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Migration, Remittances and Smallholder Decision-Making: Implications for Land Use and Livelihood Change in Central America

Citation

Davis, Jason & Lopez-Carr, David L. (2014). Migration, Remittances and Smallholder Decision-Making: Implications for Land Use and Livelihood Change in Central America. Land Use Policy, 36, 319-329. PMCID: PMC3835467

Abstract

We model Central American migrant-sending household agricultural practices given labor losses and the concomitant infusion of remittances. Under the new economics of labor migration (NELM) framework, it is hypothesized that smallholder farm households invest remittance income in their land either to increase crop production or to transition to cattle ranching. We test this hypothesis by developing a combination of multivariate logistic, Poisson and beta regression techniques using Latin American Migration Project data to determine how agricultural land use change compared among migrant and non-migrant households in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Results indicate that a rise in months spent abroad and remittances returned do not translate into a higher percentage of farm sales, intensification or transition to cattle ranching – counter to NELM. However, farmers are investing remittances to increase row crop and pasture land holdings. These findings suggest remittance investments in quantitative increase rather than qualitative change in land use practices. Given the expansive land demands supporting low intensity smallholder agriculture and cattle, and the land degradation cattle precipitate particularly, the trend does not augur well for the sustainability of rural landscapes increasingly transformed by international remittances. Appropriate policies to champion coupled human-land system sustainability in Central America might usefully consider viable land use alternatives to remittance investments dedicated to crop and pasture expansion.

URL

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2013.09.001

Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published

2014

Journal Title

Land Use Policy

Author(s)

Davis, Jason
Lopez-Carr, David L.

PMCID

PMC3835467