Land and leña: linking transnational migration, natural resources and the environment…(M.J. Moran-Taylor & M.J. Taylor)


Michelle J. Moran-Taylor and Matthew J. Taylor


Guatemala, Transnational migration, International migration, Environment, Natural resources, Firewood, Remittances


This article examines the relationships between international migration, natural resources, and the environment. Rather than looking at environmental change as a cause of population movements, the article reveals how migration affects the environment in sending countries. Empirically, we rely on a case study in Guatemala. Although migrants and cash remittances make significant contributions to Guatemala’s changing economy, little is known about the relationships between migration and the environment in this Central American country—a country, which continues to have a large rural population and that relies heavily on its natural resources. Drawing on ethnographic research and household surveys in a Maya community, we reveal how migrants and their earnings, as well as their ideas, behavior and attitudes, affect land use, land cover, and firewood use. We reveal, for example, how in addition to investments in land for home building and pick-up trucks to help improve agricultural production, some migrant households purchase more land and often dedicate it to the cultivation of vegetable crops for local and foreign markets. Cultural practices and beliefs directly linked to land and the environment, particularly maize cultivation, also alter due to migration processes. And, despite the ability of migrant households to transition to more efficient fuels like liquid propane gas (LPG), we show how they continue to use firewood. In all, the study contributes important insights into the environmental implications of migration.


(2010) 32 (2/3) Population and Environment 198-215


Land and leña: linking transnational migration, natural resources, and the environment in Guatemala