Supporting Agroecology Peasant Schools in the Andes
SWISSAID, Swiss Foundation for Development Cooperation
SWISSAID Foundation offices in Nicaragua, Colombia, India, Myanmar, Chad, Niger, Guinea Bissau, Tanzania, and Switzerland; Agroecology Peasant Schools (ECAs); Instituto de Estudios Ecuatorianos (Spanish acronym IEE); Universidad Intercultural de las Nacionalidades y Pueblos Indígenas, Afroecuatorianos, Montubios y Mestizos, Universidad Amawtay Wasi; Red de Guardianes de Semillas (Ecuadorian Seed Guardian Network); Fundación UTOPÍA; Colectivo Agroecológico del Ecuador, Fondo de Páramos de Tungurahua, and other peasant organizations that already have agroecological schools, such as Machete y Garabato in Quevedo, Troja Manaba, and Unión de Organizaciones Campesinas de Esmeraldas, among others
Project addresses: 1) peasants’ limited access to knowledge and technical assistance about agricultural practices and techniques. Their reliance on chemical product company advice has led to greater dependence on agro-toxic packages; and inadequate public policy and scarce state investment supporting peasant farmers. Policy favors agroindustrial systems that export banana, cacao, shrimp, coffee, rice, and other main production chains.
These problems create an opportunity to rethink the way farming advisory services reach both male and female peasants. Eric Holt-Giménez (2006) calls such knowledge-sharing, which comes from the Central American Peasant to Peasant Movement (Movimiento De Campesino a Campesino), “peasant pedagogy:” Starting from their own experience, peasants encourage other peasants. Rojas (2009), on the other hand, states that peasant knowledge is experimental and always based on shared experiences about what has been tested and proven generation after generation. Experiments carried out by peasants in the field are in situ, not in vitro, as in the case of standardized scientific experiments.
In Ecuador, agroecological schools were promoted by SWISSAID, Utopia, Heifer International, and CESA-ACSF to improve families’ quality of life and change production dynamics. Some consisted of transferring knowledge under the facilitation of professional agronomists, not peasants. This makes a difference relative to using personal experience to build trust, even more so if peasants are indigenous and/or women who have their own language and cultural codes.
Flawed public policy is an opportunity to gather peasants and strengthen their learning and questioning of conventional models. Altieri (2010) says agroecology runs parallel to social movements. Diverse actors and organizations need to establish partnerships that allow peasants access to agroecological knowledge as well as to land, seeds, public services, solidary markets, etc.
Promote equitable, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable food systems through the agroecological intensification that comes from knowledge-exchange among peasants.
Promote Agroecology Peasant Schools to improve local agricultural assistance services, scale out agroecology, generate greater climate adaptation, and understand their political sense through the exchange of knowledge among peasants in the central Sierra of Ecuador.
Create and strengthen a network of Agroecology Peasant Schools for the debate and exchange of teaching processes and agroecological practices and techniques and for construction of the political and investigative sense of agroecology.
Outputs and Outcomes:
Consolidation of pedagogical strategy: curriculum organized and adapted to each school, teaching capacities and political sense of multipliers strengthened, training pilot processes developed, and main agroecological techniques systematized and compiled to build a toolbox
ECA implementation: multipliers carrying out at least two training processes per ECA, with 20 peasant participants, followed by accompaniment, monitoring, evaluation, and systematization of each ECA
External follow up of trained new peasants to learn how training process enables agroecological transition and climate adaptation; peasant research cases identified
Schools sustainable and self-managed; mechanisms defined with ECAs’ multipliers and other stakeholders in each territory
Network defined and given meaning; preliminary meetings held with representatives of each ECA; network objectives, purposes, topics, and rationale debated as well as its organizational and communicational structure
Knowledge exchanged regarding pedagogical and methodological experiences; new learnings on agroecological practices and techniques, access to markets, implementation of GSP, and raising of consumer awareness; incentive for peasant research
Political advocacy experiences and proposals nailed down to strengthen agroecology and sustainable food systems
Agroecological intensification system is established that is sustainable, managed, and led by peasants who are part of Agroecology Peasant Schools.
Network of Agroecology Peasant Schools impacts its territories to improve sustainable food systems.