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  • Migration and Forests: People in Motion – Landscapes in Transition

Migration and Forests: People in Motion – Landscapes in Transition

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  • What is the impact of out-migration for employment purposes on peoples and land?

What is the impact of out-migration for employment purposes on peoples and land?

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  • Emergent dynamics of migration and their potential effects on forest and land use in North Kalimantan, Indonesia

Emergent dynamics of migration and their potential effects on forest and land use in North Kalimantan, Indonesia

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  • Migration, property rights and livelihoods on Peruvian forest frontiers

Migration, property rights and livelihoods on Peruvian forest frontiers

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  • Informal, traditional and semiformal property rights should be fully acknowledged, panel agrees 

Informal, traditional and semiformal property rights should be fully acknowledged, panel agrees 

A father and child are pictures in a garden in Colombia. Photo by Augusto Riveros/TBI
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A father and child are pictured in a garden in Colombia. Photo by Augusto Riveros

LANDac, the Netherlands Academy on Land Governance for Equitable and Sustainable Development, held its annual international conference on June 28-29 in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Titled “Land governance and (im)mobility”, the conference explored the nexus between land acquisition, displacement and migration.

On the second day of the event, the wide range of parallel sessions included “‘Good Enough Tenure’ in Sustainable Forest and Land Management”, organized by Tropenbos International (TBI), in collaboration with the universities of Wageningen, Freiburg, Campinas and Kyoto, Kadaster Internationaal, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

The session discussed the practical implications of the increasing evidence from research and experiences in different parts of the world on the value and scope of so-called ‘good enough tenure’ arrangements for international and national policymakers and investors.

The main message that emerged from the panel session was that all players need to think beyond formal land regularization to provide enabling conditions for smallholders to secure property rights and incentives for investment.

A lack of formally recognized land and resource property has always been a constraint for small-scale farmers and forest communities. Mainstream land governance focusses largely on tenure regularization as a means to provide security. Smallholders without such formal tenure tend to be excluded from external funding streams, because banks, other private investors, governmental agencies and even some donors often require land titles as collateral to mitigate the risk of default from failed investment.

As a result, these actors have not been able to deal effectively with the mobility and the complex local reality, including the local needs and opportunities that exist in rural and forest areas in tropical countries.

The four panelists – Marieke van der Zon of Wageningen University, Kyoto University and TBI; Peter Cronkleton of CIFOR; Bastian Reydon of Universidade Estadual de Campinas’ Land Governance Group; and Benno Pokorny of University Freiburg – provided hands-on examples from Latin America, providing evidence that there is a variety of formal, informal and semiformal tenure situations and arrangements in these areas.

In many cases these informal, traditional and semiformal property rights are considered good enough for social and economic development and for conservation, as they are respected, upheld and protected by strong local institutions. These good-enough tenure right arrangements should be fully acknowledged as a valuable “local institutional capital” for making trustful and secure arrangements between local smallholders and external actors to engage, to invest and collaborate on a reciprocal basis.

They must therefore play a much more prominent starting point in promoting sustainable, inclusive and equitable development, with the panelists emphasizing the need to understand the local specificity of arrangements, advocating a “fit-for-purpose and place” approach.

Read the panelists’ abstracts: 

View the presentations from the session:

Adapted from the article first published by Tropenbos International. 

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  • Informal, traditional and semiformal property rights should be fully acknowledged, panel agrees 

Informal, traditional and semiformal property rights should be fully acknowledged, panel agrees 

A father and child are pictures in a garden in Colombia. Photo by Augusto Riveros/TBI
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A father and child are pictured in a garden in Colombia. Photo by Augusto Riveros

LANDac, the Netherlands Academy on Land Governance for Equitable and Sustainable Development, held its annual international conference on June 28-29 in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Titled “Land governance and (im)mobility”, the conference explored the nexus between land acquisition, displacement and migration.

