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After the return, the economic viability of Guatemalan returned refugee communities

by Brook, Matthew Harris

Abstract (Summary)
Thousands of Guatemalan rehgees have returned to their homeland since the Guatemdan government and representatives of the refugee population signed an accord in 1992 governing the return process. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the economic viability of Ixtahuacan Chiquito, one of the comrnunities that has been recently founded or re-established by returning refugees. Economic viability is understood to represent the ability of the community to provide for its 'core' basic needs. The thesis is based primarily on the results of field research conducted in Ixtahuacan Chiquito and Guatemala City. Research methods employed include serni-structured interviews conducted with Ixtahuacanites and a wide variety of other actors in the return process, participant observation and archiva1 investigation. An exploration of three aspects of economic viability - production, commercialization and finance - in Ixtahuacin Chiquito, establishes that the community currently does not have the ability to meet its core basic needs. The economic viability of Ixtahuacan Chiquito is comprornised most seriously by the inability to cornmercialize production, presently the oniy feasible means of internally generating the income required to rneet those basic needs not provided for by subsistence production. The lack of a road and insufficient access to capital makes cornmercialization of Ixtahuacan Chiquito's products virtualIy impossible. Long-term economic viability is seriously compromised by a potential deterioration in land quality caused by an insufficient quantity of land, population pressure and non-sustainable farrning practices. An examination of other returned refugee cornmunities finds that they are in a sirnilar siƮuation. A series of rneasures are proposed to enable the establishment of an econornically viable community: integration into the national road system, realization of reliable access to credit and technical assistance and irnproved access to health and education services. This will encourage the cultivation of comrnercially viable crops which, incidentally, are more appropriate to the ecology of the region. An analysis of factors affecting the implementation of these measures outlines the need for a government cornrnitted to the building of a strong, effective state and the crafting and implementation of a comprehensive rural development plan. The analysis finds that the current Guaternalan government is not willing to make these cornrnitments, due primarily to its neoliberal economic agenda. Para aquellos que me abrieron mis ojos Estamos creando polos de rniseria en areas de retornados. Sembramos la planta, pero no la estamos cuidando. Hay que regarla y cuidarla. We are creating centres of misey in areas of return. We plant the seed, but we don't care for the plant. It is necessasr to water it and care for it. Rubio Mejia - Permanent Commissions (northwest sector)
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Source Type:Master's Thesis

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Date of Publication:01/01/1998

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