Migration and Nutrition: MIEUX+ Celebrates Africa Day

25 May marks Africa Unity Day. For this occasion, MIEUX+ highlights several ongoing projects and discusses the importance of the links between migration and nutrition, the annual theme chosen by the African Union.

MIEUX+ in Africa

The African region has always been the largest in our portfolio; responsibilities are split between the regional focal points for the Southern EU Neighbourhood, Western/Central and Eastern/ Southern Africa. Since the start of the fourth phase in April 2020, there have been 15 requests to work on topics such as environmental migration, diaspora voting rights, trafficking in human beings and the links between trade and border management, to name a few.

Access our series of Regional Factsheets for more details.

Migration and nutrition

Taking after the yearly theme celebrated by the African Union, this year´s theme for Africa Day is Nutrition. Through its negative effects on the development of human capital and its productivity, malnutrition contributes to the delay in African countries’ economic and social development. In 2020, the AU Nutrition Champion called upon the leaders of the continent to incorporate and promote nutrition smart interventions within COVID-19 response and recovery action plans.

This call bears even more relevance in the current context of a sudden hike in food prices caused by the war in Ukraine, with many specialised agencies and experts warning of an impending food crisis in the Horn of Africa among other regions of the world. Disruptions to national food supply chains and food insecurity may combine to create conditions that prompt internal and/or international migration.

How is MIEUX+ connected to this topic?  

A rising area of interest for our partners is the connection between migration and environment, which includes building strategies for preventing complex crises, creating adaptation strategies and building resilience to external shocks. For example, in Benin we have just concluded a project where European experts supported the drafting of recommendations for the National Adaptation Plan that the Beninese Government presented during the COP26 in Glasgow.

A newer area of interest that spawns from the connections between migration and environment is the links between migration and green economy. As collected in a recent discussion paper, migrants and migration need to be a part of the transition towards a green economy, and taken into account when designing policies and strategies in this domain.

Other recent projects have thrown light on a series of interesting reflections connecting migration to nutrition.

Lessons learned from our Actions

  • Nutrition and border management: it is important for neighbouring countries to have a harmonized approach to border management and facilitation of trade during emergencies that affect mobility such as COVID-19. Un-harmonised measures may affect traders, especially informal and small-scale cross-border traders that move food and agricultural goods, which in majority happen to be women. In turn, this impacts the availability of food and agricultural goods in the local market as well as individuals’ livelihoods and access to nutrition items. This snowball effect was observed by the COMESA Secretariat and partly drove their motivation to request our support in summer of 2020 to create information materials and a training course on managing migration and mobility at the borders during a health crisis.

  • Invest in green economy to drive change: As we discuss in our recent discussion paper, there is a need to leverage the potential that migration offers for the transition to the green economy. By focusing on agriculture, food production and distribution as crucial sectors where to drive innovation and investment in human capital, there would be at least three clear benefits for nutrition:
    • Continued production and availability of key food and agriculture resources and avoidance of shortages;
    • Strengthened livelihoods of rural communities guaranteeing them the income to access nutritious goods, which in turn may minimising the adverse drivers of migration;
    • Sustainable agriculture would be more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

  • Rural transformation and development: There is a two-way relationship between rural migration and rural development. On one hand, rural migration depends intimately on conditions in rural areas and has several impacts on agricultural subsectors. On the other, the rural economy has a key role to play as an integral part of any response to large migratory movements. During the preparatory round-tables for the 2019 Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), we held a regional workshop in Jamaica involving close to 40 participants from Latin America and the Caribbean region to discuss about rural development and transformation. Lack of decent public services, infrastructure and employment opportunities in the rural economy and the unattractiveness of low productive agriculture are often the main reason driving people to move, especially youth. Generally, this is internal migration and can be seasonal. It is crucial to note that an estimated 40 per cent of international remittances are sent to rural areas, and about half of what migrants remit to rural communities is spent on agriculture-related expenses (e.g. land purchases, agricultural equipment, business set-up, hiring agricultural labour). In the background paper for ‘Theme 3 - Addressing human mobility as part of urban and rural development strategies’ prepared for the GFMD Co-Chairs for the 2019 Quito Summit, there are seven specific recommendations for how to harness the potential of migrants and migration for rural development and transformation.