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Latin America Agroecology Institutes: another way is possible

News from Nicaragua | Tuesday, 15 September 2020 |

The agro-industrial food chain dominated by a small number of transnational companies that control everything from seeds to supermarkets feed only 30% of the world’s population but uses 80% of agricultural land.

The COVID-19 and climate crises have exposed the profound dangers this globalised food system and unsustainable capitalism pose to all life forms.

As the global movement of peasant and indigenous food producers La Via Campesina (LVC) points out ‘We must learn from this crisis and invest in building local, resilient and diverse food systems.”

The agroecology model of agriculture is based on the principles of food sovereignty, climate justice and social transformation. Agroecology is holistic in that it encompasses social, economic, political, cultural and spiritual elements. This promotes independence from global markets controlled by agribusiness and respect for the wellbeing of people and the planet.

The Latin America Institutes for Agroecology (IALAs) are an initiative of LVC to train young people from campesina organisations.

The first IALA (IALA Paolo Freire) was set up in 2006 in Venezuela through an agreement between LVC and then Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Since then eight other IALAs have been established across Latin America.

Each IALA has its own dynamic and particular context but all use LVC peasant to peasant popular education methodologies combining technical, political and ideological training.

‘One of the great advances of our movement lies in education, training and schools positioned to strengthen our leadership and mobilise the working class on very important issues such as lobbying to get the World Trade Organisation out of agriculture, and proposing another model of production based on agroecology.’ Fausto Torres, International Relations Secretary, Rural Workers Association (ATC), Nicaragua and member of the co-ordination of IALAs.

The Nicaragua Latin America Agroecology Institute (IALA, Ixim Ulew)

‘Agroecology is a revolution! …we are killing the Earth…the most urgent task we face is the search for ways to protect it. ’ Marlen Sanchez, IALA director

IALA Ixim Ulew (land of corn in Maya K’iche), was founded in 2018 by the ATC for young people from Central American and Caribbean organisations of La Via Campesina. The campus is an agroecological farm-school located in Santo Tomás, Chontales.

The first intake of 22 students between the ages of 18 – 30 began their course in February 2018 and graduated in November 2019.

The course provided a holistic training - technical, political, ideological and spiritual - as the basis for developing food sovereignty, organisations skills and political activism. The technical curriculum is certified by the Nicaraguan Technological Institute (INATEC).

IALA Ixim Ulew, like the other IALAs, follows the methodology of alternating time spent on campus with practical application in the rural communities.

Commenting on what he had gained from the course one student commented: ‘The social exchange we had with [students] from other countries, the development of activities in the countryside, agroecology, social issues of interest to all of us…the rescue of ancestral culture, and everything that makes us campesinxs, that makes us understand the love of the land’

In the context of the COVID crisis the second cohort of 40 students from Mexico, Central American and the Dominican Republic started their online course on 15 April this year. This means the challenges – and some advantages - of Moodle, Zoom, and webinar platforms.

Source of information: Friends of the ATC

For a description of the work of IALA Ixim Ulew

https://friendsatc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Santo-Tomas.pdf

Graduation ceremony for IALA students, November 2019

Graduation ceremony for IALA students, November 2019

Forty new students started their course in April this year facing the challenges of Zoom!

Forty new students started their course in April this year facing the challenges of Zoom!