization processes have been associated with large-scale losses in the kinds of domestic crop processing and field work on which female heads of households have been traditionally dependent for their income and access to food staples.40 Since time is their scarcest resource and they need a crop which gives the highest possible output per labour hour, many women farmers in Africa are replacing traditional subsistence crops, such as yams, with cassava-(which gives a much higher yield of starch per labour hour but is less nutritious).

The interface between gender, the rural-urban continuum and farming systems

An important but neglected facet of migration is the rural-urban continuum. Contrary to popular belief, male and female migrants do not simply become urban dwellers, thereby permanently severing ties with their rural origins. In fact, most maintain close links with their rural home areas, help their families invest in agriculture and land and some eventually resettle in their villages. Yet, the urban-rural dichotomy persists. This is partly because distinguishing rural and urban development and urban and rural inhabitants is statistically convenient: "Persons belong or do not belong to the urban (or the rural) category: there is no intermediate state and as a result the notion of the distance between the categories tends to be ignored. Therefore, a person belonging to a rural area contiguous to an urban district receives the same treatment as one far from any urban center.... This [dichotomy] fits in nicely with the "push" and "pull" analysis and has many advantages, except perhaps that it might be misleading for rural development...".41 Over the last two decades in particular, there has been a gradual blurring of the distinction between urban and rural populations in developing and developed countries alike, as a result of the increased mobility of people, goods, services, capital and ideas.42

An important dimension of the urban-rural continuum is the circulation of staple foodstuffs outside the market, its impact on food production and on the farmers producing subsistence crops (a majority of whom are women). In the case of sub-Saharan Africa, foodstuffs supplied by rural family members to urban migrants play an important role in the economies. According to budget-consumption surveys, in 1970, 15% of households in Bamako, 30% in Abidjan, Bouake and Lomé received food supplies on a regular basis from the villages in exchange for services, particularly taking in villagers' children during secondary schooling.43 This tradition is reported to be intensifying throughout the region.

TABLE 2: Proportion of Households Receiving or Sending Aid According to Place of Residence and Relation to Partner in Cote d'lvoire, 1985



Other urban









Son or daughter







Father or mother







Brother or sister







Source: Côte d'lvoire, Enguête permanente après des ménages 1985, Abidjan, 1986, cited in Philippe Fargues, "Subsistence Crop Deficit and Family Structure in sub-Saharan Africa," Population, Institut National d'Etudes Démographiques (English Selection), Vol. 2, 1990, p. 65.

These services or manufactured goods (including foodstuffs) provided by urban dwellers are exchanged for subsistence foods, which thus circulate from rural to urban areas outside the market. In this transaction, it is the rural areas that lose in terms of food exchange.44 According to one demographer: "The competition between the family network and the urban food market could, a priori, either encourage the farmers to produce a surplus of subsistence food or dissuade them from doing so, depending on the difference between what they receive from their urban kin and what they give them. We suggest that, if this balance is negative, that is, if the farmers do not feel they reap enough profit from the exchange, this system [of family assistance] may well threaten subsistence production."45

This may have serious implications given the fact that urban population food needs are in large part satisfied by agricultural and other productive activities of rural men, women and children (although pert-urban agriculture is also important). Many socioeconomic, demographic and environmental problems confronting cities today have, in varying degrees, their roots in, or are the reflection of, crises in rural areas. Thus, preventing or easing urban problems can in part be effected by addressing them in the context of the rural-urban continuum, rather than disparate urban and rural development programmes.46 To give but one example, pert-urban agricultural programmes need to take into account the potential impact of such programmes on subsistence production in rural areas.

B. Gender, rural-to-rural migration and land tenure

This section will focus on the role of rural-to-rural migration in non-population development programmes and on its potentially catalytic effect in reshaping gender relations. The Onchocerciasis Control Programme (OCP) in West Africa is used as a case study.

What the case study shows is that migration deeply transforms the relationship between people who have relocated and the land, since those installed in new settlement areas do not own the land they cultivate. In these circumstances, women's socio-cultural and economic dependence on their husbands, which arose from the fact that men had entrusted part of the land they owned before migrating to their wives, has no longer a raison d'être. If advantage was deliberately taken of the changed relationship between migrants and the land and of its socio-cultural and economic implications, this would facilitate women's access to and control over land.

