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Forum global sur la sécurité alimentaire et la nutrition • Forum FSN

Re: Rural migration, agriculture and rural development

Catherine Marquette

Clearly a chapter on rural migration as a way in to looking at agricultural and rural development is a welcome focus in the report.  In that context, there seems to be fertile scope for integrating the long history of theoretical and empirical work in this area carried out by demographers ---which was set in motion by Boserup among others decades ago.  This body of research may significantly contribute to the present outline while providing important empirical and policy direction as well. I consider this in relation to the key questions raised by the forum.

1. Does the outline focus on the most relevant issues concerning the links between migration, agriculture and rural development or are there important dimensions that have been left out?

I would point to a few significant existing demographic literatures for inclusion not yet reflected in the outline with regard to theoretical approaches for looking at migration in general. 

This includes integrating at least the more state-of-the-art dynamic network approaches to looking at migration pioneered by Doug Massey and others. Also relevant is the work of Alejandro Portes tackling the sociology of migration and the transnationalisation of poverty.  Boserup pays revisiting as well particular with regard to the role technological change and Africa (as well as more current reiterations based on for example, the so-called population/agricultural/environmental nexus that seems to be referred to in the outline (?) -- but as originally defined by Cleaver and Shreiber in the 1990s) .  

In this context, remittance dynamics as financial capital for migration and a driver of continuing migration networks comes into play.  Again their has been extensive analysis of remittances in this context by Massey and others to consider.

However, social capital and networks develop alongside financial flows as well in driving continuing migration flows---So it is not just about remittances but also the way remittances affect the social fabric, how they enable (or marginalise) groups in relation to migration and development across both social and economic fields.

These are just some of the approaches to looking at migration and development that go far beyond the push/pull framework referred to in the outline.  Demographic theory has evolved far beyond that dichotomous approach as I try to point to above.

Indeed, rather than emphasise rural-urban dichotomies as the outline seems to do at the moment, it is the dynamic connections between rural and urban migration flows and spaces, the creation of periurban areas and the rural-urban continuum that seems key in relation to looking at the impacts of migration dynamics on agricultural and rural development.  In this context, Timmer's concepts of rural and agricultural transformation and the role of migration within it are relevant to take on board as well.

Also useful from current demographic theory ---demographers focus more and more on the  interrelatedness and transformation of flows over time rather than defining ideal typologies (labour migration, environmental migration, refugee migration). For example, focusing on looking at how refugees integrate and become permanent migrants over time as opposed to concentrating on identifiying categories of refugee or permanent migration flows.  

Rather than creating static categories or typologies to consider (which do not really exist), it seems important to consider how flows transform over time as part of social and development process of integration, marginalisation etc...  Additionally, demographers generally break down migration phenomena to focus on considering one of its moments or aspects in terms of:  (a) determinants, (b) flow characteristics (age, sex, income, size, direction) or (c) consequences/impacts.  Normally geographic level of analysis or social unit involved  (individuals, couples, households/families, ethnic groups, communities etc..) as well as scale of flows (occurring at local, community,  state, international, regional level) is also important to take into account.  

More and more demographers do not focus on the divide between internal and international flows but the connections between them which really drive economic welfare over time and development  (e.g. prevalence of step migration-- moving from rural area to periurban area, to city and eventual migration internationally). Again it is the interconnection that matters not the category. Finally, the time dimension is also important to consider when looking at and defining migration phenomena ---precisely since flows transform over time (e.g. refugee migrants become permanent migrants or not, labour migrants naturalise in their country of destination, temporary/seasonal/ migrants return home etc..).

These conceptual cuts may be useful organising points for discussion as well.

2. Do you have individual experiences or are you aware of case studies that are useful for informing parts of the report?

Given the differing profiles played by key migration dynamics (refugee migration, female migration, youth migration, seasonal migration etc.) across different world regions, it would seem important to look at case studies regionally.  Having said that, their are important international and internal flows connecting regions to consider (e.g. female labour migration flows from Latin America to Europe, youth flows within Africa, refugee flows from Africa to Europe, internal flows in Asian countries, special situations affecting SIS (small island states) ).

Also, seasonal migrants, however, seems be an especially important group in terms of rural development in many countries that often fall through the net-- because of difficulties in identifying them.

3. Are you aware of important sources of information that could be useful for the preparation of the report?

In an empirical context,  I would start by drawing on the databases and research of the UN Population Division (on migration, on migration policy, on migration and development, on special topics in migration). Particularly important for gaining larger empirical evidence and case studies---- is also to review the expert group meetings the UN Population Division has organised on migration and development over at least the last several decades.  The Division is also a valuable resource in terms of tracking the policy dimensions of migration and rural development.