Immigration and sustainable development in small villages

Granera (Moianès)

June 2017. Author:Ricard Morén.

HAMLETS Project Presentation

The research project titled “HAMLETS. Immigration and sustainable development in small villages”, was selected in the open call for proposals RecerCaixa2016, promoted by Obra Social 'la Caixa' and Association of Catalan Public Universities, ACUP. This is a project carried out from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, UAB), with an interdisciplinary team (DdG, LIGIT, ICTA) directed by Ricard Morén-Alegret. This project also has the active participation of the Association of Small Villages in Catalonia (Associació de Micropobles de Catalunya). The project started in spring 2017 and the forecasted duration is at least three years, until spring 2020.

In English language, ‘hamlet’ means ‘small village’ and, at the same time, Hamlet is the main character of an existential tragedy authored by William Shakespeare. In many parts of Europe, including some areas in Catalonia, sustainable development of small villages is under threat due to, among other factors, depopulation, while many migrants or unsettled people are looking for a new place to live. Ageing and depopulation make these (often rural) places more vulnerable to natural hazards (e.g. wildfires) or uncontrolled speculation/abandonment.

This project is born both from a scientific interest in knowing better the human geography and sustainability prospects in over a third of Catalonia’s territory where less than 2% of the population reside. This low population density is a huge challenge for the country governance. Thus this project aims also to scientifically inform public policy-makers and to debate with them. In this sense, the project has also active support and participation from the Association of Small Villages in Catalonia, which gathers hundreds of local governments.

This project is based on the hypothesis that (international and internal) immigrants have the potential to make social, economic, environmental and cultural contributions to the sustainable development of small rural municipalities in Catalonia(Spain). It is inspired by humanist geographies as well as political ecologies.

During the period 2017-2020, the main territorial scope of study and the bulk of statistical, documentary and field work will be carried out in the autonomous community of Catalonia, but small comparative field work will be developed in the Department of the Eastern Pyrenees (France ), As well as in the Republic of Ireland (Eire) and in Northern Ireland (United Kingdom).

In brief, the main research objectives are the following:

  1. To enhance knowledge of migrant pathways and settlement processes in Catalan hamlets (within the European context), analysing challenges for sustainability, as well as to study wellbeing and happiness there, paying special attention to inter-cultural instances;
  2. To carry out action-research with immigrants living in hamlets who have already implemented sustainable development projects;
  3. To gather data and design a tailored open-access GIS website in tune with policy-makers needs, which would also be useful for people willing to migrate to small villages.

The main research methods that will be used along the project are statistical, cartographical and documental work; semi-structured interviews with key informants and qualitative data analysis; as well as participatory observation and action research.

HAMLETS Development

GIS Hamlets

During the HAMLETS project (2017-2020), a SIG web Application has been developed. This App allows the publication and dissemination of information about the characteristics and the range of services available to the different small villages. The Geographical Information System for Active and Sustainable hamlets (GISASH) has several dimensions and it is fed with various data sources: one statistical dimension is automatically linked to IDESCAT data (including also static data from INE and EUROSTAT), and another dimension that focuses on available services, bibliography, maps, websites, pictures, etc. is edited at UAB. The GISASH is hosted at UAB-LIGIT thanks to the funding of the RECERCAIXA Programme (an initiative of the Catalan Association of Public Universities and ‘la Caixa’ Foundation) as well as the Research Group on Ecological Economics (ECONECOL, SGR-1126, AGAUR 2017-2021), group liked to UAB-ICTA and the Department of Geography. See:

Comunication via twitter

Since June 2017, within the framework of the applied research project titled 'HAMLETS. Immigration and Sustainable Development in Small Villages' , a number of popular science tweets are being published. These tweets offer geo-demographic data and photos taken in municipalities with less than 500 inhabitants. Later these photos will be linked to the Geographical Information System named GISASH that is being developed from LIGIT-UAB. The usual periodicity is various tweets per week. The main hashtag is #HAMLETS and a twitter account that can be followed for updates during the project is @RicardMoren


If you want to contact us, please send us an email message to one of the following addresses: pr.hamlets@uab.cat or pr.hamlets@uab.es


B9-1068 office, Department of Geography, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193, Bellaterra (Barcelona), Spain.

The reuse of GISASH content is allowed without any restriction beyond the citation of the source: Source: GISASH (2019), HAMLETS Research Project, Bellaterra (Barcelona): UAB / RecerCaixa (Obra Social ‘la Caixa’, ACUP)