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What does rural-urban migration mean for Amazonian people and forests?

Dr Luke Parry, Lancaster Environment Centre

Wednesday 25 April 2012, 1600-1700
LEC Training Rooms 1 And 2

Rural-urban migration has contributed to the rapid growth of urban areas in developing countries, including in tropical forest regions. The consequences of urbanization for conservation and development goals are highly contested. Rural depopulation and land abandonment may facilitate forest recovery and prevent the extinction of forest species. Alternatively, the increased demand for forest resources by migrants with strong rural ties could increase the ecological footprints of expanding cities, undermining the potential benefits of rural depopulation for threatened forests. We examined the well-being of rural-urban migrants in two rainforest cities in the Brazilian Amazon. We also assessed food security and household reliance on rural areas for income and food. Our results from 156 randomly selected households indicate that the majority of families in the two cities along the River Madeira had migrated from rural areas, motivated by a desire for education and other factors, including extreme climatic events. Compared to non-migrants, migrant households had low cash incomes and often lacked access to reliable water and electricity supplies. We found that recent migrant households frequently maintained a rural livelihoods portfolio although rural-urban linkages reduced over time since arrival in a city. All households consumed wild forms of animal protein, particularly fish. For the first time we document widespread consumption of hunted forest animals and river turtles by urban consumers in the Amazon. However, recent migrants consumed particularly high quantities of forest and river-sourced animal protein and gradually switched to farmed foods. We consider the policy levers available to facilitate poverty alleviation in growing urban centres and minimize the ecological impacts of urban consumption in rainforest regions.