INSTITUTO AGROECOLÓGICO LATINOAMERICANO
Latin American Institute of Agroecology (IALA)
Km. 145, Managua—La Dalia Highway
Santa Emilia, Matagalpa, Nicaragua
IALA Mesoamerica Bulletin
Greetings to all!
2014 is the United Nations Year of the Family Farmer. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has increasingly recognized the importance of small farmers—not only because they tend to produce more food on less land than giant agribusiness farms, but because they also tend to take
better care of their land. By maintaining forests on farmland, by taking care of creeks and wells, and by growing diverse food crops, small farmers are some of the most important environmentalists in the world.
At IALA Mesoamerica we are starting this newsletter to keep our international friends apprised of the exciting work going on here. In this issue, we provide some background on our methods and objectives.
The rural social movements that make up La Via Campesina in Latin America are dedicating an increasing part of their efforts to training youth in agroecology. These organizations know that peasant agroecology is a solution to many of the major crises that our countries face—from food price spikes to climate change. By applying the teachings of ecology to our agricultural practices, we can produce healthy, plentiful food without degrading our natural resource base.
While, by almost any measure—social, environmental, or economic—agroecological farming performs better than monoculture plantation farming, it has had a hard time going to scale.The entrenched power structure in Latin America profits greatly from agribusiness and its practice of monoculture.Agroecology and restoring biodiversity are the exception.This is why La Via Campesina is creating a set of schools to train rural youth in agroecology and popular education. To truly address the ecological and social crises of our times, agroecology has emerged as a major social movement.
The Latin American Institute of Agroecology (IALA) is a construction of La Via Campesina. It consists of a series of universities created by and for social movement activists. IALA has ongoing schools and schools-in-progress in Paraguay, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, and Chile. Here in Central America, we are establishing IALA Mesoamerica, a network of agroecology training centers in the territories of our constituency: small family farmers, farm workers, and indigenous peoples. Our centers achieve two important objectives at the same time: they accelerate the farmer-led processes of innovation and adoption of agroecology, and they provide an opportunity for rural youth to study at the university level. The education that social movement youth receive at IALA is also new and worth paying attention to from the pedagogical perspective. It combines the concepts of popular education and horizontal learning with the traditions of political education that come from the long history of liberation struggles on the continent.
At the same time, the ideas of agroecology challenge some very basic elements of mainstream culture—including male dominance over women and the idea that Western science is objective. It all comes together in practice as highly original curriculum that unites the wisdom of various knowledge traditions so that graduates take on new roles in their social movements. They train small farmers in how to teach agroecological innovations to other small farmers—the peasant-to-peasant method for horizontal learning.
For our team working on converting the ATC’s 44-acre agricultural technical college in Santa Emilia into IALA Mesoamerica, July has been an important month. We now have a website underway; it is far from finished but for the curious, it is http://www.ialamesoamerica.wordpress.com. We have also been working on fundraising and have been selected as finalists for a major grant proposal that would enable the IALA Mesoamerica project to become very active by the end of this year. In the interim, we want to make an initial investment in farm infrastructure to improve the productive capacity of the
worker collective that is currently farming at Santa Emilia. (We want to make the Santa Emilia campus food self-sufficient within a period of three years.)
As the project at the Santa Emilia Campus grows, this bulletin will serve as an information resource to keep the US solidarity community informed each month with news from the Santa Emilia campus, the Nicaraguan agroecology movement, and the broader perspective on building global alternatives through social movements that are connected through La Via Campesina. Please consider yourself part of IALA Mesoamerica and maintain contact with our team here in Nicaragua.
Saludos from the IALA Mesoamerica team.
Nils McCune, Technical Support for Agroecological Training, ATC
Marlen Sánchez, Coordinator for Agroecology, ATC
Fausto Torrez, International Relations, Association of Rural Workers
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