Migrant Relations and Rural Environments: A neglected dimension of sustainable development

Last changed: 24 January 2022

The project analyses how migration is changing rural Sweden and through that, preconditions for sustainability and social justice. Focusing on the changing composition of socio-environmental relations in rural areas (in agriculture, natural resource management, nature-tourism), the project investigates how migration and nature-based integration could contribute to sustainable rural development in Sweden.


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) make clear that sustainability entails addressing social, economic and ecological dimensions of development and social justice in one frame. International migration and intra EU mobility to rural areas have increased in past decades while the number of locally born residents has consistently decreased. Yet, we know little about the consequences of shifts in population and the relation of immigration to rural environments and sustainability. Changing social conditions in rural societies and their role in contemporary politics of environments and sustainability need careful study.

The study

In comparative studies of two regions in Sweden (and in relation to studies with undertaken by colleagues in other parts of Europe), we study the micro-politics of migration and environmental relations in rural areas with a focus on actors at four different levels – the work of public authorities, of private companies, the civil society where every-day rural governance often takes place and at the level of individuals. We study how ideas about nature and the ‘rural’ condition people’s relationships to the environment and each other, impact sustainable development and the integration and welfare of the inhabitants – both immigrants (European lifestyle migrants, asylum-seekers and transient seasonal workers) and those born and raised in the countryside. We ask:

  • How do authorities (municipalities/county, forest and agricultural agencies) in a multilevel governance structure, think about and deal with questions of migration and the environment? (For e.g., in forest agencies integration projects, in agriculture or nature tourism). How do they influence the work in their area?
  • What is the role of the civil society and private actors in nature based integration and sustainability? How does this relate to the work of immigrant associations in rural areas?
  • How are dimensions of gender, class, race and ethnicity central to these environmental relations at the individual level as well as structural and how do they affect the outcomes of initiatives for rural development?

Using a mixed methods approach, we investigate these questions in rural Sweden to develop novel theoretical understanding of contemporary rural change on the ground and work with partners and local participants to develop methodologies for better nature based integration and development for sustainability.

Related pages: