Decent Rural Employment

Module 6: Migration

The Migration Module aims to assist policy-makers, planners and practitioners in advocating and directly promoting policy interventions that mainstream migration into agricultural and rural development.

The module provides links to global, regional and country specific publications on the topic, including guidance material and information on how to address the associated challenges and opportunities. It also offers a capacity development tool to improve the understanding of the linkages among migration, youth employment, agriculture and rural development.

Promoting safe, regular and orderly migration for the development of rural areas

Migration is a key endogenous component of development. The reciprocal relationship between migration and development results in complex and dynamic interactions that reinforce change, with both positive and negative impacts. Migration has traditionally been a strategy used to diversify income, livelihoods and risk to overcome financial or other constraints and improve wellbeing. Yet, under certain circumstances it could become a last resort rather than a voluntary choice. In many low- and middle-income countries, poverty, food insecurity, lack of employment opportunities, limited access to social protection, environmental degradation and the adverse impact of climate change are pushing rural people, especially women and youth, to migrate in search for better opportunities. The dimension of contemporary migration calls for global action, which must be comprehensive, bringing together humanitarian and development responses.

To begin with, this module provides an overview of the key challenges and opportunities associated with rural migration and illustrates FAO's approach in tackling the root causes of migration while also harnessing its development potential. It then provides a list of useful materials to guide policy-makers, planners, researchers and practitioners in identifying adequate policy interventions with potential for up-scale.

What are the main challenges and opportunities associated to rural migration?

What are the main challenges and opportunities associated to rural migration?

Migration leads to both opportunities and challenges in the countries of origin, transit and destination. For instance, in the rural areas of
origin, migration could affect the supply of labour and the relative skills' mix and demographic composition of the remaining population, depriving sending communities of the younger, most vital and dynamic share of their workforce. On the other hand, migration may reduce pressure on local labour markets and foster a more efficient allocation of labour and higher wages in agriculture. Furthermore, depending on the context, women who stay behind may either gain greater control over productive resources and services potentially helping to close the gender gap in agriculture or be further marginalized and overburden. In the context of missing or poorly functioning credit and insurance markets in rural areas, remittances could relax liquidity constraints, provide insurance in case of crises and shocks and foster investments in rural economic activities with the potential for job creation. Moreover, diaspora organizations and returning migrants can benefit sending areas through capital investments, skills and technology transfers, know-how and social networks. In low and middle-income transit and destination countries, migration can represent a challenge for local authorities to provide quality public services for the migrant and host populations and can, among other things, add further pressure on natural resources affecting agriculture- and fisheries-based livelihoods.

The positive and negative implications of migration in rural areas are often closely interconnected and difficult to disentangle. For this reason, policies and actions addressing migration need to simultaneously target its root causes, enhance its positive impacts and minimize its negative consequences for rural areas. Agriculture and rural development can make a significant contribution to address the root causes of rural migration by giving poor people alternative and sustainable livelihoods options for moving out of poverty within or near their own communities. Yet, safe, orderly and regular migration from rural areas, including seasonal migration, should be supported to boost the benefits that it can bring for the migrants and their communities of origin as well as to reduce the negative impacts. Finally, it is a key to create enabling environments to harness the potential of migrants, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees to enhancing local agriculture and rural development as well as contributing to poverty reduction.

FAO's approach for addressing the root causes of rural migration and harness its development potential

FAO's approach for addressing the root causes of rural migration and harness its development potential

Investing in sustainable rural development, climate change adaptation and resilient rural livelihoods must be an important part of the global response to the current migration challenge.

In partnership with governments, development agencies, civil society and the private sector, FAO is committed to address the root causes of rural migration and harness its developmental potential, especially in terms of poverty reduction and food security. In particular, FAO is committed to:

  • Generate evidence on migration and rural development to support policy making by providing guidance to Member States for collecting, analyzing, disseminating and using disaggregated data on international and internal migration flows (including seasonal/circular migration) in order to better investigate the drivers and root causes of migration, its contribution to agriculture and rural development and identify opportunities for agro-related activities in migration prone areas.
  • Support capacity development at country and regional level by identifying policy gaps and strengthening the capacities of regional and national stakeholders to better incorporate migration and labour mobility in agriculture and rural development policies and programmes.
  • Disseminate lessons learned and best practices in order to promote the utilization of available knowledge, technology and good practices in agriculture and rural development and scale up innovative solutions in different socio-economic contexts prone to migration. This includes measures to supporting the mobilization of diaspora investments in agriculture; promoting financial literacy and inclusion in sending and receiving areas; building rural capacities to enhance the use of remittances for investments; and facilitating the integration of returnees in rural areas by promoting decent employment opportunities.
  • Facilitate policy dialogue on rural migration across key sectors and among stakeholders such as government, private sector and civil society, including producers' and youth organizations, migrants and diaspora groups. The aim is to enhance coherence and coordination across sectoral policies, including migration and agriculture and rural development.
  • Facilitate partnerships and advocate at national, regional and global levels on a common position on migration and a coordinated approach for addressing its root causes, changing negative narratives on migration and supporting safe, orderly and regular migration from rural areas.


Additional links

Additional links

Web pages:


Good practices: 



Further learning: