16 October 2018
FAO State of Food and Agriculture Report Focuses on Making Migration Work for All
Tea pickers in Mt. Kenya region / Photo credit Neil Palmer (CIAT)
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The report aims to improve the understanding of the causes, costs and benefits of migration to support integrated policies.

It shows that migration is an important part of rural development that should be managed rather than prevented.

Policies should aim to ensure that migration is a choice and to maximize benefits of migration for origin and destination countries.

15 October 2018: The 2018 edition of the State of Food and Agriculture Report (SOFA 2018) released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) focuses on the causes and impacts of migration. It recommends that policies should aim to maximize the benefits of migration rather than attempting to prevent it.

Migration has existed throughout the history of humankind and is a constant phenomenon of the evolution of human societies. Migration can produce benefits for both origin and destination countries and for migrants themselves, however these benefits can only be realized if migration is channeled by the right policies. FAO’s SOFA 2018 aims to lay the groundwork for a more integrated policy approach on migration that enhances the positive outcomes while reducing negative impacts. The publication addresses: the linkages between rural migration and development; trends and patterns of migration; drivers, patterns and constraints of rural migration; impacts of migration on agriculture and rural areas; and the role of migration for economic transformation.

According to the report, the main objective of an integrated policy approach should be to ensure that migration is a choice rather than a necessity. this means that policies must include efforts in peace and resilience building to address the drivers of forced migration, while also ensuring that migration by choice can occur in a safe, orderly and regular way. These recommendations are based on an in-depth analysis of the complex aspects of migration, many of which are overlooked in the current public debate on international migration. The main findings of this analysis include the following:

  • While the number of international migrants has increased from 153 million (2.9% of the global population) in 1990 to 248 million (3.3%) in 2015, this number is small compared to the estimated 1.3 billion people hat have migrated within their home countries.
  • More international migrants move between developing countries (38%) than from a developing country to a developed country (35%).
  • Forced migration affects 25 million refugees and 66 million forcibly displaced people globally.
  • The majority of international refugees (85%) are hosted by developing countries.
  • In developing countries, more migrants move between rural areas, than from rural areas to urban centers. Much of rural to urban migration is temporary or seasonal.

Based on these and other findings, the authors argue that migration is an important part of rural development that must be managed rather than prevented. Origin countries can benefit from migration through monetary and social remittances, such as the transfer of skills, ideas and technologies. Destination countries can benefit from migrants filling labor and skills shortages. Migrants themselves can benefit from higher incomes, improved services and better education. However, whether these benefits outweigh the costs of migration depends on a complex set of factors that must be considered and addressed in policy making. The report therefore concludes that policy makers should focus on “making migration work for all.”

The study provides a number of broad policy objectives and concrete priorities relating to rural migration. Policy objectives include: creating opportunities for rural livelihoods to reduce push factors; removing constraints to rural migration; developing human capital in rural areas; managing the effects of climate change in rural areas; preventing crises; and mitigating possible negative impacts and enhancing positive impacts of migration in rural areas.

Policy priorities are organized into four categories: leveraging food systems for employment generation in rural areas; measures to support youth employment in rural areas; preventing crisis and addressing the needs of migrants and host communities in conflict situations; and ensuring a smooth transition. [FAO Press Release][Publication: State of Food and Agriculture: Migration Agriculture and Rural Development][Digital Report]

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