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Shared Knowledge, Shared Struggle

December 2014

Below is part one of a three-part blog series highlighting the Brazil Agroecology Learning Exchange. Grassroots movement leaders and small farmer organizations sent representatives [24 people from 6 countries] to join Grassroots International staff in Goias, Brazil to participate in the eight-day exchange.  The first of our series of blogs unpacks the phrase “Agroecology Learning Exchange” and why it is essential to creating a more sustainable food system.

A learning exchange is rooted in the concept of “popular education.”  As opposed to the Socratic, often pedantic, methods of traditional education whereby experts “deposit” information into passive receptacles, popular education is both participatory and interactive.  It is rooted in the shared, lived experiences of the participants.  A learning exchange creates time and space for deliberate reflection and integration of knowledge.  It is an opportunity for people engaged in similar struggles to explore common concerns and share best practices.  Everything from organizing strategies to farming techniques are debated and refined—all with a sense of collective purpose and common cause.

Grassroots International supports learning exchanges between peasant and indigenous organizations in the Global South (South-South exchanges) as well as between movements facing similar struggles in the developed and developing world (North-South exchanges).  You can find some examples of both here. In the past year or so, Grassroots has supported learning exchanges in South Africa, Thailand, Mexico, Haiti, Brazil, and New Mexico.

One common concern that our partners and grantees worldwide chose to explore was the emerging science of Agroecology.  This vital concept is both a philosophical and practical response to its antithesis: agribusiness.  Agroecology is a science and set of practices designed to rebuild diverse, just and sustainable agricultural systems; as opposed to agribusiness, which has a demonstrated history of ecological ruin and economic exploitation. 

And while agroecology is a scientifically valid response to climate change (small farmers cool the planet!), agribusiness exacerbates and accelerates the disastrous consequences thereof.

Now that we’re instant experts of learning exchanges and agroecology, the next two installments will explore the guiding question as derived from the exchange participants—How can we learn to improve our productivity and build capacity within the framework of agroecology?

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