In solidarity with Cerro Libertad!

 

Representatives of the organizations of La Vía Campesina including the ATC are currently on their way to Bilbao, Basque Country for the 7th International Conference of La Vía Campesina.

As part of the pre-conference activities, Fausto Torrez of the ATC and CLOC-VC Central America and Erika Takeo of Friends of the ATC visited Cerro Libertad. Located in Jaén, Andalucía, Cerro Libertad is 75 hectares (185 acres) of land that has been recently liberated for the peoples of Andalucia through an organized occupation led by LVC organization SOC-SAT. The occupation began on April 1st of 2017 to commemorate one year of unjust imprisonment of local activist Andrés Bodalo.

 

 

During the past 5 years, this land was in speculation by the bank BBVA. It did nothing with the property to support the community or the land, leaving the few thousand olive trees covered in weeds and with disease, letting the olives fall to rot each year, plus neglecting the farm infrastructure. SOC-SAT proposes to use the land in service of the people rather than interests of capital: the collective living at the farm and visiting regularly has been planting and harvesting from an agroecological vegetable garden, taking care of farm animals, tending to the olive trees, and cleaning up the large house so that it can be a gathering and living space.

Vegetable garden

 

Olives

 

During our visit to Cerro Libertad, we participated in an assembly of SOC-SAT as part of their preparation for the 7th Conference of LVC. Topics discussed were the history of LVC’s conferences, land, seeds, and migration. While there are differences between Europe and Latin America, we shared many common struggles against capitalism and for food sovereignty.

 

Fausto talking Via Campesina

 

Globalicemos la lucha, globalicemos la esperanza!

 

Thank you to the communities of Cerro Libertad and SOC-SAT for receiving us, sharing in dialogue, and feeding us delicious food from your farms. Hasta la victoria, siempre!

 

Reflections from ATC Interns – Melissa and Dakota

Editors’ Note: In collaboration with the ATC, Friends of the ATC facilitates a small internship program for learners (usually university students or recent graduates) who are committed to solidarity with social movements. Each intern has a unique experience and brings a unique perspective and contribution to the ATC while they are in Nicaragua. In this post we share with you the reflection of two of the ATC’s interns from early 2017, Melissa Makous and Dakota Glueck.

 

We arrived at that ATC office in Managua during the monthly meeting of the ATC’s National Executive Council, where we were greeted by Marlen, Fausto, and various other team leaders from several different departments in Nicaragua. After a brief introduction, we sat and listened for the rest of the meeting as our new compañeros discussed future events, quarterly goals, and the different themes and ideas each office was exploring with ATC members and their respective communities. A common goal was to increase youth engagement in workshops and trainings. We watched excitedly as these passionate leaders exchanged ideas, offered advice, and even joked around a bit. The atmosphere was light but focused. Although we were not able to visit each office over our 6 week internship, we were glad to have had this introduction into the myriad of projects each office pursues. It was clear that the ATC’s far reaching scope tried to include rural workers issues on many levels.

 

Marlen works on the agroecology team of the ATC, working out of the central office in Managua.  We had first met Marlen in Berkeley a few months earlier during a Friends of the ATC exchange, and we were excited to learn and work with her during our internship.  We would spend our time working in the garden at the Escuela Campesina “Francisco Morazán”, and creating a farm sustainability evaluation program for the agroecology team to use with peasant farmers.  This gave us a schedule balanced between working with the land, visiting farms, and collaborating with the agroecology team.  Our six-week schedule was full and allowed us to visit a few of Nicaragua’s departments, see the ATC’s work in action, and meet many Nicaraguans actively engaged in working toward a sovereign and just food system for the country.

 

Visit to Estelí through an exchange between the ATC and ally organization Fundación Entre Mujeres

 

We were particularly excited about a project Marlen proposed, which we felt complemented our interests and would help further develop our own research skills. She wanted to create a framework to evaluate the social, economic, and environmental well-being of small farms, utilizing different sustainability indicators in each of these areas. After some research and pulling from old resources, we decided to use the MESMIS framework, a participatory research method developed by a team of Mexican researches hailing from various institutions. This model is meant to be easily replicable, flexible, and accessible to new researchers and farmers.

