Case Study Report : Mexico

AUTONOMOUS DEVELOPMENT OF INDIAN COMMUNITIES IN MEXICO

Integrating cultural elements while practicing organic farming

Core Activity: Organic farming; Coffee production; Participation

Summary

The organisation from the beginning wanted to address all social and cultural problems such as: housing, roads, transport, commercialization, differentiation of production, better income, health care and education. Bit by bit the organisation could tackle these problems. The main goal of the organisation is: solidarity and sustainability rooted in culture and products according to ancestral wisdom and new techniques (organic) in order to preserve soil, water, selva and own culture.

Objectives and purpose

The organization from the beginning wanted to address all the social and cultural problems as: housing, roads, transport, commercialization, differentiation of production, better income, health care and education. Bit by bit the organization could tackle these problems. The main goal of the organization is: solidarity and sustainability rooted in culture and products according to ancestral wisdom and new techniques (organic) in order to preserve soil, water, selva and own culture.

Duration: 1983 to date

The process was initiated by: Three communities in 1982 with the assistance of committed missionaries (Catholic) who lived in the Region.

Needs addressed

Most outstanding results

Most significant contributions to sustainable agriculture and land use management

UCIRI was founded in 1983 and has over the years developed a strong community based organization. Organic farming has created a more autonomous development and an integral process (improvement of housing, transport, communication, education, own bank, etc.) of

progress, controlled by the farmers.

Extent of impact

At this moment, the Union consist of 2780 families, all active in organic agriculture, exporting certified coffee to several countries. All farmers are communal land owners and have an average of 5 ha. Number of ha: 14 000 ha in cultivation and 80 000 ha woodland/mountains. Number of benef.: +15 000 direct and 32 000 indirect (because of communal services UCIRI).

Methods used to monitor and evaluate multi-functional impacts

Creation of a strong democratic organization with monthly meetings of all members (general and community level) creation of own technical staff educated in own boarding school for organic (technical and organizational) for assistance to farmers communication between villages (farmer to farmer programme) integral women organization within the organization.

The most import elements (key ingredients) which contributed to success

Democratic organization from the grassroots on organic farming.

Factors that might affect replicability

UCIRI has had and still has strong influence on other organizations in the southern States of Mexico (Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas) for new organizations. Farmer to farmer programme and technical assistance in organic farming and organization are replicable.

Factors that influence sustainability

Organic farming and solidarity market (national and international) are factors for sustainability.

The most important lessons learned

Lessons: democratic organization on village/farm level technical assistance in both organic farming and organic organization. Solidarity between the villages and ethnic groups. Process of social and political (non-partisan) development. Integrating cultural elements of the different Indian tribes.

How this case enhanced the multiple use of agricultural land and water

Rotation and water management are priorities in organic farming and have been adapted in UCIRI. Using shadetree coffee growing and vis culture in ponds and river-arms.

Contact details

Ernan Eduardo Garcia Lopez

Union de Comunidades Indigenas de la Region del Istmo (UCIRI)

Calle Colon 2a

Colonia Estacion

70110 Cd. Ixtepec. Oax.

A.P. Postal 60

Mexico

Tel: 52 971 31365

Fax: 52 971 30426

E-mail: uciri@antequera.com

Documents referring to the case

Replication of the case by others

Several organizations have picked up the idea: ISNAM. Tapachula, Chiapas (organization form, technical assistance approach, farmer to farmer programme. Tiemonla Nich Klum, Tapachula, Chiapas, idem; Yenny Navan, Oaxaca, idem Cajas Solidarias, Sanu Juan Lachao, idem (all these organizations have emerged from UCIRI and are by now operating independently, except San Juan Lachao, who still is solidarity member of UCIRI). Yajul, Quiche, Guatemala, also emerged from UCIRI.

Comments by the originator

UCIRI did not receive from the outset support from local or national authorities. On the contrary, twice the installations were occupied by army units. We lost valuable people, eliminated by military and/or hired persons. The cases never got solved. By now the organization is respected by the State and Federal Government although UCIRI is still independent. In 1997 UCIRI received the National Price for ecological merits. The prize was handed over ty the actual President of Mexico (Dr Ernesto Zedillo) to the President of UCIRI.