Nitasha Nair/IWMI.

Migration Matters II: an Asia policy dialogue on gender, water and agriculture

Guangzhou, China

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI), in collaboration with the South China Agricultural University, will host a dialogue on migration in Guangzhou, China. The dialogue will build on the Migration Matters workshop that was held in New Delhi in November of 2015.


Migration is one of the defining issues of our time. Why people move, how, where and to what end has huge social, economic and, increasingly, political implications worldwide. Asia is a locus of huge movement — within countries, regionally and at a transcontinental level – and a considerable amount of this movement is labour migration. By this we refer to migration for work related purposes, usually from peripheral regions, either overseas or within the country.

Labour migration is particularly important from the perspective of agriculture and rural development, as migrants today tend to retain binding links to the sending community, with part of the family staying behind. Within communities and households which supply migrants, labour shortages and changes in gender and generational roles can lead to transformations in how agricultural resources are allocated and how ecosystems are managed (Paris et al., 2005b).  Furthermore, with exploitation of labour migrants being widespread and living costs rising, questions are also raised about the potential for remittances to strengthen livelihoods (Sugden et al., 2014a). Understanding the livelihood outcomes for family members who remain in agriculture and the changing prospects of labour migrants themselves is increasingly important. It can allow policy makers and practitioners to make informed choices and identify interventions that support both migrants and their host communities in achieving greater financial and livelihood security.

Knowledge on the concrete impact of labour migration on agriculture and water management is scattered and insufficient. The diversity of experiences from countries undergoing different types of labour migration (male or female led; internal or international; short term or long term) have resulted in complex outcomes in terms of the impact on gender relations, agriculture and natural resource management.

Migration Matters II is a policy dialogue and field visit that will unpack these relationships in the Asian context, and support policy makers and practitioners in identifying solutions for agriculture and natural resource management at a time of unprecedented labour movement from rural areas. Two days of workshop and a two-day field trip in rural Guangdong has been planned.

The event will include researchers from national universities, and other relevant institutions who will share research findings, as well as policymakers, practitioners from NGOs and private sector actors directly engaged in agriculture and water development in regions facing high rates of out-migration from South, East and Southeast Asia.

Objective of the Dialogue

  • Knowledge Exchange- Promote cross learning and better understanding of the key challenges facing agriculture in an era of out-migration through sharing experiences between representatives of countries from different countries in South, East and Southeast Asia
  • Learning from the field– Given that China is at the extreme end of the migration transition, a field trip to rural Guangdong would help in sharing knowledge about how communities are adapting to demographic transformation
  • Explore the links between migration, agriculture, water resource management, climate and demographic stress and how communities are adapting
  • Map out emerging trends in agrarian transformation and critical policy issues required to address these trends and support the predominantly female staying-behind populations
  • Discuss how migration can be harnessed to generate positive change in rural communities (and addressing the structural barriers which prevent this from taking place)
  • Develop networks and partnerships through the development of a “Migration Matters Group (MiMaG)”


For more information, visit IWMI's Migration Matters website, or contact Farah Ahmed at f.ahmed [at]