 

Over the next 6 weeks we visited three families and a women’s collective to better understand their various challenges and goals. In order to assess to what extent each family achieved a sustainability goal, we created a questionnaire/interview form that allowed us to more accurately understand the social and agricultural ecology of each farm, while providing space for self-assessment. We created a diagnostic criteria and assessment methodology to consistently assess strengths and potentials for improvement for each producer. The results of our interviews were translated into an easy-to-read “amoeba” (example below), which we presented during a regional meeting with both ATC staff and the families whose fields we visited. During this meeting, each family discussed strategies to strengthen weak indicators. Members of the ATC agroecology team, in collaboration with these campesinos, will ideally adapt these goals and recommendations into management plans to meet challenges and pursue opportunities encountered by each farmer. The goal of this type of research is to be adopted in different production environments and used iteratively over time to facilitate positive change on participating farms.

 

Example of “amoeba” developed by Melissa and Dakota

 

One of the most memorable experiences we had was visiting the newly formed women’s collective in Masaya (so new they didn’t even have a name yet, though we liked Marlen’s suggestions of “Las Agroecologas”). One woman, Doña Josefa, in a neighborhood called “Los Positos” (the puddles), offered her backyard as a place for the group to start collectively gardening. With ten women and two men, their knowledge ranged from complete beginners to experienced farmers. The few who did come from agricultural backgrounds were familiar with conventional practices, but everyone wanted to learn to grow “naturally,” using organic practices. This collective was eager to learn, absorbing as much information as they could about biointensive planting, maximizing plant diversity, and other organic management methods. We even facilitated a compost making workshop with several of the women, using the materials we found in Doña Josefa’s backyard. With the right resources and support from the ATC, the collective will continue to grow strong as these women are determined to bring healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food back into their homes.

 

Women’s collective in Masaya with compost

 

Along with the commonality of the matriarch’s managing their family fields, we also noticed a particularly interesting consensus amongst many of the campesinos we met: climate change is real, and it is affecting them now.  Climate change is a lived factor of daily experience for those who work with the land over generations and depend on the predictable cycles of climate for their livelihood.  These observed changes are already prompting changes in farm management, and threaten socially and ecologically vulnerable producers.  The ability of the ATC to connect campesinos to knowledge, experimentation, and agroecologically viable practices is crucial to facilitating agricultural adaptation to climate change in Nicaragua.

 

Through visiting ATC offices and familiarizing ourselves with their various projects, as well as working with small farmers in several districts, we were able to see the diverse strategies used to engage farmers.  The ATC provides services and training to improve the material conditions of rural workers, while increasing their capacity for self-organization and advocacy.  The ATC serves as a model for organizing the rural sector as a whole against the injustices and ecological destruction of industrial agriculture and economic exploitation.  Lessons learned in Nicaragua would well serve research extension services in the United States to form a program to address the urgent problems of climate change and resource degradation.

Reflections from ATC Interns – Ana Cabantous

Editors’ Note: In collaboration with the ATC, Friends of the ATC facilitates a small internship program for learners (usually university students or recent graduates) who are committed to solidarity with social movements. Each intern has a unique experience and brings a unique perspective and contribution to the ATC while they are in Nicaragua. In this post we share with you the reflection of one of the ATC’s current interns, Ana Cabantous.

 

****

 

I don’t know where to start. First, my name is Ana. I’m from France and am completing an internship for my undergraduate degree in international solidarity and sustainable development project management with the ATC. I arrived two months ago, and time has been moving quickly and I have already completed half of my internship.

 

Ana, German (ATC instructor at the Escuela Santa Emilia), and papaya

 

My original objectives were to put into practice my theoretical courses and to discover a new culture, the ATC, and its fields of work. When I look back I couldn’t have ever imagined before all of what I would learn here. This experience is changing me and giving me more confidence in who I want to be and what I want to do.

 

I’m working on the systematization of IALA, or the network of schools that promote political, ideological, and agroecological formación. For me this is a way to understand and learn about all of the roles of each member of the team, how the ATC functions, and the positive impact of the actors that continue constructing knowledges and practice. More than this, it can help to document the data and evaluate the project in order to see what can be improved and what are future actions.

