Archive for July, 2010

Groundswell members listening to Pacho Gangotena explain key elements of his organic production system.

On Tuesday, as part of the 2010 partner conference, Groundswell members visited Pacho Gangotena’s farm in Puembo, Ecuador. We were just the latest of some 19,000 farmers that have come to learn from Pacho over the past two decades. Pacho is among the most influential actors in the organic agriculture / agroecology movement in the Andes.

In addition to inspiring thousands of farmers through these exchange visits, Pacho’s tireless work off the farm has helped create a network of thousands of small farmers as well as a number of influential farmer organizations, including the Coordinadora Ecuatoriana de Agroecología (CEA) and Corporación de Productores Biológicos del Ecuador (PROBIO). Pacho is also credited with inspiring Ecuador’s food soverighty movement, which recently won passage of the first Food Soverighty Law in the Americas.

Ekorural, a Groundswell partner organization in Ecuador, regularly collaborates with Pacho and his allies to grow and strengthen the country’s agroecological food movement.

See more photos of our visit to Pacho’s farm on the Groundswell Facebook page.

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Steve and Cantave during March 2010 Haiti visit

Cantave (far right), Steve (third from right), and PLD team during March 2010 post-earthquake monitoring visit.

Steve Brescia: Cantave, what is the current situation in Haiti 6 months after the earthquake?

Cantave Jean-Baptiste: People are still waiting for the government and international organizations to address the challenges and problems created by the earthquake on January 12.  Port-au-Prince remains almost the same …  It will probably take about 10 years to remove the debris of the houses at the rate the government is moving.

SB: What are PLD and Groundswell doing that you see making a positive difference?

CJB: We know that we are making a big difference … We are supporting (nine) peasant organizations to directly manage the programs, and they have expressed that they appreciate the way we are working with them, because we are not imposing how the work should be done in their communities …  The peasant organizations were in charge of assessing the numbers of displaced people in their communities, recruiting them to participate in forming traditional work groups (kombits), and identifying priority activities for job creation projects for the kombits … They also managed other projects like obtaining and distributing seeds to farmers, and setting up micro-credit funds for women … (They) made decisions to benefit as many as possible in their communities.

SB: What is needed in the future to help Haiti recover?

CJB: Haiti need(s) better coordination and planning of the recovery.  And we need the involvement of the people as participants in the (recovery) programs … It is as if those affected by the earthquake are dead, they do not have a voice and other people should think for them.  We really need to rethink how these plans are being done.

Haitian farmers protesting Monsanto seeds.

More than 10,000 Haitian farmers protesting Monsanto seed "donation".

SB: What will PDL and Groundswell do to help the recovery in the next three years?

We will strengthen rural peasant organizations to undertake and lead recovery programs … but also plan to channel more investments to them to strengthen rural families to address the challenges they face … The rural areas have a central role to play in supporting the cities the next few years and beyond.  PDL and Groundswell will play a vital role in supporting the local peasant organizations to produce more and better … We have to strengthen the capacity of the local peasant organizations to grow food, earn income and create jobs in rural areas … The reason there are so many poor people living in cities is because the standard of living is so low in rural communities.

SB: There was a lot of attention recently on Monsanto’s donation of hybrid seeds to Haiti?  What is the problem with donating these hybrid seeds?  What is the best way for Haitian’s to obtain the seeds they need to plant?

CJB: The Monsanto seeds are being distributed in many places in the country … Some farmers have planted them.  Some families have even eaten these seeds, in particular corn seeds!  This is really dangerous as we know these seeds are preserved by toxic pesticides should not be eaten …

Haitian farmers usually save and use their own seeds, but these hybrid seeds cannot be saved to plant again for the next year.  The better alternative is to support and train farmers in selecting their own seeds, and in this way to improve the quality of their seeds.  We also need to train them how to store the seeds, to prevent pests from destroying them, and to prepare the seeds for the rainy season.  In PDL we are working with farmers to do these things, so that they have good seeds stored and available in their own communities when the rains come.

Read the full interview.

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Methodological Guide to Strengthening Endogenous Development in Africa

Methodological Guide to Strengthening Endogenous Development in Africa

Rural communities in developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America have pursued their local processes of development and survived, indeed often thrived, since time immemorial. They achieved this without the advice of outside experts and without depending on major flows of external inputs.  Rural people acquired sophisticated indigenous knowledge and created vibrant cultures. Over centuries, these cultures have been dynamic, subject to continuous change. There is ample evidence that rural people are capable of leading and managing their own community development. They are highly effective problem-solvers and effective social organizers. Their very cultural survival in challenging environments and circumstances demonstrates the ability of rural people for “endogenous development”.

Endogenous Development can be understood as localized change that is essentially initiated from within communities, and that mobilizes and harnesses local resources. The benefits of this change is retained within the locality. Endogenous development consists of a set of collective capacities to undertake local initiatives that are determined, led, and controlled by local people and communities, to improve well-being. It draws from both internal and external resourcesand is based on local peoples’ own criteria of development. It takes into account not just the material, but also the social, cultural and spiritual well-being of peoples.

The ability of communities to undertake endogenous development, while still resilient, has been greatly undermined in recent decades. While capacity for endogenous development is present at some level in all communities, there is overwhelming evidence that the power of initiative, and overall local capacity of communities for endogenous development, (and control their food system) has been in steep decline.

Groundswell’s aim is to contribute to a wider social movement that will reverse this decline.  Groundswell’ vision is to contribute to a world where communities learn from and support each other locally and globally and strengthen their capacity for “endogenous development”. This entails revitalizing the often latent capacity of communities to take action to protect their rights and resources, build local economies that generate physical, spiritual and environmental wellbeing for all, and to have a voice in decisions that impact their lives.

Endogenous development or “development from within” does not mean that local communities are isolated from the outside world and the opportunities that may be available there. It also entails people drawing knowledge (and resources) from external sources, but only when it supports local knowledge, institutions, initiatives, priorities, culture and worldview.

Drawing from Groundswell’s own program and staff experience, and also from the practical field work of an Africa wide network called COMPAS (Comparing and Supporting Endogenous Development), Groundswell recently led a process to develop a methodological guide for promoting endogenous development. This guide synthesizes the compatible methods and experience of a diversity of like-minded organisations, throughout Africa, into a consolidated systematic framework.

Designed for field workers, this methodological guide presents a comprehensive understanding of what endogenous development is, how it is currently being undermined in many contexts, how it is different than “participatory development”, and what the implications are for external agencies interested in supporting communities to develop lasting solutions to improve their well being.

This methodological guide outlines a 5 stage process to strengthen endogenous development. It describes strategies, methods, tools, and the lessons of good practice for each stage. Taken together, this guide enables a field worker to systematically and progressively strengthen the capacity of communities to plan and implement their own initiatives, taking into account not just the economic aspects of well being, but also the inter-related gender, social, environmental, cultural and spiritual dimensions.

A key part of the guide is to help field staff and NGOs critically examine how their project cycle, funding requirements, and personal attitudes affect how they work with communities, particularly their ability to build on indigenous knowledge, local world views and cultural values, and local assets.   The guide enables field staff to assess whether their interventions enhance, (rather than unintentionally undermine) endogenous capacity, local institutions, and initiative.

In a rapidly globalizing world, in which the responses to the recent food crisis threatens to further undermine endogenous development, and the ability of rural people to retain control of their seeds and local food systems, this practical methodological guide developed by Groundswell International and its COMPAS partners is relevant and a valuable resource.

Read the full Methodological Guide to Strengthening Endogenous Development.

– Peter Gubbels, Groundswell Co-Coordinator for West Africa

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