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Investment In Agriculture Will Reduce Migration

More Investment In Agriculture Will Reduce Migration, Improve Urban Life: UN Agency

New York, Jun 5 2006

More investment by governments in agriculture and the right farm policies will help keep rural populations on the land, reduce migration, alleviate poverty and ease the pressure on urban centres by cutting pollution, crime and other social ills, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

These and other conclusions come from a major FAO research programme aimed at analyzing the various roles played by agriculture in the societies and economies of developing countries and were made known as Europe and North America come under increased pressure from illegal migrant flows, the Rome-based agency said.

“Properly managed, agriculture can not only produce food but also have a positive impact in such areas as poverty alleviation, food security, population distribution, and the environment,” according to the Japanese-funded Roles of Agriculture programme, which was launched in 2000 and targeted 11 countries.

Addressing the problem of rural-to-urban migration, the FAO study notes that in the past 50 years some 800 million people have moved from the countryside to the cities. Large numbers have also migrated across borders from south to north and from east to west. The rural exodus looks like it will be gaining momentum as rapid economic growth in India, China and parts of Latin America draws growing numbers of country dwellers into urban centres.

Rural dwellers currently represent over half – 60 per cent – of the population of developing countries. That share is expected to drop to 44 per cent by 2030 as millions more head for the cities, according to a report by the Roles of Agriculture programme. The continuing exodus is clearly bound to have profound social, economic and environmental repercussions.

But appropriate agricultural policies can do much to regulate the rate of rural out-migration and ease the pressure on urban centres, the report says. This translates into reduced pollution, congestion, crime and disease caused by over-crowded living conditions.

One reason why people move to the cities is in search of higher wages and the report says the governments can counter this by investing in education, and providing access to technology and physical and social infrastructure in rural areas so country dwellers could enjoy the same level of amenities as are available in towns.

However, Randy Stringer, the senior economist in charge of the FAO study, says that not only are governments and communities not investing enough resources in agriculture but they are also failing to appreciate the sector’s indirect, non-food, importance in the development process.

“Agriculture’s indirect contributions are not well understood, seldom analyzed in the context of development and rarely reflected in national and rural development policy formulation,” he said.


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