 

Visit to the Escuela Santa Emilia “Rodolfo Sanchez Bustos”

 

I had the opportunity to participate in formaciones as well as visit cooperatives and ATC schools. Thanks to these visits, I understand better the role of the ATC of supporting, defending, and representing peasants, from the start until they are independent and have self-sustaining projects. In all of these occasions, the ATC does not forget the importance of gender equality.

 

Assembly of the CLOC-Via Campesina Central American region, April 2017

 

Visit to Gloria Quintanilla women’s cooperative in Santa Julia

 

In parallel, we have been giving new life to the vegetable and medicinal plant gardens in the Francisco Morazán to experiment and learn more about agroecology.

 

To complete an internship with the ATC is a true human experience; the members of the team are good teachers and are very passionate about what they are doing. It is a way to learn a lot about them and about yourself and your profession. You have the space to learn, express yourself, make mistakes, and reflect about what you want to do. The value of popular education, which says that we all know something and that there not merely transmission of knowledge but a permanent construction of knowledge, is concrete here. I think there is a lot of potential for empowerment and training in an internship with the ATC. At first, it can be difficult to integrate oneself within this grand political history and the range of work. And we are not used to having so much freedom. This can be scary but there are only good people to help facilitate. This space is the way to take advantage of giving what we can and want without pressure or specific interests, learning from everything and continuing to struggle for a just and sustainable world.

Friends of ATC Visits in Nicaragua, June 2017

 

This June we had the pleasure of meeting students of US universities who are participating in study abroad programs in Nicaragua.

 

In La Casona of the ATC Chontales in the city of Juigalpa, the ATC and Friends of the ATC met students from The Evergreen State College (Olympia, Washington), who spend 10 weeks living in the community of Santo Tomás through a partnership between the Thurston-Santo Tomás Sister County Association and the Centro de Desarollo Comunitario (CDC) of Santo Tomás. Our main topic of conversation was the community of Santo Tomás, where the ATC is building one of the campuses for IALA Mesoamérica. LVC cadre Werner Navarro gave us an update on the 200-acre farm the production that is taking place currently in small parcels. We also learned about the CDC’s child lunch, popular clinic, and model farm programs.

 

We were delighted to meet once again Evergreen students and CDC Presdent Yuri Alfaro Lopez, who we met in Olympia during Friends of the ATC’s 2016 speaking tour on the West Coast of the United States.

 

ATC, Evergreen, and CDC Santo Tomás; Juigalpa, Chontales, June 3rd 2017

 

In June we also had a lively debate with students from Bucknell University (Lewisburg, Pennsylvania), who spent 3 weeks living at Jubilee House in Ciudad Sandino studying agriculture and participating in various community projects. We dialogued about false solutions to climate change such as carbon offsets, the role of feminism in the construction of socialism, the dangers of GMOs and other corporate-controlled seeds and foods, the importance of the sovereignty of each nation including Nicaragua in organizing its food system, and the true ability of agroecology to feed our peoples.

 

We were humbled to receive this invitation to once again meet with the Bucknell community after visiting the campus in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania during a Friends of the ATC speaking tour in 2016.

 

ATC and Bucknell Brigade; Ciudad Sandino; June 6th 2017

 

Throughout these visits we continue to affirm the importance of strengthening solidarity amongst our peoples in the common struggle against capitalism, imperialism, patriarchy, colonialism, and racism.

RESOLUTION ON MILITANT SOLIDARITY WITH THE PEOPLE AND REVOLUTIONARY GOVERNMENT OF VENEZUELA

Gathered in Managua, Nicaragua, the Assembly of the Central American region of La Via Campesina – CLOC, after deep analysis of the situation that is threatening the sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, resolves the following:

