The impact of international migration on the life of a community: the laboratory known as Ecuador
Migration has profoundly changed Ecuadorian society over the past sixty years. The geographical distribution of the population has changed, as has the family structures and working conditions. German Calfat at University of Antwerp's Institute for Development Policy and Management (IOB) is project leader at the Flemish end of the International Migration and Local Development project. The project is part of the institutional university cooperation with University of Cuenca (UCuenca). He tells us about the project's challenges and initial results.
The south of Ecuador, where UCuenca is located, resembles a laboratory for research into migration for researchers from the United States and Europe. The local universities do not usually have the capacity to conduct such studies. The purpose of the International Migration project is to support training in scientific research into migration at local universities and form a research team of Flemish and Ecuadorian researchers.
Economists, anthropologists, historians, psychologists, geographers and sociologists are taking part in the project. Putting together a research team is no easy task, says German Calfat: 'The universities in Ecuador are primarily focused on education and do not have a tradition of research. The multidisciplinary nature of the project means it cannot be assigned to a single faculty, so participants have to find creative solutions within the university. The researchers also have to bear in mind that migration is a politically sensitive issue with a major social impact.
Despite the difficulties, the project has already produced some great results, including various publications, international conferences and researcher exchanges, the training of four future academic doctors and the establishment of a research network with ties in Spain, the Netherlands and Mexico. German Calfat: 'The mayor result is the development of scientific research as central element in the project.'
Impact on the community
During the second phase of the project the researchers will primarily focus on the application of the Migration Impact Monitoring Mechanism. This was developed during the first phase as a way to systematically identify and register the impacts of migration processes. The researchers want to develop a better understanding of how migration affects the life of the community, based on an extensive survey of two thousand households in Sigsig, a town in the province of Azuay.
For more information about the migration project, read the article in the magazine Exchange to Change of September 2010 on www.ua.ac.be/iob.
The project is part of the institutional university cooperation with UCuenca. De cooperation started in 2007. In addition to the migration project, the programme includes projects on food and health, education on sexuality and reproductive health, water management, medicinal plants, managing global heritage and the impact of mining on biodiversity.
For more information about the partnership with UCuenca see http://vlir-iuc.ucuenca.edu.ec/.