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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Rural migration, agriculture and rural development

Rejaul Karim
Rejaul KarimSouth Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)Nepal

Rural migration paradox

Rejaul Karim[1]

 

Introduction

Rural Migration is a paradox to the urban areas as well to the high income countries at the same time it is necessity for maintaining low input- high output-labour intensive sectors. Even though mechanization is preferred and focused in many ways and sectors automation becomes priority to the high income Western Europe, America and developing nations like China, still requirement of non-skilled and half skilled labour from Asia and Africa is high. Everyday thousands of mostly rural no-skilled labours are migrating earn more money than they can in their locality fulfilling the necessity of the said countries’ low paid labour. At the same time, possibly, in way to respond to the local talks over competition between the low paid migrated labour and high paid native labour and sort of situation created in connection with the additional human influx from foreign culture. Thus, it is now we are focusing on rural migration possibly for outlining the other ways to address the concerns of the city dwellers and western citizens. Obviously, the outcome could be beneficial for policy making from national, regional and global perspective. It is believed that the exercise would also provide justification to the backlashes are being seen on migrants.

Background

Migration is a natural phenomenon that even was existed during the prehistoric era. Since the very beginning people liked to live near to the water sources. The practice became more important with cultivation of agricultural produces. It is believed that prehistoric Horoppa-Mohenjodaro civilization was destroyed in a clash related to control of water. In the era of industrialization as well water flow proved to be important and early industries were set on the back of the rivers or near to the water sources. And for employment people again would concentrate around the industries cum urban areas. But those were in the proximity. The advent of colonization and slave business introduced new shape of migration that is in cases trans-continental. For example, importing Indian labour to South Africa and movement of African diaspora to America, West India engaged huge migration to those areas and obviously mush of it was rural migration. At present, if we look at the diaspora population in the erstwhile colonial countries, most of it is originated from their erstwhile colonies. Likewise, Muslim and jews population is most in France among European countries. African and South Asian diaspora are significant in UK. The reason could easily be assumed that France was the colonial power of MENA and UK was of Africa and South Asia. The Portuguese didn’t only make their language official in Brazil, Brazilians are also happened to be significant in Portugal. Similarly, people of Spanish Colonies are very much present in Spain. Subsequently, emergence of USA as the global power centre and advent of European Union pushed the surge of migration in the areas with flexibility and connection.

Now, once the colony is over, exploitation of the developing countries is over, cost-benefit ratio of exploitation of the poor rural people comes at the front, there are schools of thoughts criminalizing the rural migration and blaming the migrants for their misfortune related to employment, accommodation, social security and so on which could be identified as the results of capitalization cycle.

Where is the focus now?

In recent times, migration is increasingly becoming an issue in national politics in many countries. Most notably the Brexit and election of US president were proved to be overwhelmingly on anti-migration movement. Globally, emergence of right wing politics is also seen as anti-migration or anti-migrant political phenomena. Though globally we are talking about food security, social security and national security issues regarding migration, locally they are related to employment of native people, shrinking facilities for social security affected by the migrants, incidents of social unrest and intolerance among the communities, increasing rate of terrorist attacks in which either migrant people of migrant origin people are found to be guilty and moreover, these migrants, who once were dominated and ruled by the people of migrated countries, are becoming if not majority then important political and social change maker which is seen as intolerable. Protesters are also pointing towards the changing social structures and demography of the countries and the danger to their cultural heritages and social values in connection with the migration.

It is observed that so far critical analysis was not done on the issue and general people are not well aware of different dimensions like-

  1. Natural immigrants;
  2. People of foreign origin working in their countries either as technical expert or daily labour;
  3. Floating displaced people for various reasons for which migrated countries were involved or not
  4. Economic and technical aspects of employing high paying native and low paying foreigners
  5. Dilemma between requirement of cheap foreign labours and demographic changes

Though focus is on International development, as such international migration is nothing but the rural migration. However, if the international movement of unskilled labour is considered that is more beneficial to the recipient countries/areas for using the low cost labour.

Food security versus peace and stability

It is assumed that we are talking about peace and stability of the urban areas, city dwellers and migrant recipient countries and as those people came for food we are absolutely talking of food security of the beggars. Before going further let’s have an anecdote from a renowned Bangladeshi satirist. In his column in the most published daily years back he noted/shared his real life story from Europe tour-“once when he was traveling by taxi, the taxi driver first asked his country of origin, then demonstrating ‘hand to mouth’ asked whether he came for food. The writer was hurt and humiliated and simply replied that the driver’s forefathers were asked with same question about two hundred years back when they went to Bengal.

In between one more aspect we could read that is ethics of global community and colonial powers. These poor people and their forefathers and their resources were used for making the economy of colonial powers as it is today. Even these days day to business, many technical and logistical services are supported by the people migrated from erstwhile colonies. Their tears, blood, sweat are mixed with the prosperity of the developed nations/urban economy. Thus, not only the citizens of developed countries/urban areas deserve the social security, the rural poor also deserve food security and has right to share dream of better livelihood as well as peace as the colonial/urban people do.

Though extracting low cost rural resources like human resource is one of the benefiting ways of urban based economy and to some extent it is also benefiting the rural area resolving food security concerns, increasing the rural income with inflow of remittance, the real income is much lower as much of it is being spent for their more expensive living outside of the rural area and little of it is being used for constructive, development purpose.

Trends

Globally there are various kind of migration. With the changes taking place every day, reasons are also changing, motives are also being created for migration. Traditionally, there are couple trends are visible, such as-

a. Natural migration

These are determined migrants. Whenever they move, the take appropriate preparations for migration. This section of the society normally doesn’t include rural population. Mostly, the urban resourceful persons/families make such migration what is happened to be international migration. Also there are instances of natural migration among the rural people, in which for various reasons they move normally from one village to another or one district to another or one state to another within the country.

b. Infrastructural migration

This is also kind of permanent migration. For joining families, education of minor kids, addressing health issues of family members, for employment for which there is no infrastructure in the rural area (even in some cases urban area) people move to the areas where their perceived cervices are available. This is major trend for permanent rural migration emanated from aspirations created by enhanced education, financial capabilities, awareness and rural-urban connectivity

c. Job related migration

This is neither permanent nor seasonal migration. But in many cases, the reason emanates from lack of adequate infrastructure and suitable job opportunities in the locality. Many rural people works far from their villages long time, can’t visit rural place so regularly or stay with other family members for not having same opportunity and infrastructure at rural place. These could be international or national or rural or urban. Some of them turn to be as permanent migrants in their place of posting for long time. In the current world most of the migrant labours be it in Europe, Middile East, Malyasia, Singapore, Hongkong or elsewhere are job related temporary migrants. So as the most of labour intensive industries e.g. garments of the developing countries like China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia.

d. Seasonal migration in particular is common phenomenon in rural areas

This kind of migration could only take place anywhere. There are many professions that could only be available in particular season. Out of the season such jobs are scarce. Most of these labour is unskilled takes temporary jobs in agricultural or service sector like agricultural labour, rickshaw puller, real state labour and so on. Another aspect could also be noted that there are seasonal beggars in South Asia who mostly moves in certain season to certain places most of whom are not actually beggar but takes the opportunity of certain religious group, to earn more.

It is good for the high income areas where additional jobs could be done with these temporary migrants paying little but without having additional responsibilities. However, though it something better than nothing, can’t be taken as rural development activities as such because human resource development and employment diversification is neither focused nor considered in the focus areas.

e. Migration of rural women

Obviously migration is gender neutral subject. But in recent time, increased outward migration of rural women has to be recognized what is leading us to have more women engaged in paid works and enhanced women participation as regular workforce.

