At the heart of CAN’s participatory approach to research lies a simple commitment: to combine agroecology-based research and action for social change. Community-based organizations and researchers collaborate to identify problems and action agendas through a reflection process that leads to the development of community-based strategies to achieve food security and sovereignty. In all of CAN’s agroecology-based food security projects, we apply the lessons learned from each PAR experience to subsequent experiences in other CAN partner communities. The result is a continuously developing methodology on how to study — and address — the interrelated problems of food insecurity, rural outmigration, agricultural sustainability, and the challenges for youth in rural communities. Our relationship with each community-based organization is different and distinct, and the problems identified are localized and content specific — and so must be the solutions! Through cycles of research, reflection, and action, CAN and its partners have made substantial changes in the transformation of food systems towards agroecological models. Our research demonstrates that production diversification, income generation, relocalization of availability of basic foods, increased access to the means of production, nutrition education, and dietary diversification have decreased hunger among farm families, and strengthened their resiliency in the face of social and environmental shocks.
Research: Starting with People and a Community
The cycle begins when a member of a research team establishes trust and a long-term relationship with a community-based organization as a primary counterpart. Over time, the researchers build strong relationships with many local groups and community members. This creates an expanding network through growing relationships, and leads to wider research and culturally appropriate action agendas.
Reflection: Learning During the Change Process
Problems and action agendas are identified collaboratively by community-based organizations and researchers through a reflection process. Thinking with — and not for — communities leads to strategies that are more likely to be sustainable.
Action: Change Through Learning
After participants have completed the research and reflection process and identified strategies for action, they proceed to the third step in the PAR cycle – implementing those strategies through action. These actions can take diverse forms.
Sharing: Amplifying Voices, Putting Research to Work
PAR includes the voices of those not traditionally heard in academic circles, serving to share the perspectives of those on the ground with policy makers, researchers, and institutions. Results are also shared with farmer-collaborators in a way that makes them most useful through workshops, on-farm training, and research.