  1. The model of participatory and protagonist democracy achieved by the Venezuelan people today is under threat by imperialism, oligarchy, and their footmen.
  2. Venezuela is being subjected to an international conspiracy to destabilize its institutions and its Bolivarian government. In this conspiracy, imperialism uses different methods and forms like:
  • A strategy of political and diplomatic isolation of Venezuela, in particular illegal actions promoted in the belly of the OAS, Mercosur, and other multilateral international agencies.
  • A block on access to international credit through the manipulation of the country’s risk, closing of financial sources, and sabotage of the regular operations of the Republic by international banking.
  • Collusion in the petroleum market for the reduction of price per barrel.
  • Strong attacks on the internal economy through the alteration and distortion of the systems of production, distribution, and consumption of special goods including food and medicine in order to limit the public’s access; systematic speculative attacks on the currency and price system, creating an escalating inflation.
  • Aggressive and systematic campaign of disinformation, false news, and nonstop media attack against the Revolutionary Government of Venezuela, its president el compañero Nicolás Maduro Moros and its social leadership (Chavismo).
  1. Imperialism and its footmen have constructed an international conspiracy to bring about foreign intervention in Venezuela that will produce the destruction of the gains of the Bolivarian process, making vulnerable the social and political rights of the people, besides hoping to throw out the values and principles of solidarity and cooperation between peoples that are the legacy of el comandante Chavez.

This international conspiracy is being produced in a moment in which the interests and strategic objectives of politics of imperialism are joining with those of the oligarchy and the plutocracies of the continent, with massive use of media that are controlled by large international “information and communication” corporations and political operatives such as the General Secretary of the OAS, Luis Almagro, the brash agent of imperialist interests.

  1. La Via Campesina – CLOC Central America condemns the attitude of the General Secretary of the OAS Luis Almagro for his clear bias against Venezuela, which legitimizes the terrorist violence in the country, and for his officious behavior calling for foreign intervention, in clear contradiction to the principles of international law of respect and no intervention in the internal affairs of a state.
  2. La Via Campesina – CLOC Central America unites with the world campaign of solidarity SOVEREIGN VENEZUELA: FOR PEACE AND AGAINST FOREIGN INTERFERENCE. We call peoples and governments of the world to defend liberty, self-determination, and peace for the Venezuelan people.
  3. We reject the aggressions of imperialism and its allies against Venezuela, its people and its democracy.
  4. We recognize Venezuela as a sovereign nation, free and independent, that is not going to accept, today or ever, any type of tutelage, intervention or interference in its internal affairs on the part of any power or group of countries.

The Bolivarian Revolution will not turn in or surrender its flag no matter the size or magnitude of aggression.

For the respect of the sovereignty of Venezuela, of the wellbeing of humanity and the international principle of peoples’ self-determination

For peace and dialogue

No to tutelage, intervention or interference in internal affairs on the part of any power or group of countries.

Globalize Struggle – Globalize Hope

April 20, 2017

 

RESOLUCIÓN DE SOLIDARIDAD MILITANTE CON EL PUEBLO Y GOBIERNO REVOLUCIONARIO DE VENEZUELA

Reunidos en Managua, Nicaragua la Asamblea de La Vía Campesina – CLOC Centroamérica, después de un profundo análisis de la situación por la que atraviesa la hermana República Bolivariana de Venezuela, resolvemos lo siguiente:

  1. El modelo de democracia participativa y protagónica conquistada por el pueblo Venezolano, hoy se encuentra amenazada por el imperialismo, la oligarquía y sus lacayos.
  2. Venezuela está sometida a una conspiración internacional para desestabilizar las instituciones y su Gobierno Bolivariano. En esta conspiración el imperialismo utiliza diferentes métodos y medios como:
  • Estrategia de aislamiento político y diplomático de Venezuela, en particular las acciones ilegales promovidas en el seno de la OEA, Mercosur y otras instancias internacionales multilaterales.
    Bloqueo de acceso al crédito internacional mediante la manipulación del riesgo país, cierre de fuentes financieras y saboteo a las operaciones regulares de la República por parte de la banca internacional.
  • Concertación en el mercado petrolero para la reducción del precio del barril.
  • Potentes ataques a la economía interna mediante la alteración y distorsión de los sistemas de producción, distribución y consumo de bienes esenciales como alimentos y medicinas para negar el acceso de la población; sistemáticos ataques especulativos a la moneda y al sistema de precios, propiciando una escalada inflacionaria.
  • Agresiva y sistemática campaña de desinformación, falsas noticias e implacable ataque mediático contra el Gobierno Revolucionario de Venezuela, su Presidente el compañero Nicolás Maduro Moros y su liderazgo social (el Chavismo).
  1. El imperialismo y sus lacayos ha construido una conspiración internacional para propiciar una intervención extranjera en Venezuela que produzca la destrucción de los logros alcanzados por el proceso bolivariano, vulnerando al pueblo sus derechos sociales y políticos, además de pretender echar abajo los valores y principios de solidaridad y cooperación entre los pueblos que son el legado del comandante Chávez.

