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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We do not take into account the vast literature on internally displaced people and refugees, nor that on pastoral-nomadic movements. We also do not consider rural–urban migration of pastoralists, as we feel this deserves a review of its own.

  2. 2.

    For more comprehensive reviews of the debate see Kitching (1985), Orvis (1993) and Francis and Hoddinott (1993).

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Acknowledgments

We thank Lori Hunter as well as six anonymous reviewers for their detailed comments on the manuscript. We are also indebted to Markus Keck for a critical review of our concept of translocality.

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Correspondence to Clemens Greiner.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 1 Basic information on case studies reviewed for this contribution

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Greiner, C., Sakdapolrak, P. Rural–urban migration, agrarian change, and the environment in Kenya: a critical review of the literature. Popul Environ 34, 524–553 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11111-012-0178-0

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Keywords

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