What is IALA Mesoamérica?
The Latin American Institute of Agroecology (IALA Mesoamerica) is an educational initiative of the rural social movements that make up La Vía Campesina (LVC). Agroecology is the application of ecological and traditional knowledge for sustainable food production. In the past 20 years, LVC and the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations (CLOC) have dedicated an important part of their energy towards agroecological training in order to generate and share peasant knowledge in their grassroots and graduate youth organizers with the capacity to lead the construction of food sovereignty in their countries, organizations, and communities. Examples such as the Niceto Perez National Training Center of ANAP in Cuba, the Florestan Fernandes National School of MST in Brazil, the Latin American Institute of Agroecology in Barinas, Venezuela, and the Guaraní Latin American Institute of Agroecology in Paraguay, show that La Via Campesina’s agroecology schools are sharing organizational philosophy, pedagogy, and production concepts across the continent. These institutions are constructed with the pedagogical effort of LVC and CLOC have specific contexts, objectives, and diverse methodologies, but nevertheless share the reality of being international institutions created to develop peasant education, agrarian citizenship, and food sovereignty.
We are constructing IALA Mesoamerica based on the experience of South American IALA schools but keeping in mind the specific context of our region. The recent history of countries and villages in Mesoamerica requires an institute that recognizes the contributions of indigenous populations to agroecology, including the importance of the milpa production system. In recent years, aggressiveness of the mining industry, genetically modified crops and biofuels, and the domination of the neoliberal model, all profoundly influence the conception of IALA that comes from the grassroots of Mesoamerican organizations. The communication between peasant families and their movements, educational processes to train peasant agroecologists, and the creation of common platforms for social change are especially important for strengthening social movements and building food sovereignty.
In 2014, the ATC (Asociación de Trabjadores del Campo, or Nicaraguan Rural Workers Association) acquired land in Santo Tomás in the department of Chontales in order for IALA Mesoamerica to become a physical reality. The property includes plentiful acreage for cultivation of vegetables and grains, some existing structures for classes and dormitories, pasture and dwellings for farm animals (such as chickens, pigs, and cows), a forest with tropical wildlife, and a creek for bathing and irrigation. The school will be able to produce the majority of its own food in addition to surplus agricultural products for income-generation. Thus, the land has excellent potential to become the agroecological production and demonstration space that IALA Mesoamerica plans to be. The school and farm will also be a central component of the ATC’s Agroecological Corridor, helping to spread agroecological growing practices and ways of thinking throughout the region through peer-to-peer education.