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 two years, until spring 2019.

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 2017-2019, 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

Preliminary Surveys

Since late May 2017 and during the initial stage of the project, a preliminary survey is being conducted in the 336 municipalities of Catalonia that have less than 500 inhabitants according to padrón (MUNICAT, 2016). In this way, we are being able to know better the initial demo-geographical situation in the small villages as well as to know some of the main needs and challenges there.

GIS Hamlets

During the initial phase of the project, a web GIS application is being developed that allows the publication and dissemination of information about the characteristics and the range of services available to the different small villages.This GIS (named GISASH) has several dimensions and it will be fed with various data sources: one dimension is automatically linked to IDESCAT data, another one is edited by the research team as well as another one is edited by the Association of Small Villages in Catalonia, among others.

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. In this sense, those tweets are being linked to other tweets published from LIGIT offering data and maps on the land use evolution in small villages (CORINE Land Cover 1990-2012). The usual periodicity is various tweets per week. The main hashtag is #HAMLETS and two twitter accounts that can be followed for updates during the project are: on the one hand, @LIGIT_UAB and, on the other hand, @RicardMoren



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

* Your data will be treated and stored in the data file called "Hamlets DB", a personal data file, registered in the Data Protection Registry of Catalonia, under code 217216002-T, in accordance with the aforementioned norm (Law 32/2010, of October 1, of the Catalan Data Protection Authority).