Esta conspiración internacional se produce en un momento en que las políticas del imperialismo hacen que confluyan sus intereses y objetivos estratégicos con los de la oligarquía y las plutocracias del continente, con el uso masivo de los sistemas multimedios que controlan las grandes corporaciones transnacionales de la “información y la comunicación” y operadores políticos como el Secretario General de la OEA, Luis Almagro, agente descarado de los intereses imperialistas.

  1. La Vía Campesina-CLOC Centroamérica condena la actitud del Secretario General de la OEA, Luis Almagro por su evidente parcialidad contra Venezuela, que legitima la violencia que utilizan los terroristas en ese país, y por su conducta oficiosa llamando a la intervención extranjera, en evidente contradicción a los principios del Derecho Internacional de respeto y no intervención de los asuntos interno de un Estado.
  2. La Vía Campesina-CLOC Centroamérica se une a la Campaña Mundial de Solidaridad VENEZUELA SOBERANA: POR LA PAZ Y CONTRA LA INJERENCIA EXTRANJERA. Llamamos a los pueblos y gobiernos del mundo a defender la libertad, la autodeterminación y la paz del pueblo venezolano.
  3. Rechazamos la agresión que ejecuta el imperialismo y sus aliados contra Venezuela, su pueblo y su democracia.
  4. Reconocemos a Venezuela como un país soberano, libre e independiente, que no está dispuesto a aceptar, hoy, ni nunca ningún tipo de tutelaje, intervención o injerencia en sus asuntos internos por parte de ninguna potencia o grupo de países.

La Revolución Bolivariana no entregará, ni rendirá sus banderas sea cual sea el tamaño o la magnitud de la agresión.

Por el respeto a la soberanía de Venezuela, a los bienes comunes de la humanidad y al principio internacional de la autodeterminación de los pueblos.

Por la Paz y el Diálogo.

No al tutelaje, intervención o injerencia en sus asuntos internos por parte de ninguna potencia o grupo de países.

Globalicemos la Lucha – Globalicemos la Esperanza

20 de abril de 2017

 

RESOLUTION DE SOLIDARITE MILITANTE AVEC LE PEUPLE ET LE GOUVERNEMENT DU VENEZUELA

L’Assemblée de La Via Campesina-CLOC Amérique centrale réunie à Managua, Nicaragua, décide après une analyse approfondie de la situation vécue par la République bolivarienne du Venezuela, que :

  1. Le modèle de démocratie participative et protagoniste conquis par le peuple vénézuélien est aujourd’hui menacé par l’impérialisme, l’oligarchie et ses laquais.
  2. Le Venezuela est soumis à une conspiration internationale visant à déstabiliser le gouvernement bolivarien et ses institutions. Dans cette conspiration, l’impérialisme utilise différentes méthodes et moyens tels que :
  • La stratégie d’isolement politique et diplomatique du Venezuela, notamment les actions illégales promues au sein de l’OEA, du Mercosur et d’autres instances internationales multilatérales.
  • Le blocage de l’accès au crédit international par la manipulation du risque pays, la fermeture des sources de financement et le sabotage des opérations régulières de la République par le système bancaire international.
  • La concertation sur le marché du pétrole dans le but de faire baisser le prix du baril.
  • Des attaques puissantes sur l’économie nationale par l’altération et la distorsion des systèmes de production, de distribution et de consommation de biens essentiels tels que la nourriture et des médicaments afin d’en empêcher l’accès à la population ; des attaques spéculatives systématiques sur la monnaie et le système de prix conduisant à une escalade inflationniste.
  • Une campagne agressive et systématique de désinformation, de fake news et d’incessantes attaques médiatiques contre le Gouvernement révolutionnaire du Venezuela, son président Nicolas Maduro et le leadership social (le Chavisme).
  1. L’impérialisme et ses laquais ont élaboré une conspiration internationale visant à favoriser une intervention étrangère au Venezuela menant à la destruction des acquis réalisés par le processus bolivarien, bafouant les droits sociaux et politiques du peuple, et tentant de détruire les valeurs et principes de solidarité et de coopération entre les peuples qui sont l’héritage du commandant Chavez.

