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)
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.
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.
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.