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1. Introduction One response to increased urban poverty in Africa involves the strengthening and adaptation of the urban–rural linkages that have always been such an important part of urbanisation processes on the continent (Potts & Mutambirwa, 1990). Many urban households have rural components to their livelihoods and retain strong links with rural areas, while some keep part of their asset base in rural areas (Foeken & Owuor 2001; Owuor, 2003). These combined urban and rural residences and livelihoods have been called ‘multi-spatial livelihoods’ by Foeken and Owuor (2001). Rural livelihood sources accessed by urban households are embedded in the linkages, interaction and reciprocity that are evident between them and their rural household members, homes or areas. It is common for urban Kenyans to identify themselves with an ‘urban house’ and a ‘rural home’, which partly explains why the majority are never permanent residents in towns. A rural home is normally the ancestral land that is passed on from father to son. Traditionally, the daughter does not qualify to inherit her father’s ancestral land because she is expected to get married and make her ‘home’ with her husband’s family. The urban migrant who identifies him/herself with a rural home is a well-established phenomenon of African migration (Oucho, MIGRANTS, URBAN POVERTY AND THE CHANGING NATURE OF URBAN–RURAL LINKAGES IN KENYA SAMUEL O. OWUOR 7 Chapter|117| 1996; Francis, 2000). In Kenya, as elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, the urban bias of development is symbiotic with the migrants’ rural bias toward home – a place to visit periodically, to which they will retire and where eventually they will be buried (Owuor, 2004, 2005). According to Tacoli (2002) rural–urban interactions include spatial linkages – flows of people, of goods, of money and other social transactions between towns and countryside – and sectoral interactions between ‘urban’ sectors in rural areas (e.g., rural non-farm employment ) and ‘rural’ sectors in urban areas (e.g., urban agriculture). Through these interactions or linkages, households increasingly rely on both rural- and urban-based resources for their livelihoods – that is, many households straddle the city and village for their livelihoods (Satterthwaite & Tacoli, 2002). Although urban dwellers have always maintained links with the rural areas, economic crisis and structural adjustment in the last two decades seem to have produced fundamental and interrelated changes in urban–rural linkages: African urban residents have long maintained strong social and economic links with their rural ‘home’ areas, although the nature of those links has varied over time, as the nature of migration streams has adapted to changing economic and political circumstances, and from country to country with variations in factors such as colonial policy, urban history, and land tenure and land availability. The recent era of severe economic decline and structural adjustment has seen such linkages assume a new and vital significance (Potts, 1997: 449). First, new forms of migration have emerged or old ones have intensified and others have slowed (Tacoli, 1997). Research in the 1990s indicated that the rate of rural–urban migration was decreasing, while return migration from the city to the rural ‘home’ was emerging (Tripp, 1996; Potts, 1997; Baker, 1997; Tacoli, 1998; Okali et al., 2001). Circular migration between urban and rural areas was also increasing (Smit, 1998). A review of recent empirical evidence on migration and urbanisation in francophone West Africa suggests that economic crisis may increase circular migration between towns and villages (Beauchemin & Bocquier, 2003). While acknowledging that urban out-migration is not a new phenomenon, Beauchemin and Bocquier (2003: 10) argue that: It seems to be increasing in importance. In addition to the traditional return flows of migrants, a new kind of urban-to-rural migration, linked to economic crisis, has appeared … since the early 1980s. The job market degradation and the deterioration of the standard of living created new relationships between migration, employment and education. In the past, people moved to town to attend school or to find a job. Today, the opposite is quite frequent. A large number of people who have been fired from formal sector jobs return to the villages. In addition, some urban residents with jobs, confronting their incomes to the urban cost of living, choose to return to rural areas where incomes are lower but where food and housing are almost free. Secondly, rural links have become vital safety valves and welfare options for urban people who are very vulnerable to economic fluctuations (Gugler, 1991; Potts, 1997; Smit, 1998; Frayne, 2004). There is evidence of a significant shift...


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