IALA Santo Tomas hosts 1st Central American Encounter
IALA (Instituto Agroecologico Latinoamericano) Santo Tomás, inaugurated in November 2017, received its first class of students in March 2018. The first IALA class is made up of 22 students, ages 15-30, who come from organizations that are part of the Central American region of CLOC-Via Campesina. The objective of IALA is to provide a holistic formation (technical, political and ideological) in agroecology as a fundamental pillar to the construction of food sovereignty and transformation of society as proposed by La Via Campesina.
IALA Santo Tomás, like the other IALAs throughout Central America, follows the methodology of alternancia (“alternancy”). During “school time”, students gather together at the central IALA campus for a period of study and work, as is taking place during the First Encounter (March 5 – April 5). The IALA Central America campus is located near the town of Santo Tomás in the department of Chontales, Nicaragua, where the local saying is that los rios son de leche y las piedras son cuajada (“the rivers flow with milk and the rocks are cheese curds”). The campus itself is an in-construction working agroecological farm, created by the students, course facilitators and workers.
March’s encounter at IALA focused on studying what it means to live in an IALA, how to work together in nucleos de base, while covering topics in class such as the principles of agroecology, soil health, fruit trees, vegetable crops, and basic grains. Much of class time is dedicated to practicum, with students sharing their own experiences in the countryside and learning together by working on the farm. Throughout the month of March, students installed irrigation, built a plant nursery, and planted medicinal plants, fruit trees, vegetables, and corn and cover crops. Living together is considered to be an important part of the holistic learning process of IALA as students organize to complete daily chores, irrigate plants, organize soccer tournaments, put on cultural sharing nights, etc. There is also time spent exploring the farm, going to harvest mangos and coconuts, swimming in the river, etc.
Upon completion of this first encounter, students return to their countries and home organizations to complete “community time”. They will be asked to try out agroecological techniques on their farms, complete assignments and organize. Students return to the central IALA campus in May for the second encounter of the year. In two years, the class will graduate from IALA and assume leadership responsibilities in their home organizations, including coordinating future IALA campuses.
Please follow the construction of IALA and its first group of students directly on its Facebook page.