Describe your implementation:
- Participatory diagnostic with farmer groups regarding their habitat and social situation (e.g. drawing the landscape 50 years ago, current situation and future situation in 20 years)
- Sensitization in respect to relationship of human behavior and relationship as integral part of nature, and in the principles of life and importance of biodiversity.
- Facilitators of processes (our ECOTOP team) have to work in the field together with farmers. Learning by doing as a process of developing knowledge. We are considering that knowledge cannot be transferred but developed in a participatory process.
- Obstacles are often institutional restrictions or lack of understanding of dynamics of nature, therefore, learning has to be considered as a process in the long term. Another main obstacle is an extractivist logic that has been promoted with the colonization of the Yungas, an immediate logic where life, nature and biodiversity are rather a threat than a virtue. Short-term economic needs foster monocultures with expensive external inputs, creating more short-term economic needs. Also, agriculture is not a desirable future for many, and the young migrate to cities (generational conflict). National mega-projects such as dams threaten local initiatives. Other adverse conditions are unfulfilled basic needs, bad infrastructure and extreme climate conditions that impede dedication to long-term SAFS initiatives. However, we note an increasing awareness of the importance to preserve trees and biodiversity, and interest in SAFS because of the need to restore soil fertility, and because families see that those who implement a SAFS are being less affected by climate change impacts, have better working conditions, healthier and more diverse food, and better markets (e.g. for organic cacao).
We have conceptual methodological and practical tools for different ecosystems and situations, but our vision is not vertical teaching but a dialogue of wisdoms starting from local knowledge and experiences. As there is no general recipe for SAFS (but underlying principles), we use the experience and vision of local families and local “lighthouse” farmers in field courses, farmer-to farmer exchanges and academic research. Concretely we accompany the restoration of degraded plots, and also the implementation of new ones, with a successional focus and without using fire. One main concept is to grant local innovative farmers a university title of agricultural technicians (cooperating with the Faculty of Agronomy from the public university UMSA, La Paz), which generates prestige in the communities and helps to interact with policy makers. Many of such “peritos” have become local leaders and are now in various positions, promoting SAFS locally. We work with different kinds of local actors: communities, their organizations (syndicates, cooperatives, small enterprises, women’s’ groups, local indigenous organizations), municipal governments, innovative families, given that there is a wish for change. It is important that they are content with what they do, therefore the spiritual component is crucial: A relationship with nature needs to be re-established, people need a vision in the long term and invest in terms of costs, energy and risk.