Volume 26 - Article 24 | Pages 661–700  

Natural resources and rural livelihoods: Differences between migrants and non-migrants in Madagascar

By Raphael Nawrotzki, Lori Hunter, Thomas W. Dickinson

This article is part of the Special Collection 13 "Spatial Demography"


Background: Although natural resources play a central role in rural livelihoods across the globe, little research has explored the relationship between migration and natural capital use, particularly in combination with other livelihood capitals (i.e., human, social, financial and physical).

Objective: Grounded in the rural livelihood framework, this paper explores the association between the livelihood capital availability, especially natural capital, for migrants and non-migrants in rural Madagascar.

Methods: Data from the 2008/2009 Demographic and Health Survey are used in combination with satellite imagery of vegetation coverage (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, NDVI) to proxy natural resources. Hierarchical multilevel models allow for inclusion of cross-level interactions between migrant status and proximate natural resources as determinants of the status of livelihood assets.

Results: Three key findings emerge. First, higher levels of proximate natural resources are associated with greater financial, human, and social capital for both migrants and non-migrants. Second, migrants have, on average, greater financial, physical, human, and social capital than non-migrants, and urban-to-rural migrants do exceptionally well on all capital asset categories. Third, migrants residing in areas with higher levels of natural capital tend to have significantly higher levels of human capital (education).

Conclusions: Although we cannot examine livelihood strategies per se, the results suggest variation in livelihood potential among migrants and non-migrants in rural Madagascar, with migrants tending to have greater capital assets. In addition, access to natural resources is a central livelihood strategy.

Author's Affiliation

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