5. Evidence from receiving areas: Migration to the Southwestern Ethiopian
6.1. Key findings and contributions of this thesis
stakeholder workshop in the northern Ethiopian highlands. Subsequently, I utilized the resulting BN to identify distinct migration pathways and barriers for the adoption of local policy measures to reduce migration needs. The BN revealed that migration induced by soil degradation and/or rainfall changes is mainly influenced via agricultural channels, yet I uncovered two distinct pathways: First, soil degradation and changes in rainfall reduce agricultural production and thus increases migration by increasing the need to migrate. Second, unfavorable environmental conditions for agriculture increase the likelihood that households will seek non-farm activities to secure their livelihoods, which increases migration by increasing household economic resources and therewith the ability to migrate. However, limited employment opportunities in the rural highlands, ultimately limits participation in non-farm income activities for farming households.
Altogether, the BN reflects multiple – yet not dichotomous – rationales behind migration decisions: In some cases, migration is a survival strategy under increasing environmental stress and livelihood pressure. In other cases, it is a strategy to accumulate assets, which (further) enhances migration abilities. Lastly, the chapter underlines that combating soil degradation is the most important leverage that can be addressed locally to reduce pressure on farming livelihoods and thus migration needs.
However, contradictions with other policies and a top-down implementation without taking into account local realities, such as the local land tenure situation and farmers capacities, largely hinder the adoption of local policy measures.
In sum, with chapter 4 I contribute to expanding the methodological toolkit of migration research by applying two underutilized methods, yet both well-suited to deal with the multicausality inherent to migration processes. Besides, the participatory BN provided an illustrative representation of complex migration processes and thus, a suitable communication tool to be used with stakeholders. My findings substantiate that slow-onset hazards are rarely direct causes for migration, but rather affect rural farming households in the Ethiopian highlands via agricultural channels and interact with the socioeconomic factors operating at different scales. Furthermore, the results show that while environmental change exacerbates migration needs by reducing agricultural production and increasing livelihood pressure, it can also undermine the resources necessary to migrate. In addition, differences in household’s economic and social resources strongly determine whether household are able to engage in migration. That bears the risk that, contrary to common deterministic narratives, the most vulnerable households are not able to migrate but instead become trapped in vulnerable environments, amplifying existing inequalities. Lastly, it becomes apparent that approaches solely based on push-pull theory are not sufficient – likely even overrated – to explain environment-related migration as they ignore the underlying inequalities, which may also inhibit migration.
In chapter 5, I presented a study, which addressed the influence of smallholder in-migration, together with other non-demographic factors, on the livelihoods of local and migrant communities and forest degradation. I used the example of Ethiopia’s southwestern forest frontier – a rural hotspot of in-migration and forest loss in Ethiopia – where smallholders experienced a rapid transition from forest-based to agriculture-based livelihoods (see chapter 2.2). In this chapter, I integrated 224 household surveys conducted in three different kebeles using a statistical approach to investigate how and why the engagement of local and migrant households in forest activities has changed since the launch of a major resettlement program in 2003. The findings were complemented by qualitative insights from group discussions and interviews to assess the role of in-migration in livelihood transitions and deforestation. The analysis showed that forest activities mainly declined in local households, the part of the population, which is – in contrast to the agriculture-based migrant groups – traditionally heavily dependent on forest resources (mainly NTFPs). My findings reveal that forest cover in Guraferda declined partially due to the in-migration of smallholders from agricultural-based systems but also considerably due to the expansion of commercial agriculture, fueled by the national land tenure policy. With the decline in forest, the forest-based local population gradually adopted migrants' agricultural practices, which was further encouraged by agricultural policies and barriers to participate in forest management for locals. The chapter challenges simplified assumptions in in-migration-degradation debates by showing that governmental policies, land tenure insecurity and barriers to forest access mediate the impact of smallholder in-migration on rural livelihoods and forest resources at Ethiopia’s southwest rainforests. Based on this, I conclude that securing land tenure and equal access to natural resources for frontier residents, and promoting a mix of agricultural and forest livelihood activities can reduce the adverse impacts on natural resources and related challenges for locals and migrants in in-migration areas.
In sum, chapter 5, sheds lights on an understudied link in a largely overlooked region and thus, provides foundation for future research in the region and beyond. Chapter 5 complements existing studies on in-migration-degradation linkages by specifically investigating under which conditions in-migration contributes to adverse environmental impacts. The chapter revealed crucial mediators of this relationship, which elucidates that the influence of in-migration on environmental change is just as multifaceted and non-linear as the influence of environmental change on out-migration. In addition, the chapters provides a fine-grained perspective on the impact on forest-based local groups and thus, shows how their livelihoods changed considerably due to in-migration, but also through governmental policies, growing macroeconomic forces and alterations in forest management. Ultimately, if communicated well, such fine-grained findings can help to counteract false attributions of the causes for environmental degradation in
migrant receiving areas and thus, support policymaking and reduce adverse impacts for frontier residents.
6.2. The mediators of the linkages between environmental change