Archive for the ‘Fulbright’ Category

Yesterday’s Dialogue with Masters Students of International Development/Ag. Education

My really great friend Karyssa (shout out to her for all her accomplishments, the most recent being becoming a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay- whoop!) invited me to be part of her class, titled The Agricultural Advisor in Developing Nations. All students, as she explained it to me, were assigned to interview somebody who had had an experience in international development and encountered a problem, which then would have to be discussed by the students and together they would come up with a solution. She, very kindly I must add, asked me to be her interviewee. Of course I was honored and ready to jump into it. Her presentation about my work and findings on Agroecology and dialogical communication as an alternative comprehensive social and environmental model to the predominant conventional agricultural model (big agriculture) and extension model employed throughout the developing world caught the class’ attention and resulted in a very fruitful and meaningful dialogue. I was oh so so happy! 🙂

While I have had the extraordinary luck to introduce my colleagues’and my work through research papers and publications, through intimate conversations with family and friends, and to an extent through multiple presentations including one to a very big audience as the featured speaker for the U.N.’s millenium development goal #7 (ensuring environmental sustainability) in a high-school led Global Summit, this most recent experience with the Masters students helped me achieve a fundamental goal of the Fulrbight program: it began tangible and real dialogue. After all, students in this class are the ones studying the theories and the latest research to become, as Dr. Piña (the class’ professor and another great person I can call a mentor and colleague) put it, the “change agents”. In order to become effective change agents in our evermore fragile world exposed to rapid climate change and pervading poverty and social inequalities, one must be well-rounded and attentive to our global partners’initiatives and successes. Change agents must learn from these and build on these.

Agroecology, as an ecological and scientific response and social movement to the lamentable conditions and realities “en el campo” (of the rural farms), for the first time this past September was given room at one of the highest level U.N. organizations in charge of ameliorating hunger and malnutrition, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The symposium held in FAO’s headquarters in Rome was titled the International Symposium on Agroecology for Food and Nutritional Security. The Symposium opened a window for Agroecology to enter “in what for 50 years has been the Cathedral of the Green Revolution”, as the FAO Director José Graziano da Silva (another personal hero) put it. Sharing the experiences I had in Brazil about what Agroecology looks like- rural farms in very remote areas with over 30 crops in a small acreage farm ensuring the food security and sovereignty of an entire rural family- was a true privilege. I owe this privilege to my friend Karyssa for making this conversation happen and to the inspirational students who like myself are very young, realistic and ready to analytically and profoundly discuss the problem. I just hope that I (and our lovely fruitful conversation) didn’t rain on the class’ parade, as the class’book is the same one I was given when I went to Brazil (The Diffussion of Innovations by Everett Rogers) whose theories and practices I actually did come back writing about but as to why there is a pressing need for a more horizontal and less hierarchical rural extension model (dialogism or dialogical communication model), based on the social realities at the small-holder farm level. Eeek…! Haha, just kidding…I really don’t think this conversation was bad for the class. If Dr. Piña didn’t want these type of conversations which challenge everything we’ve come to know, then he wouldn’t encourage dialogue and sharing of experiences. But then again, I am very lucky to have some leverage with him due to our past mutual international development work together… *wink*wink*.

Thank you once again, Fulbright. You really deserve the Prince of Asturias award granted only days ago!