Cette conspiration internationale intervient au moment où les intérêts et les objectifs stratégiques des politiques de l’impérialisme convergent avec ceux de l’oligarchie et les ploutocrates du continent, avec l’utilisation massive des systèmes multimédias contrôlés par les grandes sociétés transnationales de « l’information et de la communication » et les agents politiques tel que le Secrétaire général de l’OEA, Luis Almagro, agent éhontée des intérêts impérialistes.

  1. La Via Campesina-CLOC Amérique centrale condamne l’attitude du Secrétaire général de l’OEA, Luis Almagro, pour son parti pris indéniable contre le Venezuela qui légitime la violence utilisée par les terroristes dans ce pays, et pour ses actions officieuses incitant une intervention étrangère en contradiction flagrante avec les principes du Droit international de respect et de non-ingérence dans les affaires intérieures d’un État.
  2. La Via Campesina-CLOC Amérique centrale se joint à la Campagne Mondiale de Solidarité VENEZUELA SOUVERAIN : POUR LA PAIX ET CONTRE L’INGERENCE ETRANGERE. Nous appelons les peuples et les gouvernements du monde à défendre la liberté, l’autodétermination et la paix du peuple vénézuélien.
  3. Nous rejetons l’agression exercée par l’impérialisme et ses alliés contre le Venezuela, son peuple et sa démocratie.
  4. Nous reconnaissons le Venezuela en tant que pays souverain, libre et indépendant qui ne n’est pas disposé à accepter, ni aujourd’hui ni jamais, toute mise sous tutelle, intervention ou ingérence dans ses affaires intérieures par aucune puissance ou groupe de pays.

La Révolution bolivarienne ne livrera ou n’abandonnera pas ses drapeaux, quelle que soit l’ampleur de l’agression.

Pour le respect de la souveraineté du Venezuela, de la propriété commune de l’humanité et du principe international d’autodétermination des peuples.

Pour la Paix et le Dialogue.

Non à la mise sous tutelle, à l’intervention ou à l’ingérence dans ses affaires intérieures par aucune puissance ou groupe de pays.

Globalisons la Lutte – Globalisons l’Espoir !

20 avril 2017

IALA Mesoamérica Updates

In recent years, dozens of agroecology training centers have been established around the world by LVC organizations in order to facilitate agroecological knowledge sharing, learning, and the “massification” of agroecology along with the production of social movement cadre. The Central American organizations of La Via Campesina have been working since the early 2010s on an educational initiative for the region known as IALA Mesoamérica (IALA = Instituto Agroecológico Latinoamericano, or Latin American Institute of Agroecology).

 

 

IALA Mesoamerica joins successful experiences of IALAs and other Latin American agroecology schools in Venezuela (the first IALA Paulo Freire), Chile (IALA Mujeres), Colombia (IALA Maria Cano), Paraguay (IALA Guaraní), Brazil (Escuela Nacional Florestan Fernandes and Escuela Latinoamerica de Agroecología ELAA), Argentina (Universidad Campesina), and Cuba (Escuela Niceto Pérez).

 

IALA Mesoamerica is made up a system of schools of formación in Nicaragua that have historically contributed to technical and political training for agrarian sector organizations who organize both rural workers and small producers (including the ATC). These include:

  • Francisco Morazán International Peasant Worker School (Managua)
  • Rodolfo Sánchez Bustos Northern Agroecological Institute (Santa Emilia, Matagalpa)
  • School of Cooperatives (Somoto, Madriz)
  • School of Trades, also known as the School of Tobacco (Estelí, Estelí)
  • International School of Agroecology (Santo Tomás, Chontales)

 

Students at the ATC’s school in Santa Emilia

 

These schools of formación utilize popular education methodology, making the experiences and wisdom of each learner and the communities from which they come from a central part of the educational process through the diálogo de saberes. While learning agroecological production is an important part of IALA Mesoamérica, so too is gaining a solid political education including understanding histories and structures of capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, and patriarchy.

