Migration must be a choice and not a necessity. Migration, agriculture and rural development policies should be coherent to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration. This is what the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calls for in its 2018 report “State of Food and Agriculture”, which the FAO traditionally presents on World Food Day. The report demonstrates the impacts of migration on agriculture and rural areas. It calls for efforts in peace- and resilience-building to help communities better withstand crises and not be forced to move. And it lays out actions for different country contexts.
International migration makes the most news headlines. But internal migration is a significantly larger phenomenon. More than one billion people living in developing countries have moved internally, with 80 per cent of moves involving a rural area. The report shows that migration between developing countries is slightly greater than movements from developing to developed countries, and in low-income countries, internal migrants are five times more likely to migrate internationally than people who have not moved.
Countries with development momentum should focus on promoting employment opportunities in agricultural value chains to provide jobs for rural communities close to where they live, according to the report's recommendations. Countries where youth employment is a challenge should create decent on- and off-farm employment opportunities in rural areas while also facilitating orderly migration. Other countries at an intermediate level of development should prioritise rural-urban connectivity to expand economic opportunities and reduce rural "survival" out-migration. In protracted crises where people have been forced to flee, strategies that integrate humanitarian and development approaches are necessary to support self-reliance and resilience among both displaced and host communities.
Development often leads to more, not less, international migration, the report notes. This is despite international donors and policy-makers often investing in economic development in a bid to stem migration flows. Development in low and lower-middle income countries can help incomes grow, enabling people to cover their migration costs. Development should therefore be considered as desirable in its own right, the report argues, and not merely as a means of curbing migration.
However, the report also makes the case that the types of development investment can influence people's decisions about whether to migrate. For example, improving infrastructure and services in small cities, towns and surrounding rural areas – known as the territorial development approach – can create better links between rural communities and provide more opportunities for people to stay than investments that encourage rapid urbanisation. Where rural people are attracted by more prosperous conditions in urban centres, investments in rural education, health and communication can reduce migration to larger cities.
The Report is available in English, French and Spanish.