Migration can have a significant impact on agriculture production, both for the destination and the origin of migration. It is important to understand how the factors interact to ensure both the food security of the impacted areas and mitigate any negative effects.
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How movement can impact agriculture
Around the world, the number of people migrating is increasing each year. In 2017, the number of international migrants totaled 258 million, an increase in 2015’s 248 million, and 2010s 220 million.
Although it is often believed that migrants mostly move out of their country of origin, the latest figures show that the largest percentage of migrants are moving within their own countries, relocating from rural locations to urban ones, or vice versa. Internal migration in some countries, such as Nigeria and Uganda, is estimated to account for as much as 80% of all migration.
This movement can impact agriculture both in the location losing inhabitants and in the area gaining them. At the destination, the area often benefits from the abundant labor force and growing skillset and knowledge, helping to support and grow the agriculture sector.
The location of origin can also benefit, usually, migration has a positive impact of reducing pressure over vital resources and allows for available labor to be allocated more efficiently.
The overall impact of migration, however, is complex. It can have lasting effects on both areas of destination and origin in terms of rural development, nutrition, food security, agricultural capacity, and the broader rural economy.
Below we explore the wider impacts of migration on both origin and destination.
One major agricultural impact of migration is that of food availability. It can alter the level of food demand, either boosting or reducing the need for food production. It can also impact the type of food in demand.
For areas where the population is competing over a limited food source, migration can take the pressure off food production. In areas where labor is in should supply, food production can benefit from the influx of available workers. In both scenarios, food availability is boosted.
There is little evidence to suggest that migration reduces food availability at the destination. In most cases, the destination of migrants sees benefits such as a growing labor force, with more people to help harvest and sow crops, as well as an expanding skill set in these employees.
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Growth of the agricultural economy
A major motivator of outward immigration is the lack of economic opportunity in the rural areas in which they live. To retain people in these areas, it is expected that strategies to boost the agricultural economy will become increasingly popular.
Strategies such as increasing agricultural productivity, growing linkages with markets, and developing the rural non-farm economy are predicted to be implemented in areas of outward migration to reduce the pressures that force people out of the area.
Overall, tactics to prevent migration are consequently vastly beneficial to agriculture production. Implemented strategies have the effect of boosting the production of crops and generating an infrastructure to support this increased productivity while retaining a source of laborers, as well as a growing community to support demand.
Gender-based discrimination in the agriculture sector
In areas experiencing unbalanced migration in terms of gender, with often more men leaving than women, the agricultural sector can be indirectly impacted, with production ultimately being affected. Evidence has shown us that in areas where higher levels of men are migrating that also tend to employ men in management positions in agriculture are facing challenges.
With fewer men available to take these roles that, in these areas, are most often occupied by men, more women are successfully establishing themselves in farm management positions.
However, due to the expectation that a man should take this role by many in the industry, women are finding themselves subject to discrimination and unfair treatment. The impact of this discrimination is not only detrimental to the wellbeing of the women in these positions, but it can also hinder the success of the business.
Agricultural productivity may suffer as one of the many negative consequences of institutional gender discrimination. For this challenge, there is no quick fix. Gender inequalities must be tackled at the root, which involves numerous integrated strategies over long periods.
Spread of disease
Studies have demonstrated that one possible negative impact of migration on agricultural production, and the industry in general, is that cross-border migration can play a factor in the spread of disease.
Research shows that the spread of human, animal, and crop diseases can be influenced by migration. Its impact on agriculture production can be detrimental. The spread of disease that impacts crops can directly diminish crop yields, this effect can be enduring, lasting for years.
Diseases that impact humans and animals can also harm agriculture production, for example, if a workforce becomes afflicted then a farm may not have enough people to harvest their crops. Or, if a key animal species involved in the framework becomes afflicted this too can have a similar outcome.
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Agriculture should prepare itself to reap the benefits of migration, harnessing the potential to increase productivity, and have a positive impact on the wider economic health of the region. Also, the industry should be aware of the potential negative impact of migration on farming and implement strategies to prepare for and resolve these problems.
- Zezza, A., Carletto, C., Davis, B., and Winters, P., 2011. Assessing the impact of migration on food and nutrition security. Food Policy, 36(1), pp.1-6. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306919210001193
- UN. Migration, Agriculture, and rural development: A FAO Perspective. Available online at www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/events/pdf/8/P08_FAO.pdf. (Accessed July 2020)
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Migration and agriculture. (2017). Available online at http://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1072891/ (Accessed July 2020)
- Migration, Agriculture, and Rural Development, 2018. The State of Food and Agriculture 2018. www.un-ilibrary.org/.../the-state-of-food-and-agriculture-2018_6b6c004d-en