With the globe’s population increasing at an alarming rate, we must consider the importance of achieving sustainability for everyday used resources such as food. Over the past decade, there have been increases in global migration due to advances in technology and trade. It is difficult to imagine that anyone would consider their direct implications to their nation’s food security when booking their one-way ticket to a foreign land. However, using a wider scale, we can then understand the pros and cons of migration towards food security.
According to the World Food Summit in 1996, food security is described as a situation where all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food so that dietary needs and food preferences are met which will contribute to an active and healthy lifestyle.
Food security is an extremely important phenomenon as its effective measures can be implemented to combat world hunger. New research has shown approximately 815 million people are chronically undernourished as of 2016. Another saddening truth is that over 2 billion people have endured micronutrient deficiency, which is life-threatening.
Targeted news service Washington D.C , issued a fact sheet in 2016 that states, “Climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources like food and water.” This statement suggests that due to impacts of climate change, the demand for food resources will rise, which results in food insecurity. With the passing of World Food Day on October 16th 2017, issues related to food security and the steps needed to reduce the likelihood of its future impacts, were addressed globally but also specifically towards the Caribbean. One contributor to the decline in food security would be migration in its various forms. In 2015 alone, an estimate of over 244 million international migrants, 40% more than in the year 2000. Thus, the number of mobile persons is expected to increase exponentially which then adds stress to our natural resources that are precious to Caribbean’s economy. One such vital resource is a nation’s agricultural supply.
Potential impacts due to immigration
With an inflow of migrants, there is the opportunity for additional skill and expertise to be introduced to a nation, thus expanding the agricultural labour force and knowledge of new agricultural techniques that can maximize production levels. In addition, with more people involved in this sector, the dependency on advanced agricultural machinery and technology is expected to reduce. New technology can also be produced and introduced through the larger numbers of experts and ideas passed through the integration of different ethnicities. However, challenges can arise if the desire of the immigrants is not geared towards investing in the agricultural sector.
When immigration exceeds the rate of emigration, one would have to consider the land space needed for housing. If proper planning strategies are not enforced, the most fertile soils can be used for housing. The problem is that agricultural land is not easily renewable and when these soils are used for other purposes, space for producing crops become limited. In countries heavily reliant on agriculture as a source of revenue, the continued increase in immigration is expected to create pressure on the local production of crop as agricultural land spaces would then be considered for housing.
Additionally, increases in population would allow a greater demand for food and food-related products. For this reason, the level of importation is expected to increase. It should be noted that the higher the importation level, the less a country is considered to be food secure. This idea arises with the ability of a country to sustain itself, should there be shortages or delays in its imported goods.
For most Caribbean countries such as Belize, Barbados, Grenada, The Grenadines, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis just to name a few, the fishery resource may suffer due to changes in inflow migration. This makes it difficult in obtaining the quota of fish supplied to the growing population.
Food security and emigration
With people migrating out of a country, it is advantageous from looking at the perspective that there are fewer persons to be fed, therefore suggesting that there will not be such a high demand for food crops and it alleviates pressure for suppliers of food. Additionally, remittances from family members who emigrate, have contributed to some level of food security as it was shown in Guatemala that a third of family members have sufficient access to food because of these monetary benefits.
However, there are many issues related to emigration and food security, one is brain drain effect where there is the loss of valuable labour and skills in the agricultural sector, as well as impacts on livestock farming and this can act as a threat to achieving food security. This will reduce the chance of capitalizing on agriculture and also affect a country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
The change in social political and importantly the physical environment can lead to an increase in the number of migration. How does this affect the Caribbean? According to Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Albert Ramdin, the reality is that those who import simply do not have direct control over a significant percentage of their food supply, and are increasingly vulnerable to every change or disruption in external production. The Caribbean is known for its dependency on foreign goods to supply its locals and international tourist, hence the disruption caused by global events can have a direct impact on food security. For instance in supplies from other major exporters such as the USA can potentially inversely affect the shortage of supply needed to export in the other parts of the world.