Rural–urban migration is having a considerable socioeconomic and environmental effect in mountain regions. In response, most rural development programs discourage outmigration on the grounds that it has negative social consequences and compromises ecological sustainability. However, rural–urban migration generally improves the living standards of migrants and leads to the disintensification of land use in fragile ecosystems with low productivity, thus stimulating ecosystem recovery and improving watershed and biodiversity protection—as shown by experience in the Caribbean and South America. These advantages have emerged even in the absence of any planning and could be maximized if international funding agencies, NGOs, and local governments re-evaluated rural development strategies. At a minimum, rural–urban migration is a reality that should not be ignored. More importantly, rural–urban migration provides an opportunity to improve the living conditions of marginal populations while protecting the environment.
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