CAN’s 4th Annual Youth Exchange or Intercambio took place from May 15-23, 2014, in the coffee-growing highlands of Veracruz, México. The Youth Exchange brought 32 youth leaders together to share experiences and knowledge about building food sovereignty in their own communities. The majority of the youth are leaders or promotores from CAN’s Food Security and Sovereignty Initiatives in Nicaragua (San Ramón and Las Segovias) and México (Quintana Roo and Veracruz). The youth leaders were joined by university students from the Universidad Autónoma Chapingo in Veracruz, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. CAN’s non-profit partner in Veracruz, VIDA A.C. (Vinculación y Desarrollo Agroecológico en Café), hosted the Youth Exchange.
For eight days, the youth engaged in capacity building exchanges, workshops and field visits. They taught each other how to make homemade fertilizers, tell captivating stories for social change, grow a milpa Maya (corn and beans), and catalyze social innovation. The program included visits to home gardens, coffee farms, markets, and a cooperative focused on sustainable living and workshops about permaculture, raising chickens, and ecotechnologies. It also included a university forum organized by CAN-affiliated researcher, Carlos Guadarrama (Professor of Agroecology, Universidad Autónoma Chapingo), about community struggles to maintain control of seeds and water resources. Throughout the Exchange, youth explored new ideas for increasing food sovereignty at the community level, and reflected on how to contextualize these efforts within broader social and political contexts.
The Youth Exchange also provided the youth with an opportunity to evaluate their work to achieve food sovereignty and make concrete plans for the coming year. They committed to sharing their experience at the Youth Exchange with their home communities, implementing practices learned from each other, maintaining regular communication, and creating a resource that compiles their collective expertise. In particular, the youth expressed a lot of excitement about applying their new knowledge about ecotechnologies.