NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 20, 2004

Rural to urban migration is on the rise in Latin American and Caribbean countries due to technological improvements in agriculture, says Science Magazine. Moreover, migration patterns are facilitating the environmental recovery of forest lands.

Over the last 40 years, the percentage of people living in rural areas in Latin America and the Caribbean has declined by 40 percent. The increase in large-scale agriculture has reduced the need for labor and propelled workers to urban areas to find jobs. Abandoned small-scale farms that were once subject to deforestation are now recovering with little intervention.


  • In Puerto Rico, forest cover has increased from less than 10 percent to more than 40 percent on abandoned agricultural lands over the past 60 years.
  • Reduced beef prices in Costa Rica have led to a 90 percent decline in cattle production since the 1980s; consequently, former 400-year old grazing lands are now sprouting into young forests.
  • In the Dominican Republic, increased job opportunities in the cities have led to forest recovery on abandoned mountain farms over the last 30 years.

Support for high-yield farming (growing more crops on less land) and encouraging rural-urban migration will help to allocate agriculture activities on the most fertile lands.

Such measures would allow other, less productive land (such as marginally fertile land and mountainsides) to be used in producing water, creating recreation opportunities and fostering ecosystem habitats.

Source: "Globalization, Migration and Latin American Ecosystems," Science, Vol. 305, No. 5692, September 24, 2004.

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