On the second day of the event, the wide range of parallel sessions included “‘Good Enough Tenure’ in Sustainable Forest and Land Management”, organized by Tropenbos International (TBI), in collaboration with the universities of Wageningen, Freiburg, Campinas and Kyoto, Kadaster Internationaal, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

The session discussed the practical implications of the increasing evidence from research and experiences in different parts of the world on the value and scope of so-called ‘good enough tenure’ arrangements for international and national policymakers and investors.

The main message that emerged from the panel session was that all players need to think beyond formal land regularization to provide enabling conditions for smallholders to secure property rights and incentives for investment.

A lack of formally recognized land and resource property has always been a constraint for small-scale farmers and forest communities. Mainstream land governance focusses largely on tenure regularization as a means to provide security. Smallholders without such formal tenure tend to be excluded from external funding streams, because banks, other private investors, governmental agencies and even some donors often require land titles as collateral to mitigate the risk of default from failed investment.

As a result, these actors have not been able to deal effectively with the mobility and the complex local reality, including the local needs and opportunities that exist in rural and forest areas in tropical countries.

The four panelists – Marieke van der Zon of Wageningen University, Kyoto University and TBI; Peter Cronkleton of CIFOR; Bastian Reydon of Universidade Estadual de Campinas’ Land Governance Group; and Benno Pokorny of University Freiburg – provided hands-on examples from Latin America, providing evidence that there is a variety of formal, informal and semiformal tenure situations and arrangements in these areas.

In many cases these informal, traditional and semiformal property rights are considered good enough for social and economic development and for conservation, as they are respected, upheld and protected by strong local institutions. These good-enough tenure right arrangements should be fully acknowledged as a valuable “local institutional capital” for making trustful and secure arrangements between local smallholders and external actors to engage, to invest and collaborate on a reciprocal basis.

They must therefore play a much more prominent starting point in promoting sustainable, inclusive and equitable development, with the panelists emphasizing the need to understand the local specificity of arrangements, advocating a “fit-for-purpose and place” approach.

Read the panelists’ abstracts: 

View the presentations from the session:

Adapted from the article first published by Tropenbos International. 

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  • Impact of migration on people and landscapes in Nepal

Impact of migration on people and landscapes in Nepal

In Nalma village, Nepal, land is used for rice fields, gardens and housing. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR
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In a series of four videos and associated articles, the Center for International Forestry Research‘s (CIFOR) Forests News looks at migration research in Nepal, and how migration impacts lives and landscapes in the village of Nalma.

The importance of migration to rural livelihoods in Nepal is not being recognized in forestry policy or by donors – and nor is the diversity of women’s experience, argues a chapter of Gender and Forests: Climate Change, tenure, Value Chains and Emerging Issues, which was coedited by Carol J Colfer, CIFOR and FTA scientist Bimbika Sijapati Basnett, and FTA gender coordinator Marlene Elias.

Thirty percent of Nepal’s GDP comes from remittances – the second highest proportion in the world. Around half a million people, or eight percent of Nepal’s total population, applied for a permit to work abroad in 2014 – 94 percent of them were men – and that does not include the many unregistered migrants or those who migrated within the country. Despite this, Nepal’s recent Forest Sector Strategy (2012-2022) mentions migration just once.

First up in the series, Sijapati Basnett talks about her research in Nalma in Unpacking migration and gender in Nepal. The video is accompanied by the article Unpacking migration and gender in Nepal’s community forests, which considers that changing migration patterns bring both burdens and benefits for women.

Second, in Left behind in Nepal: Sita’s story, the series looks at Sita Pariyar, a 29-year-old mother of two living in Nalma who has balanced housework, childcare and field work since her husband moved to Qatar as a migrant worker. Nearly three-quarters of Nepal’s young male population now works overseas, sending money back to their families in the form of remittances that contribute almost 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. On the home front, women, children and the elderly are left to keep village life running, reshaping traditional roles, responsibilities and land management practices.

