Population and Environment

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 524-553

First online:

Rural–urban migration, agrarian change, and the environment in Kenya: a critical review of the literature

  • Clemens GreinerAffiliated withDepartment of Cultural and Social Anthropology, University of Cologne Email author 
  • , Patrick SakdapolrakAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, University Bonn

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The nexus between migration dynamics and environmental change has drawn the attention of many researchers in the recent past. While the majority of studies focus on the impact of the environment on migration decisions, less emphasis has been placed on the feedback effect of migration on the environment in rural sending areas. This article provides a critical review of this relationship by focusing on the rich literature on rural–urban migration of smallholder households in Kenya and its effects on rural environments. The article argues that there are distinct relations between migration, agricultural change and the environment. These are mediated in varying degrees by flows of remittances, loss of labor, socioeconomic stratification, gender dynamics, and cultural factors. Overly generalizing assumptions about these relations, however, fail to grasp their complexity. We propose employing a translocal perspective to enrich future analysis and enhance the understanding of migration–environmental interactions.


Migration Remittances Land-use Translocality Demographic and cultural change East Africa