Journal Article

Harvesting trees to harvest cash crops: The role of migrants in forest land conversion in Uganda

Agricultural expansion-led deforestation in Uganda is one of the highest of the world. At the same time, internal migration patterns are strongly inter-linked with agricultural dynamics in the country, as migrants are involved in crop production activities and traditionally play important roles in major crop value chains. Migration for agricultural purposes may complicate the already difficult trade-off between agricultural development and forest preservation. This article investigates how internal migration and commercial agriculture shape deforestation patterns across Uganda. Our analysis suggests that the number of cash crop producers and the number of inter-district migrants engaged in agriculture in the recipient parishes are linked to a significant increase in deforestation. We identify cash crop production as a major channel through which migrants affect deforestation. Taken together, these findings call for an improved coordination between policies on forest, agricultural development and land use. In particular, ad-hoc policies of integration are critical to support migrants in recipient areas and avoid additional pressures on natural resources.