Case study on the interface between gender, land tenure and migration: The onchocerciasis control programme in West Africa

The case of the Onchocerciasis Control Programme (OCP) in West Africa illustrates how closely a 'population' issue, such as migration, interfaces with land tenure and gender issues and how overlooking migration can jeopardize the sustainability of an otherwise successful project. It also shows how new settlement schemes can provide a unique opportunity to change land tenure arrangements in such a way as to improve men and women's access to land and enhance their socioeconomic status. The change of women's status, in particular, and the ensuing benefits for their families are, in turn, likely to enhance the land settlement schemes themselves.

Onchocerciasis, or river blindness, used to affect some 2.5 million people in West Africa, and as many as 60% of the adults in some parts of the river valleys afflicted with the disease before the onset of OCP in 1974. Villagers were forced to abandon their communities en masse. The health toll was only one of the disastrous effects of onchocerciasis. When OCP began, some of West Africa's richest river lands had been left uncultivated for several kilometers at a stretch. Food production had plummeted as people abandoned fertile valleys and crowded onto marginally productive, over-farmed lands, causing severe environmental degradation.48

As a result of larvicide and medical campaigns in 11 sub-Saharan African countries, over 25 million hectares of once-abandoned arable land have been made suitable for resettlement and cultivation. It has been estimated that this land area has the potential to feed about 17 million people, using traditional agricultural technologies and practices.

OCP has been hailed as one of the most successful medical and development programmes in the developing world, virtually eliminating river blindness as a public health hazard within the programme area while also opening up to cultivation and resettlement an area with considerable development potential.

However, the region is now facing considerable demographic pressure on the available tracts of land which could jeopardize the sustainability of the valley's exploitation. The very prosperity of the settlers is threatening the fragile eco-systems of the river valleys. Given the substantial and growing environmental degradation that has accompanied resettlement, it has become apparent that without settlement policies aimed at ensuring security of land tenure, the very success of the project may be compromised. A recent assessment of the programme indicated: "Where once the enemy was the blackfly, today it is deforestation, erosion, and extensive cultivation. Only if West Africa's governments step in to assist and regulate new settlement will these lands be saved from depletion, degradation and perhaps even eventual abandonment once again."49

However, even though the long-term objective of OCP has been to turn the previously oncho-affected valleys into habitable areas where people can safely live and work, the programme had not originally foreseen the large-scale in-migration into the oncho-freed valleys that took place following the control of the disease. It had also not foreseen the potential shock waves of this uncontrolled in-migration and their adverse socio-economic and environmental consequences. As a result, OCP had not incorporated resettlement policies and implementation mechanisms at the national or at the regional levels as part of the programme.

This explains why data and information on demographic trends is incomplete, particularly with regard to the influx of immigrants that have already occupied a substantial part of the oncho-freed valleys. There is no comprehensive socio-economic inventory on the inhabitants of the valleys, such as baseline data on their composition and origin; on the percentage of native peoples vis-a-vis immigrants; and on the type of land/tenure agreements concluded between native owners and immigrants, which are indispensable to the sustainable development of the valleys. Similarly, data and information on the occupancy rate of oncho-freed land, the pressures being exerted on resettled land, and land carrying capacity in relation to the agro-pastoral potential of the valleys for sustainable exploitation is scanty.

A situation analysis on the resettlement of the oncho-freed valleys is presently being planned to investigate: the socio-economic characteristics of the populations that have resettled the land; the types of settlements already established; socio-cultural conditions and constraints; already established commercial networks; income sources of different groups of farmers; and migrant links with their areas of origin and families. FAO is now the lead executing agency for the sustainable socio-economic development of natural resources in the oncho-freed valleys and is preparing a Plan of Action for proposals regarding a series of local and limited sustainable development projects. FAO's initial support includes the preparation of a demographic study and a socio-economic survey, in collaboration with National Research Institutes.50

The sustainability of land/tenure arrangements and settlement policies can also not be considered in isolation from gender factors. Migration to the oncho-freed valleys has involved considerable changes in farming and in lifestyle for the migrants. Most migrants have moved to new agro-ecological zone, new farming systems, crops and farming practices, a new socio-cultural environment and different tenure arrangements. For this reason, new settlements, as is the case with the West African oncho-freed valleys, present a unique opportunity to promote land tenure arrangements that protect the rights and interests of both men and women farmers.

Principles for the Sustainable: Settlement of the Oncho-Freed Valleys

- Introduce land tenure regulations that take into account customary tenure systems and that ensure secure land tenure and women's and young people's access to land and natural resources.

- Ensure: that women's rights of access to and control over land are not lost in the settlement. process.

Source: Committee of Sponsoring Agencies, OCP The Challenges of Success, 1994, p. 14

(4 Gender and Sustainable Settlement in West Africa's Oncho-Freed Valleys)

As seen in Module II, women tend to have more limited access to land and to security of tenure than men in their respective socio-cultural context. New land settlements can help re-shape gender relations by modifying traditional land tenure arrangements, as men cannot claim traditional or customary rights to land. This is because in new settlements, former land tenure patterns which had previously often favoured men in terms of land access, land benefits, etc. no longer apply. This essentially means that constraints to women's access to land are absent in the context of new settlements, providing an opportunity to enhance women's socio-economic and socio-cultural status by facilitating changes in women's legal and institutional relationship to the land.

In particular, two components need to be addressed:

i) the need to change settlement/tenure arrangements and related legislation and institutional arrangements in order to allocate land to men and women on an equal basis and to ensure equal user rights and security; and

ii) the need for legal literacy to inform men and women of legislative changes and, particularly of women's land rights. Supportive measures would also be necessary to change male and female perceptions on rights to the new plots.

The Onchocerciasis Control Programme case study demonstrates how what was originally designed as a purely medical programme with some agricultural components evolved into a considerably more complex multi-sectoral operation where demographic issues, and particularly migration, assumed a central role. It also shows that land settlement policies cannot be designed in isolation from demographic issues. In fact, the case study strongly makes the case for a systems approach to land/tenure, population and gender issues by illustrating the shortcomings of vertical approaches to development programmes. In particular, OCP shows how neglecting demographic variables can have adverse repercussion on the sustainability of land/tenure arrangements as well as on food production and security. in addition, the programme can be used as a pilot exercise to investigate the potential catalytic role that migration can play in re-shaping gender relations through land tenure policies that can ensure security of tenure for both men and women, thereby contributing to the success and sustainability of the overall programme.

"A requisite for successful land settlement is secure tenure to land and water resources as defined by both the settler and host populations." Such statements would be more gender-responsive if clarified with explicit clauses referring to gender, i.e. "as defined by both male and female, settler and host populations." Without specifying the need for secure land tenure for both men and women, gender neutrality is unlikely to result in practice.

Quote from Settlement and Development in the River Blindness Control done: Case Study Burkina Faso, World Bank Technical Paper 200, 1993,: p. 38

(5 Gender-Responsive Land Tenure Arrangements)

Main policy issues

The demographic context of agricultural and rural development programmed (including land/tenure and farming systems programmes) needs to be recognized as an important variable that can play a critical role to their success and sustainability. As such, it needs to be incorporated in existing programmes and policies.

Migration can play a catalytic role in promoting changes in gender relations and in enhancing men's and women's access to productive resources. Improving the socio" economic status of women, in particular, is, in turn, likely to contribute to changes in fertility/mortality trends. To facilitate such changes in gender relations and promote more equitable access to productive resources, and particularly land, innovative land tenure arrangements and appropriate supporting measures need to be devised and enforced.

Rural-to-urban male migration makes heavy demands on all family members, but especially on women who are left behind in rural areas to shoulder the responsibility of agricultural production and food security. Labour shortages due to male out migration may mean that women often have to face: i) tighter time schedules and patterns of time use and human energy inputs required in agricultural and home production as well as an increased number of tasks and management of productive resources; and ii) local norms which perpetuate their inferior socio-economic status.

The impact of changing gender roles on the farm household resulting from male or female rural-to-urban migration needs to be better understood and documented. In particular, the differential impact between male and female migration, labour profile adjustments and corresponding changes in cropping patterns and demographic strategies need to be further investigated. For instance, the introduction of new technology and resulting changes in farming systems need to be considered in the context of seasonal labour migration (male/female, temporary/permanent) and of the increased labour burdens they may entail for women.

The growing incidence in female-headed households that is being observed in many developing countries needs to be reflected in agriculture, land tenure and population policies and programmes. In particular, changes in land tenure systems as a result of the wide prevalence of female-headed households also need to be assessed in terms of their implications for agricultural and population policies. The out-migration of women from rural areas and its potential impact on subsistence production and food security need to be investigated.

Research needs

To address these policy issues, the following areas have been identified as starting points for research:


1. Zoran Roca, "Urbanization and Rural Women: Impact of Rural-to-Urban Migration," FAO, 1993, p. 1. For a comprehensive discussion of the problems in defining migration, see Richard E. Bilsborrow and UN Secretariat, "Internal Female Migration and Development: An Overview," in Internal Migration of Women in Developing Countries: Proceedings of the UN Expert Meeting on the Feminization of Internal Migration, Mexico, 22-25 October 1991, UN, New York, 1993, pp. 1-2.

