Agroecology, Diversified Income, & Nutrition Education in Quintana Roo, México

Long-term Agroecology, Diversified Income and Nutrition Education Strategies for Women and Youth in 6 Communities in the Zona Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico

This project is an expansion of an initial one-year pilot project executed in 2012 as a collaboration between CAN and the Intercultural Maya University of Quintana Roo (UIMQRoo). The lessons learned from the pilot participatory action research process in which we included project beneficiaries in project planning, monitoring, and execution, informed expansion of the project into 5 other communities. The current 2-year project, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, was launched in January 2014 and completed in December 2015.

The overall goal of the project was to strengthen community food security in six communities in the Zona Maya utilizing the strategies of strengthening agroecological practices, establishing and strengthening alternative market chains for local produce, nutrition and food consumption education, and strengthened civic and social organization.

The specific objectives are:

  • Strengthen and deepen the impacts achieved in the Pilot project in three communities, and expand with improved and more focused strategies to three more communities, integrating lessons learned from evaluation of the Pilot experience and utilizing a participatory action research (PAR) process to ensure the design and implementation of strategy lines that more fully meet the needs of participating families and communities.
  • Strengthen food security and increase dietary diversity among participating families in all nine communities through innovations in agroecological production systems and crop diversification, the establishment of sustainable, direct, alternative market channels for locally produced crops or value added products, and nutrition education focused on local and traditional foods.
  • Strengthen and expand the local ally network to support continued sustainability of activities in the long run.

The project directly benefitted 226 individuals organized into 54 families in 50 households.  Direct participants were 63 women heads of household, who were invited to participate in the project, and then organized into community-level women’s groups.  Trainings, workshops, and meetings were then directed to the organized groups.

 

Outcomes

Sixty-three women organized into six community groups trained in agroecological food production and implementing good agroecological production practices, with increased knowledge of good nutrition and the utilization of local and traditional foods in nutritious recipes.
Six women’s groups with enhanced organizational capacity to self-manage, organize production, and access markets.
Increased access to alternative market channels that are diversifying women’s income.

The transformation of the women into entrepreneurs – they are beginning to sell their products in multiple venues and are building the confidence and knowledge to value their products, set prices, and sell.

The most important lessons learned were that any promotion of agroecological food production and alternative markets must be accompanied in equal measure by strategies to strengthen local and collective capacity to manage activities post-project.  This means working from the very beginning to not only build group leadership and management capacity, but also to include their voices and perspectives in project design, planning, and monitoring from the very beginning to build their own ownership of their group and its activities.  It must also be assured that community groups that seek to diversify income get legal status so that they can fulfill the legal requirements to issue invoices (facturas) and access more formal markets. An additional lesson learned was that increased attention needs to be paid to access to water in any project that is promoting food production; access to water that is suitable for irrigation is limited in the region, since much of the water is either chlorinated or is salty, which severely limits a family’s ability to irrigate garden produce.  A further lesson was that local, community-level markets have the greatest potential to diversify income, as there is a great need for fresh produce in the communities, and a ready market, besides being the most convenient and accessible markets for the women.  Above all, we learned that groups of organized women have the potential and capacity to organize, produce, and sell their produce and value-added products in local markets, if solutions are found to meet the challenges of limited water and transportation, and that agroecology combined with alternative markets have the potential to greatly enhance a family’s food security.

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