Migration and remittances are shaping rural landscapes in profound ways, says a new book recently launched in Mexico City. The book, Migration, livelihoods, and natural resources, was published by PRISMA with support from IDRC and the Ford Foundation.
The book was launched during the “Natural Resources and Migration” forum held in Mexico City, May 2012, as part of the Ford Foundation’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Nobel prize-winner Elinor Ostrom gave the keynote address.
In the book, the relationship between migration, natural resources management, and rural livelihoods are revealed through case studies of Central America, Asia, and Africa. Research shows how waves of migration are affecting the environment in migrants’ home communities.
“When you have very large movements of people, you are also going to see in many cases very large changes in how the production systems operate and how natural resources are used,” explains David Kaimowitz of the Ford Foundation. For example, migration is creating shortages in agricultural labour in some communities, which in turn forces them to turn to migrant labour. In other cases, people have abandoned farming.
In Mexico, 30% of families have at least one member living abroad. According to researchers from the Universidad Autónoma de Mexico, declining rural populations due to migration have undermined community forest management practices, leading to forest degradation.
Remittances – the money sent home from migrants living abroad – may speed up resource exploitation as they allow new land to be brought into productive activities in migrants’ home communities. With this money, people can also afford to buy technology and other inputs that increase the ecological footprint of farming. But remittances can also improve the environment, for example, when they are used for reforestation or conservation projects.
In his foreword, IDRC Senior Program Specialist Marco Rondon writes he is confident that the results reported in the book will shed light on these complex dynamics and will be of interest to academics, national and international decision-makers, local governments, and most importantly, to the communities themselves.
Download the Spanish version of the book. The English version will be available in June 2012.