Determinants

There is wide range of determinants of rural migration. Generally rural people conserve huge family feeling or family bondage. Therefore, outward migration creating detachment is not a natural phenomenon. Thus, rural migration is actually impacts of infrastructural and institutional limitations coupled with lack of capital (financial and technical) resources. The determinants could be listed as follows-

  1. High concentration of population itself a determinant for outward rural migration that make the people unable to reside together
  2.  Lack of adequate employment or suitable employment/employment diversity in the locality or proximity
  3.  Lack of infrastructure for education, health, connectivity, electricity, internet
  4.  Individual aspiration that does not fit in rural set up, even sometime district or national set up.
  5.  Also there could be constant feeling for what every community believes that the other communities or places are better to live in.
  6.  In many South Asian places particularly, Hilly/Mountainous people are migrating for difficulties with drinkable water/farming/trade and other difficulties with disparaged settlements
  7. Particularly for women, there is quite little opportunities of employment. They are mainly considered as disguised labour for agriculture sector which affects the Total Productivity Ratio. For ensuring minimum paid work, outward migration of many rural women is a growing reality in the rural areas.

Impacts

Rural migration has bi-directional linkages or dimensions. Rural development is negatively affected by rural migration with little exception of inward remittance. Whenrural development takes place with regard to energy supply, infrastructure for education and health and enough working space is created, outward rural migration could be slowed down.

As always impacts are not of single kind. There are merits and demerits-

  1. Merits-
    1.  Utilization of available human resource
    2. Balance of settlements/population concentration
    3.  Availing better infrastructure for education, health and so on
    4. Urbanization increases
    5.  Financial resources are created in rural areas for formation of capital
    6.  Good ideas for better society reaching to all the quarters.
    7. Technical know-how expands
    8. Connectivity and social bonding among different societies strengthened
    9. Gender equality occurred due enhanced women participation in paid works and transfer of social norms and education.
    10. Outward migration removes the additional/disguised employment in agriculture
    11. Leads to lack of agricultural labour which in turn would lead to farm mechanization and resulted in high productivity
    12. Leads towards feminization of agriculture which is helping for identification of the women labour employed for agriculture previously which was considered as disguised labour
    13. Maximum use of human resources are increasing the productivity

2.  Demerits-

  1. Capacitated human resources are migrating;
  2. Again migration of educated people creates vacuum in the rural areas; this happens because
  3. Focus on rural development loose momentum and
  4. Infrastructure development in rural area gets late/slowed
  5. Entrepreneurshipare not developed in rural areas
  6. Being unable to entrepreneur, the financial resources obtained from exploiting labour elsewhere, is wasted or used in non-productive sectors.
  7. Rural people carry their rural culture wherever they go. Thus the influx create unrest in the migrated areas as they either try to follow their own culture or being significant diaspora try to impose upon the native community. Therefore,
  8. Peace and stability of the recipient community is endangered; and
  9. Security concerns increase

Impacts should not also ignore the loss of rural middle class and service sector because whoever moves that does not always represent the working class but also the ones who has enhanced capacity to serve the rurality in different capacities required.

Rural migration- agriculture-rural development nexus

labour market effects, impact of remittances, transfer of social norms and know-how for different activities, including agricultural

There could be a vicious circle detected in the nexus between rural development, agriculture and migration as follows:

Rural area has population more than it needs engaged in agriculture and service sector-that leads to low production and pseudo employed agriculture-that to low investment for capacity/infrastructure development-these lack of investment in rural infrastructure both for service sector and capacity building leads to outward migration for both non-skilled labour and skilled service sector population-again that creates vacuum for rural capacity building and human resource for rural development for non-skilled, aged, under-aged rural population.

The vicious circle could be broken with commercial agriculture led by women with focused investment for infrastructure for education, health and ICT so that skilled service sector could sustain in the rurality and agriculture could be profitable to retain the existing population which could help promoting safe and healthy migration

Impacts of remittance only have two dimensions-

  1. Creation of financial resource; and
  2. Aspirationof livelihood changes.

But both fail if enough space is not created for human resource development or entrepreneurship development along with physical facilities like infrastructure lacks.

Transfer of social changes and technical know-how could be in both ways like spread of democracy, gender equalities, women empowerment, and commercial farming/agriculture mechanization along with what we call as sky culture that is not accepted in many other cultures.Labour market/migration could prompt agriculture mechanization or minimum expedite which could positively affect agriculture for cost-benefit ratio and productivity that would again turn for sectoral/local income status. However, rural migration is not only labour migration it is also about migration of the middle class, educated service sector people who could make the social changes/rural development meaningful, it is their migration as well. It is also raising the question ‘who is gonna going to cultivate my land?’. Those who are considering the question as fallacy should hear to …

That means we should not only think about subsistence rurality with food security programme and peace and stability with imported poor labours who don’t require anything other than food. We have to consider the perspective is missing for the rural places where the outward migration is taking place. That is evacuation, of educated, service sector people and middle class aspiring to harness their dream of better job better life, leading towards reduction of rural population which is again leading to fallow land with the school drop outs and aged population not favourable to productivity.

It could be major concern/challenge for retaining the educated and industrious entrepreneurs and capable hands who could possibly contribute to rural development.

Rural Migration is also affecting the slower infrastructure development in the rural area as the conscious quarters are actually trying to migrate elsewhere where the facilities like advance connectivity, schooling, energy supply, working options are available, which again affecting the rural efficiency and capacity in a negative way because of migration of enhanced human resources whatever amount they have.

Rural migration is off course affecting the rural service sector as technicians, doctors, teachers are migrating for again better income, schooling of their children and so on what is essentially creating further vacuum in the rurality.

affect agricultural production

Off course it does! As-

1. Rural migration on first hand removes the minimum human resource required;

2. the second one is also crucial that it shifts the priority given for food production and agriculture which is partially linked with (i) direct involvement with the land management and production system and (ii) lessening dependency on agriculture.

3. Also the shift happens because of accommodating new challenges faced by the families outside village related to their various issues that consumes the additional income they make

Way forward

how can agriculture and rural development contribute to facilitating orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people?; ii) how will migration affect livelihoods in rural areas both in terms of constraints, such as labor shortages, and opportunities, through remittances to sending households?

  1. Rural biased development policy should be in place instead of existing urban biased development policy at the national level
  2. When rural development takes place with regard to energy supply, infrastructure for education and health and enough working space is created, outward rural migration could be slowed down. This would also help for quality migration and migration of skilled human force instead of existing trend of non-skilled and semi-skilled labour movement;
  3. Additional job has to be created in non-farm sector proportionate with the increasing rural workforce;
  4. We have to recognize the opportunity to feminize the agriculture and maximize the usage of pseudo employed labour in the rurality. However, little may be contributing to technological and enhanced capacity of agriculture development because in case the stated facts are happening those mostly helping out the subsistence agriculture for fulfilling the food requirement. Therefore, mechanized and commercial agriculture led by women would definitely resolve the challenge of under employed women workforce;
  5. More particularly, commercial agriculture would reduce the outward migration and outward migration negatively affects possibility of commercial agriculture but paradoxically helps maximum utilization of female labour or maximum inclusion of the gender dimension.
  6. Sectoral rural policies particularly for infrastructure like road connectivity, electricity, enhanced/high speed Internet connectivity with quality education and health system at per with the urban area are must for controlling the rural migration and also to enhance the capacity of the rurality
  7. Feminized agriculture would for sure increase the rural productivity that would led to enhanced rural income and can create financial resources for necessary capital development for entrepreneurship in rural areas.
  8. These changes would lead to gender equality and social stability with realization of the workforce potentials and women empowerment for decision making and for making the choice.
 

[1] Rejaul Karim completed his Master of Arts in Rural Development from Tribhuban University and serving as Desk Offer for Rural Development at the Secretariat of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The piece indicates his personal view to the issue.