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Land restoration amid male outmigration: The cases of Burkina Faso and Kenya

  • langill, jennifer c.
  • Crossland, Mary
  • Elias, Marlene
  • Vinceti, Barbara
  • Paez Valencia, Ana Maria
  • Traoré, Alain
  • Traoré, Daouda
Publication Date
Nov 15, 2023
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Within the global literature on ecological restoration, a subset of literature examines the relationship between smallholder land restoration and rural outmigration. However, intrahousehold dynamics surrounding the outmigration of one or more household members and the capacity of the household to undertake land restoration activities are often overlooked. With analyses rooted in Burkina Faso and Kenya, we explore the relationships between restoration, household labor, and rural outmigration, which is a prominent livelihood strategy in the two contexts. Our case studies draw on data from interviews, focus group discussions, and small-n household surveys in Burkina Faso and Kenya. Our analysis substantiates the need to consider migration in understanding and promoting smallholder land restoration. Our multi-sited approach further reveals that the contextually-specific characteristics of the migration event (i.e., type of migration [permanent or temporary], position of the migrant within the household, timing and duration of migration) play an important role in shaping restoration and gender outcomes. As male heads of households or their sons outmigrate periodically in Kenya compared to young men leaving seasonally in Burkina Faso, the impacts of migration on intrahousehold gender relations are more transformative in the Kenyan case study, with women garnering greater decision-making power on the family farm and in land restoration activities, whereas entrenched gender norms in the Burkina Faso case remain unchallenged by migration.

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