 

A paired strategy with IALA Mesoamerica is the Agroecological Corridor, which focuses on using the proven farmer-to-farmer method to rapidly share and spread agroecological knowledge in the territories between schools. Like IALA Mesoamerica, the Agroecological Corridor is still in its early stages.

 

Growing the Agroecological Corridor: In Masaya, a collective of women are collaborating in a garden to grow food for their families.

 

In February of this year, IALA Mesoamerica welcomed an incoming class of students at the Rodolfo Sanchez Bustos Northern Agroecological Institute in Santa Emilia, Matagalpa. This class is made up of 75 rural Nicaraguan youth who are working toward a multi-year technical degree in agroecology. This degree is accredited by INATEC (the Nicaraguan National Institute of Technology), which gives a special tool to young people who are seeking employment after graduation. As part of the technical degree, students will take coursework that ranges from soil conservation to animal husbandry to production planning. While the current course is made up of Nicaraguans, future incoming courses will include students from throughout Mesoamerica, sent by the 28 LVC member organizations of the region.

 

IALA Class photo, February 2017

 

A focus of IALA Mesoamerica’s coordination this year has been activities at the campus in Santa Emilia because of its potential to be the strategic base for agroecological training and production. This school was constructed in the 1980s by members of the ATC with the support of a Danish labor organization and over the years has served as a worker organizing school, secondary school, and technical school. The campus spans across 44 acres with opportunities to grow much of the food for the students, teachers, and workers. It has a seed library, medicinal plant area, worm composting bins, nursery, pastured animals, and other features for agroecological production.

 

In addition to work at the Santa Emilia campus, IALA Mesoamerica continues to grow by learning about the successful cases of other IALAs in Latin America. Earlier this year, coordinators of IALAs from throughout Latin America gathered in Colombia to celebrate the inauguration of the IALA María Cano, the newest IALA. It was an exciting time of sharing the distinct experiences and common struggles of IALAs across the continent, many of which (including IALA Mesoamerica and IALA Maria Cano) are now being managed by graduates of the first IALA in Venezuela. From the ATC, Fausto Torrez and Marlen Sánchez attended to present on Via Campesina formación in Latin America and share the experience of constructing an IALA for the Mesoamerican region. See the following video for footage from the inauguration in Colombia:

 

 

We look forward to sharing updates with on the construction of IALA Mesoamerica later this year. If you would like to support this initiative, you can donate online through this IALA Mesoamerica donation page or Friends of the ATC. For other forms of contributions, please contact us.

 

How to amplify agroecology

 

 

In May of 2016, a collection of grassroots agroecology organizations and allies from around the world gathered in Masaka, Uganda for an agroecology learning exchange. Marlen Sánchez of the ATC and Mélissa Marin of Friends of the ATC were present, sharing the experience of the Central American organizations of CLOC-Via Campesina. The exchange participants spent four days presenting about their own organization and movement initiatives, sharing strategies on the amplification of agroecology, and visiting local examples of agroecology in action.

 

Agroecology Learning Exchange Participants

 

One result from this exchange was the publication of a beautiful report on what took place during this exchange and key themes to the amplification of agroecology going forward. You can read or download the full report (currently only available in English) at this link.

 

From El Machete: ATC & Youth Employment

 

 

The final 2016 edition of El Machete, the ATC’s quarterly publication, carried the theme of YOUTH. Here we have translated one article into English, written by Mariana Toscana of the ATC’s Francisco Morazán Peasant School and the MJC (Movimiento de Jovenes del Campo, or Rural Youth Movement). You can find the original article in Spanish as part of the full online magazine publication online here.

