Mariel Aguilar-Støen: Migration, Remittances, and Forest Cover Change in Rural Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico

In Land, 2020.

cover land journal


Arild Angelsen, Mariel Aguilar-Støen, John Herbert Ainembabazi, Edwin Castellanos and Matthew Taylor.


This article investigates how migration and remittances affect forest cover in eight rural communities in Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico. Based on household surveys and remote sensing data, we found little evidence to support the widespread claim that migration takes pressure off forests. In the Chiapas sites, we observed no significant changes in forest cover since 1990, while in the Guatemalan sites, migration may have increased demand for agricultural land, leading to an average annual forest loss of 0.73% during the first decade of the millennium. We suggest that when attractive opportunities exist to invest in agriculture and land expansion, remittances and returnee savings provide fresh capital that is likely to increase pressure on forests. Our study also has implications for the understanding of migration flows; in particular, migration has not implied an exodus out of agriculture for the remaining household members nor for the returning migrants. On the contrary, returning migrants are more likely to be involved in farming activities after their return than they were before leaving.


Remittances; forest transition; agriculture

Published Mar. 31, 2020 10:44 AM - Last modified Mar. 31, 2020 10:44 AM