2. Roca, ibid.

3. For a comprehensive introduction to the subject of female migration in developing countries see Internal Migration of Women in Developing Countries: Proceedings of the United Nations Expert Meeting on the Feminization of Internal Migration, Mexico, 22-25 October 1991, UN, New York, 1993, and particularly Graeme J. Hugo's "Migrant Women in Developing Countries," pp. 47-77.

4. National Perspectives on Population and Development: A Synthesis of 168 National Reports Prepared for the International Conference on Population and Development, 1995, p. 93.

5. Ogden, P. E., Migration and Geographical Change, Cambridge University Press, 1984, cited in Zoran Roca, Urbanization and Rural Women, op. cit. p. 2.

6. Hugo, 1993, op. cit., p. 63.

7. M. d. L. A. Crummett. "The Women's Movement”. Ceres, 1992, No. 137, cited in ibid.

8. Condition de la femme et population: le cas de l'Afrique francophone, United Nations, Vienna, 1992, p. 54.

9. Migration and Urbanization in Asia and the Pacific: Inter-relationships with Socio-Economic Development and Evolving Policy Issues, United Nations, 1993, p. 15.

10. ESCAP, "Urbanization Patterns and Problems into the 21st Century in Asia and the Pacific, Migration and Urbanization in Asia and the Pacific, op. cit., p. 19.

11. Marts Tienda and Karen Booth, "Migration, Gender and Social Change: A Review and Reformulation.' 1988, cited in Bilsborrow et al., 1994, op. cit., p. 12.

12. J.C. Kroll, Contribution méthodologique à l’étude du développement agricole en sciences sociales, Synthèses. Notes et Débats, Laboratoire de Recherches de la Chaire de Sciences Economiques de l'ENSSAA, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Dijon, 1985, No. 2.

13. Carol Colfer, "On Circular Migration: From the Distaff Side,' in Guy Standing (ad.), Labour Circulation and the Labour Process, cited in Hugo, 1994, op. cit., p. 67.

14. Philippe Fargues, "Subsistence Crop Deficit and Family Structure in sub-Saharan Africa, Population Institut National d'Etudes Démographiques (English Selection), Vol. 2, 1990, p. 55.

15. H. Ware and D. Lucas, 'Women Left Behind: The Changing Division of Labour and its Effects on Agricultural Production,' 1988, cited in Condition de la Femme et Population: Le Cas de l'Afrique Francophone, United Nations, Vienna, 1992, p. 69.

16. Final Mission Report, Farming Systems in the Dry Zone, Myanmar, Agricultural Development and Environmental Rehabilitation in the Dry Zone Project, July 1995, p. A1.30.

17. Ingrid Palmer, The Impact of Male Out-Migration on Women in Farming. Women's Roles & Gender Differences in Development: Cases for Planners. Kumarian Press, West Hartford, 1985, cited in Roca, 1993, op. cit., p. 3.

18. FAO, 'Women and Population in Agricultural and Rural Development in Sub-Saharan Africa," Women in Agricultural Development No.5, 1992 and Crummett, 1992, op. cit., cited in ibid.

19. FAO, 1992c. Rural Women in Latin America - Rural Development, Access to Land, Migration and Legislation, op. cit., cited in Roca, 1993, op. cit., p. 4.

20. Palmer, 1985, op. cit., cited in Roca, 1993, op. cit., p. 4.

21. S. Selvaratnam, 'Consequences of Population Change at the National Level: The Asian Context," Proceedings of the Regional Seminar on Consequences of Population Change in Asia, Studies on Consequences of Population Chance in Asia: Comparative Findings, Thailand, 7-10 April 1992. p. 72.

22. This excludes countries which have reached their potential population-supporting capacity. Fargues, 1989, op. cit., p. 58.

23. Other factors include the substitution of cash crops for subsistence crops and schooling of children. See Fargues, 1989, op. cit., p. 58.

24. Derek Byerlee, 'Rural-Urban Migration in Africa," cited in Theodore D. Fuller, "Rural-to-Urban Population Redistribution,' in L. A. Peter Gosling and Linda Y.C. Lim (eds.), Population Redistribution: Patterns. Policies and Prospects, UNFPA, Policy Development Studies, No. 2, 1979, p. 31.

