Vía Campesina in Latin America Will Form an Agro-Ecological Contingent

On September 26, 2005 in Sabaneta, Alberto Arvelo Torrealba municipality, state of Barinas, Venezuela an agreement on agricultural technical cooperation was signed between the Via Campesina- MST and the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela.

The signatories were President Hugo Chávez on behalf of the Bolivarian government of Venezuela, authorities of the state government of Barinas, the Minister of Agriculture and Land, and Joao Pedro Stedile on behalf of the Landless Rural Workers Movement of Brazil (MST) and the Via Campesina.

One of the planks of this agreement establishes that:  “It is necessary to develop all possible efforts to defend the principle of food sovereignty of our peoples, for the protection and multiplication of native seeds and all productive agricultural species, for affirming the value of small-scale community and family farming, to strengthen internal markets and to search for new agricultural techniques adapted to the environment to produce a high quality of food for our peoples.”

To put this agreement into effect, a group of leaders and professionals of Latin American organizations, together with the authorities of the Bolivarian University and the Ministry for Higher Education are in the final phase of creating the Institute of Agro-Ecology including Campesino (Small Scale Community and Family Farming), Indigenous and Afro-descendant Studies.

The goal is to train qualified activists for the organization and development of agro-ecology, contributing to a new ethic in the relationship between technicians and farmer, indigenous and afro-descent organizations, in order to construct a new paradigm in the Latin American countryside.

The promulgation of scientific, holistic and humanistic values will provide a new perspective to thousands of youth of both sexes which in the future will strengthen rural social movements, with the goal of promoting technologies that are enriched by  traditional knowledge and return education to a practice of strengthening the food sovereignty of the peoples.

The first 250 students (50% women) will initiate coursework in this institute in the month of September 2006, in the Alberto Arvelo municipality in the State of Barinas.  This center falls within the framework of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas and the previously described agreements.  In this first stage students of a high professional quality from the entire region, both Venezuelan and foreign, will participate.  A participatory methodology will be employed that balances school work with community work in a ‘social-productive’ practice.  The program will last five years and be completed in a professional graduation.

The Pedagogical Method will focus to advantage on classical scientific ideas, without side-stepping traditional knowledge or the socio-cultural cosmovision of Indigenous and Afro-descent America, to instill a pedagogical and political thought committed to the social dynamics of popular struggle, an education described by Antón Makarenco as one where:  “Each person must be useful to the cause of the working class.”

The Institute will carry the name of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, universal symbol of popular education, signifying that each student is the subject of a social project.  Ethical, political, moral, and ideological values are the basis for the construction of a new focus, under the assumption that:  “Only knowledge liberates.”

The Institute will have the support of the Bolivarian University, the Ministry for Higher Education of Venezuela, and the methodological contributions of organizations that for many years have developed the training methods of the MST, the ATC, the ANAP, etc… in general all the experiences accumulated by the Latin American Coordination of Countryside Organizations (CLOC), the Via Campesina and Afro-descendant and Indigenous Organizations, as well as contributions by the Institute of Education Josué de Castro of Brazil.

Finally, the Institute will be under the central coordination of the member Organizations of the Latin American Countryside Coordination (CLOC), the Via Campesina, and Indigenous and Afro-Descendant representatives, with a rotating direction and curriculum design structure to ensure the necessary competencies in order to create new productive and social spaces for Agro-ecological practice as a new element required by the socialism of the 21st century.

Globalize Struggle, Globalize Hope

Latin American Agro-Ecological Institute “Paulo Freire”

for Campesino, Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Studies.

Fausto Torrez

ATC, CLOC-Vía Campesina

Nicaragua, July 2006.