Latin America’s agricultural system, which is heavily dependent upon imports, failed to provide food security for the region’s most vulnerable populations during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Agroecological Institute of Latin America (IALA) established in Paraguay, Argentina, Nicaragua, and Ecuador, has been working to increase food security by strengthening neighborhood-to-neighborhood connections through deliveries of healthy food to hungry families. This solidarity is now more essential than ever.
The Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations (CLOC) is a large network representing peasant, worker, indigenous and Afro-descendant social movements from across the continent, bringing together 85 organizations in 21 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
CLOC is the direct ally of La Via Campesina International, which seeks to build a just, sustainable food systems based on agroecology, challenging current government subsidies and restrictive policies that unfairly disadvantage communities working to improve local food security. In 2005, the CLOC launched the IALA, a network of agroecology schools across Latin America to realize La Via Campesina’s dream of farmer-led, resilient food systems.
Funding for this project will focus on Colombia. In 2016, The María Cano agroecology school was founded by the agricultural workers’ trade union-Federación Nacional Sindical Unitaria Agropecuaria (FENSUAGRO) in partnership with Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo (CLOC-LVC). Its first class was comprised of 30 young students of Indigenous and African descent, with students spending three months at school and three months back in their communities to implement agroecological practices back home. The school’s objective is to provide a holistic education in agroecology, valuing and reclaiming traditional knowledge, and culture that has been passed down through generations.
The IALAs in Colombia engages young people from peasant organizations in Central and South America to become successful agroecological farmers and community organizers. Students develop their practical and theoretical understanding of agroecology and rural issues, spread their knowledge to surrounding communities, and become integrated in social movements that aim to scale up agroecology.
With young people well prepared in agroecology, “we will have the possibility of producing food in quantity and quality for everyone, managing carbon, cooling the planet and generating employment and genuine economic development.” - Raúl Krauser, Edgardo's colleague from the Brazilian CLOC affiliate, the MPA (Small Farmers Movement, Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores)
The IALA school is seeking national accreditation from the State university system, offering curricula designed to build support for food sovereignty, rights to territory, and native seeds. The goal is to ensure that young graduates have dignified livelihood opportunities in the countryside, stemming the wave of outmigration to cities, helping them to become leaders in the production and marketing of chemical-free agriculture products. The schools are central to scaling up agroecology and strengthening the grassroots food movement in Latin America.