Remittances do not mean more development: the obstacles that migrants encounter when implementing productive projects

Guatemalans living in the US recently celebrated the start of operations of a non-governmental organization that will carry out various projects that, with the resources of the migrants, will serve to support communities in the country.

The NGO is called the Guatemala-USA Mission, as it is called in the US, and its purpose in the country will be to promote the productive investment of remittances, the creation of municipal cooperatives and other projects for the development of the towns.

Officials of the organization reported that “the number one objective is to contribute to reducing migration in the inhumane way it is occurring”.

The idea is to have a presence in Guatemala to directly monitor the agreements or commitments reached with the institutions, in terms of productive or beneficial projects.

Among other plans, they intend to provide legal advice in Guatemala for migrants in the US, which outside the country it is difficult for them to access the country’s legal system or they hire lawyers who exceed their fees.

Medical and psychological assistance will also be provided to those who are deported. In addition, among other projects, they intend to be links between Guatemalan producers and potential clients in the US.

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With close to three million nationals residing in the American Union, the amount of family remittances reached this year, from January to June, US$8 thousand 711 millionwithout this large amount of resources impacting the development of the communities of origin of the migration.

Guatemalans in the US say they are willing to support their places of origin. Many already do and have financed the construction of schools, health centers, or housing for low-income families.

However, when talking about productive projects, many of these come up against a lack of coordination between the actors that should be involved: migrants, government, communes, and even the church and the academic sector.

multiple barriers

The investment of resources by migrants in their communities of origin is limited by multiple factors, including the lack of organized communication and the fear that the investment will fail due to lack of advice and specialized support or because there is no communication channel with the mayors to support community development projects.

It is also an obstacle that the norms or institutional regulations that support the development of micro, small and medium enterprises are not adequate for economic initiatives with a focus on attention to migrants, which hinders their access to financial resources and growth opportunities. business.

A study by the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (Flacso) prepared last year called Good practices in the use of the productive remittance concludes that economic projects promoted with remittances “Many times they have a limited scope, because they do not find support from social and political actors that allows them to be sustainable over time.”

That study, which examined 10 projects operating in Huehuetenango and Quetzaltenango, revealed that migrants “have not found a response to their requirements for advice and support in government agencies and in municipal or public policies”.

In addition, it lists a series of challenges to make these productive projects functional, among them, strengthening capacities in finances, financial intelligence and brand marketing that allow overcoming fears of losing the resources invested.

Likewise, it is necessary to articulate with state actors, the cooperative sector, the private sector, academia, the church, among others, to achieve the expected impact of productive projects.

Also read: The figures that show us that migration from Guatemala is uncontrollable

It highlights that the search for alliances and support by migrants in Guatemala “It has been very difficult, since they do not find an echo in the government instances related to the initiatives or projects they have promoted.”


Rosario Martínez, a researcher at Flacso and one of the authors of the study, said that the projects promoted in an organized manner and with the participation of various actors “they tend to be more successful” than those that are done bilaterally, between the migrant and a community actor.

Last year more than US$15 billion entered in family remittances, according to data from the Bank of Guatemala. (Free Press Photo: PL Hemeroteca)

Although the study analyzed 10 initiatives, Martínez considers that there are “many more throughout the country,” and pointed out that the primary challenge is to achieve the necessary synergy between entrepreneurs and government actors.

He cited an example in the Hierbabuena community, which is located in Jocotán, Chiquimula, where Guatemalans in the US from the area sought advice from the University of San Carlos to find a productive project for families suffering from acute malnutrition.

Thus, the academy developed a study of soils and what species of birds could adapt to the conditions of the place and what food should be given to them. The project has yielded positive results.

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On the other hand, Martínez mentioned, in other places they have found interesting economic initiatives, but where nobody knows what is suitable to produce in a given community.

Migrants are willing to invest in productive projects, but they require support from government institutions. (Free Press Photo: EFE)

He added that the institutions should respond to the migrants with the necessary openness to link the actions they propose and generate strategies for that link, as well as train their middle managers who, in the end, are the ones on the ground and are the link with the community. .

Although the productive use of remittances can have a positive impact on localities, the academic believes which is only part of what needs to be done to achieve its integral development.

Also required strong State investments in roads, health and education, as well as reviewing the country’s productive matrix and diversify it to go from being a producer of raw materials to having the capacity to transform them, he explained.

The Ministry of Economy said that they have plans to support entrepreneurs, but none specifically for migrants.

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