by Parakrama A. Samaratunga, Roshini Jayaweera and Nethmini Perera
Out-migration of small farmers or members of their families can have both a positive and negative effect on the rural agricultural production as well as consumption. This study examines the impact on rural agricultural production and the food security situation in farm families resulting from the out-migration of the members of the rural agricultural sector of Sri Lanka. Analysis of data gathered through a survey of existing literature, key informant interviews, Focus Group Discussions representing the commercial agricultural, semi-subsistence agricultural and fisheries sectors, as well as analysis of secondary data through the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (2006/7) showed that remittances account for a larger portion of the incomes of poorer segments of society, with the contribution reaching up to 81 per cent for the poorest 10 per cent of the population. Subsequently the study explores the degrees of change for instance, in food security and quality for the respective societies studied. One of the key finding of the study is that the spending patterns of these households reflect the lack of effort made by the state or civic organizations to educate the migrant families on rational financial management, as remittance income has been used mainly to improve lifestyles (better schools, purchase of consumer durables) rather than being spent on productive investment opportunities. In conclusion, the study offers several suggestions to maximize the development impact of migration which could benefit agricultural development and food security, as well as to create a self sufficient skilled, rural (non-agricultural) labour force through the provision of initial support such as formal credit/mortgage facilities. Further, the study suggests an alignment of the educational system (enhancing technical capabilities and foreign language proficiency) with the expansionary migration policy of the state needs to occur in order to promote skilled migration and to break the low skills trap that the Sri Lankan migration scenario seems to be caught in.