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CTA. 2000. Exodus!. Spore 89. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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Migration is sometimes a calculated grab at a better life, sometimes a horrified flight from killing fields, or an escape from fields that feed too few. It is both a cause and an effect of change in ACP agriculture and rural life, a symptom full of...
Migration is sometimes a calculated grab at a better life, sometimes a horrified flight from killing fields, or an escape from fields that feed too few. It is both a cause and an effect of change in ACP agriculture and rural life, a symptom full of surprises. We are all migrants, or descendants of migrants, some of us more than others. Some people choose to move, others have no choice and are forced migrants . The world s first migrants were African: in September 2000, archaeologists announced the discovery of a ancient settlement, established 50,000 years ago in north-east Brazil by, it is conjectured, migrants from central Africa. What pushed them to leave home? Was it the human urge to colonise? Or was it more material, in the need to ensure a richer diet and a safer life? Despite the sad plight of the so-called voluntary migrant who moves from village to city, or seeks to pierce the none-too-welcoming economies of the North, it is involuntary migration that requires the greatest attention, especially in terms of rural livelihoods. Today the world has more than 130 million involuntary migrants, forced by circumstance, or coerced by compatriots, to live outside their countries of birth. Of these, 12 million are in Africa. In addition there are several tens of millions of people forced to move within their own country by unrest and violence, natural disaster and extreme economic pressures. Since most involuntary migrants today are rural, the link between migration, agriculture and rural livelihoods is a strong one. Most involuntary migration arises, according to the Worldwatch Institute, in cases of persecution, warfare and famine. Less extreme pushes are political disempowerment, redrawing of borders and forced resettlement. The most controversial forms, where the definition voluntary is often borderline, are economic and environmental refugees, who are not recognised in international law. Opportunities and threats As a person who represents both the new and the unknown, a migrant induces fear and mistrust. But such emotions gnaw away at any hopes of stability, food security or communal welfare and must be mastered. Any host country or community must learn to identify and to emphasise the elements of opportunity which exist in migration, however scarce and fragile. Migration is a means, unintentional maybe, of sharing knowledge: the introduction of certain food processing and storage techniques, and ways of organising credit and savings schemes, have been catalogued in Ghana, Benin and Côte d Ivoire as coming from migrants from the Sahel famines of the mid-1970s. In central and southern Africa, seed exchanges have been initiated by resettled refugees. In South Africa, the department of revenue argues that inward migration from as far as West Africa helps to invigorate the (informal) economy. Few such cases are documented; most talk of benefits from migrants occurs at the level of transnational migration. Within ACP countries and other developing countries, most benefits remain largely to be identified. Migration is however primarily an indicator of a problem, most tragically at times of conflict, within and between countries, and of extreme environmental breakdowns. The hand of man lies heavily on such cases as a civil war between political factions in Chad, savage greed for diamonds (nobody s best friend in truth) in Angola and Sierra Leone, or the famines induced by over-grazing and planning blindness in the Sahel, Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. People literally place themselves at the mercy of neighbouring communities, countries and ecosystems. UNHCR: 'with the spontaneous movement of thousands of desperate people, the results can be disastrous for the environment'. 'Who has seen my cows? Who has seen my goats? These leafless trees and this dry land must be why they left'- Youssou N'Dour, Senegalese singer Illustration Terri Andon The key issue in post-war or post-disaster migration is re-settlement, either by returning home or in new locations. Here a key strategy is to ensure financial security for re-migrants: those who still have capital are unwilling to invest in agriculture or to entrust funds to banks. This restricts credit to help the cash-impaired develop their economic activities and pin down their essential land rights land tenure being central in migration-retention strategies also. But let us be clear. Agriculturally speaking, return and re-settlement strategies are not applicable in the cases of most migrants. They have gone, gone away, and they will not be coming back, nor will they be farming elsewhere. They will go to the market towns and cities. Their departure will carry the blessing, perhaps, of alleviating excess labour in their birthplace, increased cash remittances to family members who stayed and new economic exchanges between town and country, as a CTA co-seminar on urban-rural interaction in Senegal in 1999 (see Spore 87) stressed. Spirals to oblivion Current waves of migration reflect the environmental fact that the carrying capacity of the land is reaching its limits. As food production becomes ever more intensive, the pressure grows to expand land use into marginal desert-risk or upslope areas, or into ever-smaller less-productive plots. Even in apparently land-rich Africa, such pressures can boil over into deadly conflict. Worldwatch Institute: 'Land scarcity played a critical role in the recent eruption of war in Rwanda'. Such scenarios sometimes intersect explosively with existing conflicts. 'In the conflict in Somalia in 1994, most fighting occurred in the farm belt. It is the continuation of a 100-year-old movement of major clans southwards from nomadic grazing areas that have been becoming more and more overpopulated'. As it is with land, so it is with water; there are several simmering conflicts in water-stressed areas in Africa and Asia (see Spore 74). Such crises could on their own, with the proper resources, be monitored, mitigated, managed. But the environmental cocktail which will provoke future migrations becomes all the more volatile if we add the notion of climate change, an ongoing phenomenon on which man has little immediate influence. Temperature rises of 2-3 ºC in the next 70 years could create floods, droughts and volatile food production in many developing countries as has been seen for several decades in the Horn of Africa. Don t know where, don t know when In recent years there has already been one exodus, of the people of Haiti to neighbouring United States. There, a sequence of human decisions and the involuntary choices of the poor overgrazing, deforestation for fuelwood, political competition, misguided aid interventions with alien animal species have all come together to push people off the land. To have predicted in, say, 1970 that such an implosion would happen in Haiti in the 1990s was impossible just as few dared to openly predict Rwanda s collapse. To predict where the next exoduses will be is equally impossible, though several zones in ACP countries are often suggested (such as the entire Sahel belt, west central Africa, Great Lakes, and some small and low-lying islands). Rather than wringing our hands and trying vainly to halt the flow, we must accept, no doubt involuntarily, that some people many people are being born to run. Somewhere, perhaps in a foreign field or on a foreign hillside, there must be a welcome. [summary points] Despite being seen as a disturbing and unpredictable phenomenom, the benefits of migration include: - Exchange of agricultural skills and knowledge to the host community, such as new seeds and cultivation methods - Injection of new productive energy and processing techniques - New markets for local production These benefits need to be better identified, and included in strengthened efforts by ACP and other countries to better prepare for future migration. To know more: Environmental Quality and Regional Conflict , 1998, D Kennedy, report to the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict . Carnegie Corporation, 437 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022, USA. Fax: + 1 212 753 0395. Website (full document) : www.ccpdc.org/pubs/kennedy/kennedy.htm The Hour of departure: Forces that Create refugees and Migrants. H Kane, Worldwatch Paper 125, Worldwatch Institute. 1995, 64 pp, ISBN 1 878 071 26 2, US$ 5 5.70 Worldwatch Institute, 1776 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC 20036-1904, USA Fax: +1 202 296 7365 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.worldwatch.org/
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