Rural out-migration and smallholder agriculture in the southern Ecuadorian Andes
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This study investigates the consequences of out-migration and migrant remittances for smallholder agriculture in a rural and environmentally marginal study area in the southern Ecuadorian Andes. Migration and remittances have the potential for transformative impacts on agriculture in origin areas of migration due to consequent declines in labor availability and increases in income, but previous studies have primarily found mixed and weak effects. This study provides additional insight by considering the gender and destination of migrants, key factors given gender norms influencing participation in agriculture, and the large gap in remittances sent by internal and international migrants. Building on recent methodological innovations, the study uses original household survey data and multivariate statistical models to examine the consequences of migration and remittances for multiple agricultural outcomes, including maize production, agrodiversity, female participation in agriculture, and the use of land, labor, and chemical inputs. Consistent with previous studies, the results indicate that migration and remittances have mixed and countervailing effects on smallholder agriculture. Specifically, out-migration has lost-labor effects that differ between men and women, and international remittances have investment-promotion effects that result in increased maize production. Together, the results highlight the resilience of smallholder agriculture in the face of dramatic demographic change.
KeywordsMigration Remittances Agriculture Land use Gender
Funding for this research was provided by a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a Research Residency grant from the Carolina Population Center (CPC). The author was supported as a doctoral student by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and by an NSF grant to the CPC for graduate training in population-environment research. I thank Richard Bilsborrow and Thomas Whitmore for providing advice throughout the project and also members of my dissertation committee and the anonymous reviewers for their comments. For making the fieldwork possible I am indebted to the participating communities, the field staff, and the Center for Population and Social Development Studies in Quito.
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