Approaching Climate Change from the Bottom Up
Campesino a Campesino as a Potential Element of CCAFS Strategy
Written by: Molly Green
I recently traveled to various cities in Nicaragua to take a closer look at the dynamics of gender in the national level project, Campesino a Campesino (PCaC), supported by the national farmers union (UNAG) as a method for developing and disseminating agroecological production techniques and information. This research, focusing on the dynamics of the PCaC, was undertaken for the purpose of informing the CCAFS strategy in Latin America. The incorporation of PCaC methodologies and the use of PCaC farmer networks would be a new way for CCAFS to approach participatory methods, potentially fostering further inclusion and highlighting farmer’s voices in debates around adaptation technologies. The attention to farmer’s perspectives is key for creating useful and long lasting adaptation strategies as well as for encouraging local communities to actively shape their futures in terms of adapting to climate change. However, attention to local context, and specifically to how CaC influences local power dynamics, will be important for CCAFS to carefully examine in order to not create harm in attempts to bring about change.
While CaC assumes different forms across contexts, the basic methodology positions campesinos as the developers and promotores (farmers who volunteer their time to help spread information and agricultural techniques through farm visits and other collaborations) of new agricultural adaptation techniques. Campesinos who become members of PCaC experiment with new techniques on a small piece of land and then teach the successful techniques to other campesinos through field visits, workshops, and knowledge exchanges organized largely with the support of UNAG. By placing campesinos as the driving force behind experimentation and dissemination of information, local communities become invested in creating new solutions to deal with climate change in turn effectively restructuring community and family dynamics by becoming actively engaged in a process to create change. The use of this methodology by CCAFS could mean that new adaptation techniques are created from the bottom up, providing grassroots alternatives to the policy oriented approaches often taken and creating meaningful social change at the local level.
While CaC strategies hold potential for community directed adaptation strategies, the approach of CaC also fosters social changes within the community, necessitating close attention to the social and cultural context in which the methodology will be implemented. Gender relationships are one of these social aspects that have been reported by participants to change as a result of CaC. In alignment with the family centered approach of the CaC, which encourages all family members to develop roles in productive and domestic spheres, some participants have reported the expansion of women’s roles in the productive agricultural spheres and other public spaces.
As UNAG couples learning about agricultural techniques with workshop and talks geared towards increasing self-esteem, addressing machismo, discussing unequal family dynamics and decision making, and working out family conflicts in order to give women the tools to negotiate power within the family more effectively and to have the confidence and skills to take part in community decision making. While it is clear that not all women in rural areas or Latin American countries experience disempowerment prior to participation in PCaC, various women’s testimonies illustrate the importance that PCaC has had for them in terms of creating more egalitarian relationships within the home and opening up opportunities for them to take part in local organizational structures. In certain cases, men have also been reported to assume some of the domestic responsibilities, such as childcare and cooking, allowing their wives to represent the family at PCaC activities or meetings.
Nubia Garcia’s testimony highlights the changes in gender dynamics attributed to participation in PCaC stating:
Yo he tenido cambios en lo personal, conocimientos y empoderamiento de mi persona…Hemos tenido cambios en la familia. Ahora, cuando voy a una reunión con mi hija, ya no me preocupo por la comida. Cuando venimos de vuelta a casa, ya está hecha la comida. Mi marido ya la ha hecho. Esto antes no era así. Empoderamiento sería lo que hay en el hogar y también en cargos, que antes una no podía tener…
I have experienced changes in my personal life, knowledge, and level of empowerment. We have had changes in the family. Now, when I go to a meeting with my daughter, I don’t worry about preparing food [for the family]. When we return to the house [after the meeting] the meal is already ready. My husband has made it. It was not like this before. Empowerment is about changing what happens in the household and in terms of work responsibilities, [which means that] women can do things that they couldn’t before…
(Bienert, et al. 2010)
Despite the evidence that suggests that PCaC has been empowering for women in general, there have also been cases in which the implementation of PCaC in a community has, at first, corresponded with rises in domestic violence as a response to the challenges against patriarchal power which the movement of women into more public and productive spheres. Backlash from male family members is certainly not the experience of every woman who becomes a member of PCaC. However, these occurrences of domestic violence demand that local power dynamics be given attention by development workers and researchers implementing this methodology in order to prevent causing harm in local communities.
While working through CaC networks is a potential strategy for CCAFS, an intimate knowledge of the research site will be important in order to understand the potential consequences of this methodology and to make adjustments or changes accordingly. However, the use of a grassroots strategy of disseminating agricultural techniques and information offers a new way for a large research organization such as CIAT to address local concerns, linking the often focused upon policy oriented work to voices at the bottom.
Bienert, Manfred, Marcial Lopez Herrera, Yajaira Aguirre Morales, Luz Adilia Medina Paz, and Silja Marschke. De Campesino a Campesino: Metodologia, pedagogia y movimiento para el desarrollo sostenible de la agricultura familiar campesina. Managua: UNAG, GIZ, PCaC, eed, 2010.
Holt-Gimenez. The Campesino a Campesino movement: Farmer-Led, Sustainable Agriculture in Central America and Mexico. Oakland: Institute of Food and Development Policy, 1996.
Holt-Gimenez, Er. Campesino a Campesino: Voces de Latinoamerica Movimiento Campesino a Campesino para la Agricultura Sustentable. Managua: SIMAS, 2008.