It is accompanied by Left behind: The women and elderly of Nalma, which aims to give a voice to those left back home by migrant workers in Nepal.

Third, through the video Left behind in Nepal: Shanti’s story, Forests News follows Shanti Tamang, a 20-year-old mother with a 3-year-old son, who was left to live with her in-laws after her husband went abroad to work. While her husband sends back better wages from Qatar, Shanti still has to struggle with the responsibilities of looking after the family and working in the fields to make ends meet.

As many migrant workers leave their villages behind, landscapes and social hierarchies are being shaken from tradition, which is explored through In Nepal, what migration means on the home front.

The fourth installment, The returnee: Inside the lives of migrant workers from Nepal, followed Bahadur. With seven children and a wife of 21 years whom he had married for love, Bahadur had every reason to feel confident that his move abroad from the village of Nalma in Nepal to Saudi Arabia was a financially wise choice for his family. All was going well until the news came, six months into his time abroad, that his wife had eloped with someone else, leading Bahadur to return as soon as possible to his children.

A final in-depth article, The dreamer, the progressive and the returnee, looks at the experiences of several Nepali migrant workers now choosing to stay in their hometown. Those now remaining in Nepal are helping enliven efforts to farm the surrounding land, and to kickstart new initiatives such as permaculture and ecotourism.

Nepal is well known for its widespread adoption of community forestry, where responsibility for managing forests is devolved to the people who live around them. But as international and circular migration for employment purposes becomes more common – and male-dominated – who actually lives there is in constant flux. In reality, Sijapati Basnett says, “migration is both a burden and a benefit for women who are left behind.”

The first article described above was written by Kate Evans. The following three articles, which were conducted in collaboration with Forest Action Nepal, were written by Gabrielle Lipton, Leona Liu and Bimbika Sijapati Basnett. All were originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Bimbika Sijapati Basnett at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government.
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  • The returnee: Inside the lives of migrant workers from Nepal

The returnee: Inside the lives of migrant workers from Nepal

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With seven children and a wife of 21 years, Bahadur believed moving abroad from the village of Nalma in Nepal to Saudi Arabia in order to work was a financially wise choice for his family. All was going well until the news came, six months into his time abroad, that his wife had eloped with someone else, leading Bahadur to returned to his children in Nepal.

Originally published by CIFOR.

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  • Unpacking migration and gender in Nepal

Unpacking migration and gender in Nepal

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In the village of Nalma, Nepal, scientist Bimbika Sijapati Basnett from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) talks about her research on the impact of migration on lives and landscapes.

Originally published by CIFOR.

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  • Missing links in the forest-migration nexus: An analysis of trends, literature and data sources

Missing links in the forest-migration nexus: An analysis of trends, literature and data sources

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This paper provides an overview of the current state of knowledge about migration and its relation to forests in Indonesia.

An evaluation of current patterns and trends of migration finds that while mobility is increasing nationally and internationally, there are strong variations across regions, age and gender. National-level findings do not offer much insight on regional- and local-level dynamics. An evaluation of data sources (subnational, national and international) on migration and remittances, shows that detailed data are collected on internal migration patterns. However, this does not capture short-term circular migration and internal remittances. Data collection efforts on international migration and remittances also leave room for improvement.

A review of the existing literature finds there is a large body of work on the drivers and effects of migration in Indonesia. However, much of this has focused on certain dimensions of migration (such as social or political or economic) in isolation, thereby preventing a multidimensional understanding of the relations between migration, forests and land-use change. Furthermore, there is a disproportionate focus on the effects of in-migration. While this is understandable in light of Indonesia’s history of state-sponsored transmigration and global concerns over deforestation in Indonesia’s forest frontiers, there is a dearth of research on the effects of migration on the people and forests left behind. As a result, critical questions remain unaddressed about land-use decisions, labor allocation and remittance investment.

This paper is a part of CIFOR’’s Migration and Forests research program to identify the role of migration and remittances in the changing context of forested landscapes.


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