25. Fargues, op. cit., p. 66.

26. L. Trager, Migration and Remittances: Urban income and rural households in the Philippines, 1984, in Hugo, Migration and Rural-Urban Linkages in the ESCAP Region,- 1993, op. cit., p. 108.

27. FAO, Intraregional Labour Mobility and Agricultural Development in the Near East: Phenomenon, Impact and Policy Implications. FAO Economic and Social Development Paper 94, 1990.

28. Roca, 1993, op. cit., p. 4.

29. A. Ahmad, “Choice and the Small Farmer in Baling, Kedah, Peninsular Malaysia”. in J. Hirst, J. Overton, B. Allen and Y.J. Byron, (ads.), Small-scale Agriculture. Canberra: Commonwealth Geographical Bureau, 1988.

30. FAO, Women and Population in Agricultural and Rural Development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Women in Agricultural Development No.5, 1992.

31. Palmer, 1985, cited in Roca, 1993, op. cit., p.5.

32. Migration and the Family, UN, Vienna, Occasional Paper Series, No. 14, 1994, p. 9.

33. FAO, Rural Women: The Closing Link Between Population and Environment, Discussion Note at the Expert Group Meeting on Population and Women, Gaborone, Botswana, 1992, cited in Roca 'Urbanization and Rural Women: The Impact of Rural-to-Urban Migration,' 1993, p. 6.

34. FAO, Rural Women in Latin America - Rural Development, Access to Land, Migration and Legislation, 1992, cited in ibid., p. 6.

35. Kossoudji, S. and Mueller, E.1983. The Economic and Demographic Status of Female-Headed Households in Rural Botswana. Economic Development and Cultural Change. No.4, in Roca, 1993, op. cit., p.7.

36. Penporn Tirasawat, 'The Impact of Migration on Conditions at the Origin: A study on selected villages in Thailand," 1985, cited in Philip Guest, 'Consequences of Population Change at the Household Level.' Proceedings of the Regional Seminar on Consequences of Population Chance in Asia, op. cit., p. 110.

37. Graeme Hugo, 'Migrant Women in Developing Countries.' Paper presented at the UN Expert Group on the Feminization of Internal Migration, Mexico' 1991, cited in Philip Guest, 'Consequences of Population Change at the Household Level," in Proceedings of the Regional Seminar on Consequences of Population hangs in Asia, Studies on Consequences of Population Chance in Asia: Comparative Findings, Thailand, 7-10 1992, p. 110.

38. Roca, 1994, op. cit., p. 6.

39. Kossoudji and Mueller, 1983, op. cit.. In Namibia, according to one observer, some female-headed households farm only half to one-third of their arable land due to lack of labour and inputs. See Namibia National Report to the Fourth World Conference on Women, Office of the President, Department of Women Affairs, November 1994, p. 38.

40. Jiggins, 1985, cited in Roca, 1994, op. cit., p.6.

41. Jacques du Guerny, Migration and Rural Development, FAO, 1978, pp. 36-37.

42. Hugo argues that there has been 'a convergence between urban and rural lifestyles, in the economic, social and demographic charcteristics of urban and rural populations, in the types of services available in urban and rural areas and in the levels of personal mobility of rural and urban populations," in 'Migration and Urban Rural Linkages in the ESCAP region.' 1993, op cit., p. 92.

43. Côte d'lvoire, Enquête permanente auprès des ménaces 1985, Abidjan, 1986, cited in Fargues, 1989, OD. cit., p. 64.

44. Ibid. p. 65.

45. Ibid.. pp. 65-66. The quote would read better if it were slightly rephrased: "The competition... either encourage the farmers to produce staple foodstuffs or dissuade them...'

46. Zoran Roca, "Rural Development, the Environment and Migration," Background Note to the Expert Group Meeting on Population Distribution and Migration, Bolivia January 1993, pp. 7-9.

47. The programme covers Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'lvoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo) and is supported by 23 donor agencies, including the World Bank, WHO, UNDP, and others.

48. The Challenges of Success: Land Settlement and Environmental Chance in the Onchocerciasis Control Programme Area, Committee of Sponsoring Agencies, OCP, 1994, p. 1.

49. ibid.

50. FAO, Lettre d'accord pour la réalization d'un étude des capacités de charge démographique dans les pays du programme de contrôle de l'onchocercose pour une occupation optimale des terres sous contrôle, 1994, pp. 1-2.

51. Migration and Urbanization in Asia and the Pacific: Inter-relationships with Socio-Economic Development and Evolving Policy Issues, United Nations, 1993, p. 15.

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