Migration to urban areas in developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa is being driven mainly by a rising wage gap between regions and the poor conditions of the agricultural sector. This is particularly notable for the youth populations (see section below). Migration is particularly important for household livelihoods and modernization of agricultural practices because remittances sent back by migrant workers stimulate agricultural productivity and other non-farm activities, and reallocate labour into more productive sectors (Bohme 2015; FAO 2018c; UNDESA 2017). However, this is strongly dependent on factors like market access for smallholders and climate change. Evidence from the Migrating out of Poverty (MOOP) demonstrate that for all countries examined, migration leads to increased employment in non-agricultural economic sectors (2018). Most migrants involved in agriculture transition out after migration, with the exception of some international migrants who continue with agricultural activities in the destination country. This might suggest that returns on agricultural labour in these countries is higher than the source country (MOOP 2018).

International migration is much smaller as compared to internal migration. However, there have been significant shifts in global flows of migrants in the last century, which can be examined alongside economic development and urbanization. For example, Europe is now a major destination of migrants from Asia, Africa, and the Americas, when it used to be a migrant source at the beginning of the 20th century (FAO 2018c). Unfortunately, many migrants now are refugees and internally displaced people, which demonstrates that now all migration is, linked to structural transformation processes. Given that migration takes place for different people, for different reasons, and can be for different time periods (seasonal versus life time migrants), understanding the drivers of migration are critical for the development of policies and interventions that result in inclusive transformation and improved livelihoods.

Climate change is a significant cause of rural migration and amplifies existing migration drivers such as poverty and food and nutrition insecurity. Climate-related risks such as intensity and frequency of weather and climate events, instability in temperature and precipitation increase the vulnerability of poor rural farmers, contribute to livelihood losses, and increase pressures on natural resources. Properly managed, migration can be an effective adaptation strategy, contribute to rural and agricultural development, food and nutrition security, and increase resilience of vulnerable populations (FAO 2017c)

  • Rural migration in developing countries accounts for at least 50% of all internal movement, but in Sub-Saharan Africa, this is higher than 75% (FAO 2018c).
  • In 2016, over 66 million people were displaced as a result of violence and conflict. 40 million of these were internally displaced persons (IDPs) (FAO 2018c)
  • Young people under the age of 30 account for 70% of the international migrant flow (ILO 2017)
  • Women make up half of all international migrants (FAO 2016b)
  • More than 50% of rural households in Africa have at least one internal migrant (FAO 2016b)
  • 40% of international remittances are sent to rural areas (FAO 2016b)