How rural out-migrations drive changes to farm and land management: A case study from the rural Andes

Mark Caulfield*, Judith Bouniol, Steven J. Fonte, Aad Kessler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Rural-urban migrations are one of the most conspicuous patterns in global population shifts in recent decades and can have considerable impacts on land-use and management in the rural migrant-sending communities. To better understand these impacts, we employed household surveys and semi-structured interviews to generate a small, but detailed and relatively complete set of data (43 out of a total of 57 households) from a rural indigenous Kichwa community in the Andean highlands of Ecuador. We conducted linear regression analyses (LR) between migration-related attributes of each household and farm management variables in order to provide greater insight into the complex relationships and impacts of rural out-migration on farm and land management. Our findings indicated that reduced household labour availability was associated with a decrease in the use of physical soil and water conservation (SWC) techniques (p = <0.01), while remittances received from rural out-migrations were associated with an increase in the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers (p = <0.01). The results of the LRs were used to develop a Structural Equation Model (SEM) to elucidate the direct and indirect effects between increased access to financial resources (as a result of temporary out-migrations) and the use of agro-chemicals and mechanized tillage (industrialized farming techniques). Our analysis suggests that temporary out-migrations were indirectly related to the use of industrialized farming techniques through their effects on household financial resources and subsequent farm-level decisions to increase the proportion of potato cash crops. As a consequence, it is probable that the effects of out-migration, at least in this case-study, are negatively affecting the agroecosystems of the landscape. However, the results of the SEM suggest that this response may be specific to this particular socio-ecological context. Rural development policies, programmes and projects must therefore explicitly recognise and better understand these broader socio-ecological contexts and their effects on farm-level decisions in view of rural out-migration in order to develop more effective intervention strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-603
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • Ecuador
  • Labour availability
  • Land degradation
  • Out-migrations
  • Remittances
  • Soil and water conservation

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