Rural - urban migration in Uganda

Our latest blog post is written by Sarah Kerry, International Development masters student at the University of Sheffield. Sarah spent several weeks this summer undertaking research on our behalf.

I recently completed a 5 week placement with Kids Club Kampala in their Kampala office. During this time I conducted research within the communities that KCK work with which focussed on rural-to-urban connections, sustainable livelihood strategies and migration.

The research addressed Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 which aims to ‘make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’, specifically focusing on the context of Uganda. In Uganda migration from rural to urban areas has been used as a way to diversify incomes for families and communities for many years. Diversifying income, as well as accessing other types of assets including human, natural, physical and social, are important strategies which improve resilience against stresses or shocks and in turn reduces vulnerability.

I conducted interviews with 9 second-generation rural-urban migrants, who were born and raised in the city, and 5 stakeholders, within 3 communities in Kampala. I focussed the research around how people in these communities access 5 types of asset (financial, human, natural, physical and social), all of which contribute to achieving sustainable and positive livelihood outcomes.

Summary of evidence

Financial assets: I found that rural areas often relied on money given to them by their urban contacts. Nearly all second-generation migrants interviewed cited that they had given money to rural contacts. Some also said that during times of need rural dwellers may give some money to urban contacts but this was less common.

Human assets:  During some interviews participants discussed rural contacts coming to stay with them on a short or long term basis to access healthcare and medication that was more readily available in urban areas.

Natural assets: Most urban dwellers only had access to land and its produce when they visited rural family and friends. However, some participants owned or had inherited land in rural areas so had better access than others. Nearly all interviewee’s said that rural contacts supplied them with food produce to consume or sell in urban centres.

Physical assets: Housing in urban areas was generally rented and expensive for residents. This led to some participants saying that they would consider moving, or in some cases had moved for an extended period of time, to rural areas where cost of housing was much cheaper. Some participants already owned houses in rural areas.

Social assets: Rural dwellers were found to use their urban contacts to access resources, job opportunities and support networks. Similarly, urban dwellers used their rural contacts to access childcare, food, resources and support networks.

Key findings from research

This research furthered previous studies by identifying that second-generation rural-urban migrants, who were born and raised in the city, still use their rural-urban connections to gain access to assets and provide access to assets for their rural counterparts. Utilising rural-urban connections therefore helps the poor to reduce their vulnerability and encourages positive livelihood outcomes.

Therefore, the poor are active citizens that use their rural-urban linkages to maintain or improve their livelihoods. As active citizens the poor should be included in policy making processes that affect their livelihoods.

I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to Kids Club Kampala who offered me this opportunity. I enjoyed my time in Uganda and it was great to see so much of the incredible work that KCK do. I would also like to thank the communities that welcomed me and contributed to my research.


1 UN. Sustainable Development Goals. United Nations. 2015. Available at: [Accessed: 31st August,2016]

2 Barrett, C., Mbonye, M. and Seeley, J. 'Between town and country: shifting identity and migrant youth in Uganda', The Journal of Modern African Studies. 2012; 50(2), 201-223.

3 Meikle, S., Walker, J. and Ramasut, R. Sustainable urban livelihoods: Concepts and implications for policy, DPU Working Paper, London: The Development Planning Unit, University College London; 2001