Amazon urban migration may not improve livelihoods, environment

The migration of rural people to cities in the Brazilian Amazon often does not result in hoped-for poverty alleviation or biodiversity conservation, according to a professor at the University of Lancaster Environment Centre.

Rural dwellers often leave the forest and migrate to cities hoping to experience improvements in income, said Luke Parry during this year’s Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) meeting in San José, Costa Rica.

Rural exodus potentially benefits biodiversity because it means the amount of forest area cleared for agriculture could decrease, leading to less pressure on wildlife populations; however, according to Parry, the beneficial links to migration may not be so straightforward, nor will win-win scenarios be easily attained, at least in the Brazilian Amazon.

Based on research to evaluate the impact of rural-to-urban migration in two small cities on the Madeira River in the Brazilian Amazon, Parry determined that migrants who left their rural homes in search of better work opportunities still lacked access to good urban employment and largely failed to escape from poverty.

Improved access to education was identified by Parry as one of the main drivers of migration to urban areas.

The exodus of rural populations did not lead to improvements in terms of biodiversity either: virtually all urban households in Parry’s survey ate wildlife, including fish, bushmeat, turtles and caimans.

This consumption included endangered species. As a result, harvesting of wild species did not decrease, as Parry expected. Quite the contrary, migrants do not lose their taste for wild meats once they start their new lives in urban areas.

Parry’s findings illustrate that while not all Amazonian urban populations shift away from traditional foods, they do experience the same nutrition transition identified by Van Vliet. The most frequently consumed form of animal protein is chicken and fish, he said.

Source: Martha Cuba Cronkleton | CIFOR