Farmer Exchange

Quick Facts

Project Objective

To identify and share expertise, experience and solutions regarding best practices, challenges and opportunities for creating sustainable food systems.

Timeframe

2019 - 2020

Partners
  • California FarmLink
  • Mangrove Association
  • MAG
  • MAOES
Budget

$27,400 USD

Situation

Despite the differences in typography and geography between the Lower (“Bajo”) Lempa River region of El Salvador and the great agricultural valleys of California, it is clear that small-scale farmers in both productive regions have much in common and stand to gain much by connecting with one another across borders and cultures. Since the beginnings of our work in the Bajo Lempa in 2007, ECOPA has recognized these synergies.

Finally, in January of 2015, we co-organized and co-hosted a first-ever delegation of farmers from El Salvador’s organic and diversified agriculture movement, who traveled to the Monterey Peninsula of California to participate in the 35th Annual Conference of the Ecological Farming Association.

In addition to giving notable conference presentations, the delegation established links with area producers, academic institutions and local organizations, in order to share perspectives and strategies regarding key issues of mutual concern. These included:

  • resource protection and conservation;
  • soil restoration and water purification;
  • development of new and alternative agronomic models;
  • small-scale entrepreneurial efforts to create market outlets that foster economic development;
  • strategies to achieve and sustain community health and resilience.

Road Map

The concept for the “reciprocal delegation” we are in the process of planning, under the title of Food Sovereignty, Ancestral Values and Community Resilience, derives from this successful pilot delegation. The current phase of the farmer-to-farmer exchange will comprise:

  • local producers, among them Salvadorans who have become successful as farmers or workers in the California food industry;
  • practitioners of ecological and organic agriculture;
  • small-scale business consultants and lending institutions;
  • agronomists and policy makers;
  • university students and professors.

The aim is to enlarge the context for substantive dialogue between the delegation participants and their counterparts in El Salvador, in order to share experiences, strategies, best practices, observations and philosophical perspectives about the deeper meaning of development and its sustainability, particularly regarding the viability of food systems. As we experienced in 2015, this exchange will not only contribute to enhanced collaboration between farming communities in El Salvador and the United States, but will also further inspire creative responses to food system challenges faced by communities everywhere.

A diverse itinerary of site visits and dialogues is being arranged with key partner communities and organizations in El Salvador. These will include:

  • small-scale diversified producers in the Bajo Lempa communities;
  • the leadership and participating farmers, among them organic coffee growers, of the Organic Agriculture Movement of El Salvador (MAOES);
  • technical experts of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG);
  • development visionaries comprising social entrepreneurs, artisans, and policymakers.

The Farmer-to-Farmer Exchange offers an array of opportunities for participants to stretch their understanding and appreciation of the assets, resources, capabilities, cultural values, efforts and struggles that create vibrant, cohesive, and sustainable community life.

Outcomes

  • Identified best practices that are mutually relevant and applicable, and which US farmers can share with their Salvadoran counterparts in order to confront some of the principal challenges they all face in their respective food systems.
  • Outlined a set of practices that can reinvigorate the local network of farmers’ markets in order to spur more robust economic activity in the Bajo Lempa.
  • Understood the ways in which the Public Spaces Design Program and the Pesca Limpia Consultancy can help “fix” and strengthen the food system, thus enhancing socio-economic opportunities.

Next Step(s)

  • Assemble, with input from our US and Salvadoran partners, a delegation of US-based agricultural practitioners to travel to El Salvador to engage with their counterparts in the agricultural sectors in-country;
  • Draft a proposal for review and input by both US and Salvadoran participants, outlining the specific aims and itinerary for the delegation;
  • Establish the itinerary and arrange for key site visits, meetings and gatherings in-country, to provide a rich set of opportunities for observation, dialogue and exchange of experiences among all the participants.
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