Agriculture is Africa’s largest employer and a possible solution to its migration problem
Migration involves movement of people between geographical locations within or between countries. It is part of the dynamic process of change in every society, and has always been an important component of rural or structural transformation. As economies undergo transformation, the movement of people in search of better employment opportunities within or between countries is inevitable. Contrary to widely-held generalisation, there is greater migration happening within than outside Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for about 15 percent of all international migrants in 2015. That is usually due to high rate of rural unemployment, lack of access to land and financial resources and services. This article examines the prospect of sustainable agriculture as an important pathway for reducing migration in Africa.
Why young Africansare migrating from rural areas
Migration can be voluntary or involuntary, temporary, medium to long term, or even permanent, cyclic or seasonal. It may be triggered by choice, necessity, or a forced migration. While economic migration is often warranted by necessity, in search of better livelihoods opportunities. People generally migrate due to political economy, demographic shifts, and environmental reasons and other socioeconomic considerations.
In extreme cases forced migration may occur due to human-made crises and conflicts, as well as due to natural disasters, environmental degradation and climate change. The circumstances within which people make decisions to migrate depend on the nature of the drivers or the combination of them. Predicting future migration is difficult and requires an understanding of the factors motivating migration flows.
The migration-sustainable agriculture nexus
An effective response to the migration challenge requires looking at it from the agricultural lens. Migration can lead to demographic shifts, labour deficit and feminisation of agriculture in low-income countries, with its associated agricultural burden being borne by women and girls, disrupting generational transfer of agricultural heritage and indigenous knowledge systems. On the other hand, migration can create higher agricultural labour wage due to scarcity, balanced access to resources and diversified income sources through flow of remittances. However, rural-urban migration is not the solution to reducing poverty. Efforts to transform agriculture and rural development can pay more dividends.
Some agricultural solutions to address migration challenge
In sum, efforts to address migration have often been detached from sustainable agricultural transformation. Linking migration to sustainable agriculture and food systems (including urban agriculture), and natural resource management can contribute to economic growth and improve food security and rural livelihoods of both the originating and host country or community. This requires a holistic approach, underpinned by effective policy and responsive governance that focuses on long-term investment in inclusive capacity development, building infrastructure and developing the value chain.
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