 

The ATC Boosting Youth Employability

Written by Mariana Toscana, translated into English by Friends of the ATC

 

For the past four years, the ATC has been developing a youth employment program. This program was created with the objective of giving young women and men from the countryside competencies that permit them to find employment or start their own business. The program has been taking place through the Francisco Morazán Peasant School in collaboration with the National Institute of Technology (INATEC) and the Swiss Cooperation (COSUDE).

 

In these four years, the program has carried out forty different courses in Nicaragua, 23 of which have been in Estelí, moving forward the School of Tobacco of ATC Estelí. The program has also had three courses at the Rodolfo Sánchez School in Matagalpa, two courses in Matagalpa, two courses in Masaya, one in Tipitapa, one in León, and the rest at the Francisco Morazán Peasant Worker School in Managua. In total, the program has trained 790 youth, of which 455 were women and 335 were men.

 

Diverse offering of courses

The courses were carried out on the following topics: production of basic grains, production and commercialization of honey, cacao processing, wine and jam making, coffee and cacao plant nurseries, roasting and milling of coffee and grains, cigar making, screen printing, and management of the home.

 

One of the criteria for executing each course has been its real possibility of generating employment in the short-term. In Estelí we came to an agreement with cigar companies Valley de Jalapa, Cubanica, and Aganorsa so that within these companies, courses are executed, and the youth in these courses become employed at those same businesses upon completing the course.

 

These courses in Estelí were convened by ATC-organized unions and tobacco worker families, having a large impact on union organizing and on the youth, having already benefitted around 500 young women and men.

 

Making coffee, cacao, and honey

In the Rodolfo Sánchez School in Santa Emilia, in the department of Matagalpa, courses developed were for children of local producers, one focusing on coffee and cacao plant nurseries and the other focusing on chocolate making.

 

Members of the Goyena women’s cooperative in the department of León received training in agricultural processing for their coconut farm, teaching them to produce coconut oil that is now being sold within the department.

 

In Chinandega, in the community of Cayanlipe, youth were trained in honey production and they now have their own production and commercialization of this product. In the community of Timal in Tipitapa, young women from a cooperative were trained in pickle-making, using the vegetables that they grow themselves.

 

Organic production and hotels

Also in Masaya, more precisely in the community of Gancho de la Mona, trainings were held for a group of women and men. The courses focused on organic basic grain production which are being locally marketed. In the community of Las Flores in Masaya, a course was given for young women in food preparation and customer service so they could become employable at a small restaurant or start their own eatery.

 

Taking into account the large demand for workers in the restaurants and hotels in tourist zone of Ticuantepe, a course was executed there with help from the National Hotel School in international cooking, table etiquette, and customer service.

 

Widespread participation

At the seat of the Francisco Morazán International Peasant School, located at kilometer 13 on the Highway to Masaya, community of 4 Esquinas, youth gathered from the surrounding communities including La Concha, San Antonio, Ticuantepe, Tisma, and Palo Solo.

 

Francisco Morazán Interational Peasant Worker School

 

These youth participated in courses on chocolate making, milling and roasting of coffee, and home administration. These courses were realized thanks to a collaboration with the National Engineering University’s food preparation area where participants did their practicums.

 

In addition three courses on screenprinting were developed. Youth from the National Coordination of Retired Officials (CNOR) and the Israel Galeano Association of Nicaraguan Resistance (ARNIG), sister organizations of the ATC, participated in these courses.

 

Supporting family economies

Through these actions of training rural youth, supported by the government, the ATC is combating unemployment, supporting family business, and strengthening its organization through participation of youth from the ATC.

 

For the Francisco Morazán Peasant Worker School, this program has meant an expansion of its educational offerings. In agricultural processing, it has established with success practical methodologies of creating value-added products as long-term alternatives for small scale producers.

 

Looking to do follow-up

It is important to do ongoing follow-up with the course graduates and also to complement these courses with courses on more advanced techniques. These future courses could focus on the quality of production and on commercialization with the goal of improving opportunities of making higher-quality products, generating higher incomes, and being hired with improved salaries.

 

For young women and men, this program is an alternative of dignified employment that contributes to improve their conditions in the short, medium, and long-term, offering opportunities to train in specific techniques that improve one’s chances in the labor market.