Till to tiller: linkages between international remittances and access to land in West Africa

Till to tiller: linkages between international remittances and access to land in West Africa

How remittances can disadvantage non-migrant households

This paper, prepared for FAO’s Land Tenure Service and Sub-programme, explores the role remittances have on people’s access to land and natural resources. The project (designed and implemented as a scoping study) identifies issues for further research, rather than definitive answers and policy recommendations.

Using Ghana and Senegal as case studies, the authors observe that:

  • remittances are an important source of finance for developing countries
  • migrant associations contribute to local development by e.g. funding of schools and health centres
  • migration affects the local economy, cultural values and social fabric
  • remittances should complement rather than replace official development aid
  • recovery and clearing of land using remittances improves agricultural production and rural development
  • where land is already under cultivation, improved access for migrant households may undermine access for non-migrant households
  • efforts to improve livelihood strategies must ensure that non-migrant households are represented
  • land access can also be improved by e.g. strengthening the security of existing access, administrative land allocation, leases, and land loans
  • tightening of immigration and financial policies in destination countries may affect remittance flows
  • a continuous flow of migration may be needed to keep remittance flows constant since remittances tend to decrease over time

Areas recommended for further work by the authors:

  • remittances and diverse land access mechanisms: for example how do remittances change land access in rural and pero-urban areas; are migrants more likely than non-migrant households to seek land titles
  • remittances, access to land and agriculture: for example do remittances favour agricultural intensification and adoption of new agricultural technologies, compensating for the “labour loss” effect
  • intra-household dynamics: for example do remittances change relations between siblings and between parents and children; how does improved land access have different implications on various groups of people
  • Policies and institutions to promote remittances and their best use: for example what are the impacts of removing restrictions on financial flows and increasing proactive measures to attract investment from migrants
  • remittances, land and decentralisation: for example how can the decision making process on land allocation become more transparent, ensuring an equal representation of migrants and non-migrants
  • working also in destination countries: how to strengthen the capacity of migrant associations involved in developmental activities