Migration and Environmental Change: Tenure Insecurity in a Zambian Frontier

Grants and Contracts Details


Migration in the developing world is an important force in environmental change. Migrants interact with other migrants and with local communities over access to resources - in particular the land resources needed for food security. Rights in land (land tenure) play a primary role in affecting how migrants interact with destination resources and communities, and the resulting environmental consequences. This research examines the links between deforestation and migration in Zambia, and focuses on the tenure arrangements that facilitate land access. With one of the highest deforestation rates in the world and significant migration underway, Zambia provides a representative case where migration in Southern province is tied to environmental degradation. The research will examine how land tenure systems in host communities may lead migrants to clear areas of forest much larger than needed for immediate farming needs. The researchers, an anthropologist and a geographer, will collaborate with Zambian colleagues to conduct ethnographic research, and integrate the data with satellite imagery (time series) analysis in order to measure deforestation rates, and will compare deforestation rates between migrant and non-migrant areas. During seven months of intensive fieldwork in Zambia, the researchers will investigate the land tenure rights allocated to migrants by local leaders, and the perception of this tenure process among migrants, in order to explain: 1) notions of claim among migrants and why they apparently attempt to gain tenure security through deforestation, and 2) the intersection of claims, land clearing, and concerns about children's future, given that land tenure systems (involving land allocation and inheritance) work differently for migrants in the destination area than they did in the area of origin. Understanding the land tenure aspects of the migration - deforestation linkage will provide important knowledge on how migration in the developing world changes the environment, and to the ongoing development of methodologies that mix remote sensing with 'on the ground' social science research. Broader impacts of the research include improving our understanding of the policy constraints and opportunities for managing migration in the developing world. Because all societies have rules governing property rights, local, national and international policies and treaties involving migration and development will need to attend to resource access arrangements that impact food and livelihood security.
Effective start/end date5/1/038/31/09


  • National Science Foundation: $204,500.00


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