URGENCI has started a CSA network in Mexico

by Josefina Cendejas, Urgenci’s IC member for Latin America

Urgenci, the international CSA network organized the 1st national CSA meeting (or ARC/ Agricultura de Responsabilidad Compartida – Shared Responsibility Agriculture) in Mexico from July 6 to 8 in Morelia and Pátzcuaro, Michoacán.

The main objective was to foster dialogue between producer organizations and members of alternative markets. It also aimed to communicate about the Urgenci Network in Mexico, share experiences within groups related to ARC, propose a proper definition of ARC/CSA that is adapted to the national context and create the first Network of its type in Mexico.

More than 70 producers, consumers, promoters, academics and activists from 10 states of the Mexican Republic met for the first time to address the need to link agroecology, food sovereignty and solidarity economy through a common strategy. These participants all agreed on the need to promote alternative models, such as ARC/CSA, to counteract the agro-industrial model implemented since NAFTA came into force, as it has displaced small-scale production, reduced food self-sufficiency at national level and threatens to provoke a water crisis in the short term, due to massive export monocultures such as avocados and berries.

 

The participants, from 22 organizations, 5 universities and research centres, worked intensively for three days on a program previously agreed between Urgenci and the organizers in Mexico, Josefina Cendejas, the Urgenci representative for Latin America, and David Monachon, activist and researcher on ARC topics. This event was supported by Urgenci, the Michoacan University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo (UMSNH), the National Association of Marketing Companies for Rural Products (Asociación Nacional de Empresas Comercializadoras del Campo -ANEC) and the Valor al Campesino Initiative (IVC).

The event started at the UMSNH Faculty of Economics with a Seminar on “Food Sovereignty and Solidarity-based Economy: the path of CSA/ARC”. Students had the opportunity to hear more from small-scale producers, promoters of alternative markets, active members of consumer groups and researchers on CSA-related topics.

  • ARC / CSA in the world: presentation of the International Network Urgenci” by Josefina Cendejas
  • The Case of AMAPs in France and a general Agri-Food Overview in Mexico” by David Monachon
  • Building collaboration between producers and consumers”with representatives of consumer organizations: Colectivo Zacahuitzco, El Árbol Co-op, Coopécuaro Co-op and Milpa consumer group.
  • Revaluing peasant and agroecological production” with small-scale farmers Carmen Patricio (organic corn producer), Pedro Popócatl (CSA corn group), Juan Manuel Salceda (suburban community corn field) and Alfredo Orozco (organic meat).
  • Social organization and policies to promote short food supply chains in Mexico” with Jorge Líber Saltijeral (FAO Mexico), Regina Ganem (IVC) and Víctor Suárez (ANEC).

It is worth mentioning that the University contract for the catering services was with one of the participating local organizations, the El Árbol co-op, thus demonstrating a positive example of institutional solidarity. The seminar ended with a fruitful dialogue between panelists and the audience. Afterwards, organizers and guests went to the beautiful CREFAL venue (Center for Regional Cooperation for Adult Education in Latin America and the Caribbean) in the nearby city of Patzcuaro, to share lunch and start the national CSA/ARC event activities in the afternoon.

All participants presented their experience and organizations, collectively drawing a mural with written and graphic material to visualize the connections and topics. This session was facilitated by Tamara Ortiz, member of the Coopécuaro consumer cooperative. This helped to realise a collective mapping of initiatives related to the ARC/CSA principles in Mexico.

On Friday, July 7th, participants went for farm visits, first to a bio intensive farm, then to an organic egg production farm and last but not least to an urban orchard. In the afternoon, three simultaneous round tables were organised for the 22 participating organizations to present their experiences and activities in relation to ARC, based on a simple script:

  1. Organizational principles and practices
  2. Solutions and Achievements
  3. Obstacles and Challenges
  4. Vision for the future

After this constructive session, researcher and activist Laura Collin facilitated a workshop on “Building Solidarity Markets”. To close this intense day, we had a delicious dinner that, thanks to mezcal (a traditional drink made from agave), soon became a dancing party!

On Saturday, July 8th, we organised a World Café to define our common ground and set up a work plan for further steps to build an ARC strategy in Mexico. The topics of the different round tables were:

  1. The current and prospective situation of ARC in Mexico
  2. The definition / adaptation of the ARC model in relation to Participatory Guarantee Systems / Organic Tianguis / Short food supply chains
  3. An ARC Network? SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed) objectives in the short to medium term
  4. Work groups and tasks

Finally the results were listed in plenary, and participants were asked to write down and regroup the main principles they considered top priority to develop a Mexican ARC Network. The participants were then asked to choose regional/ state contact persons to facilitate communication and networking.

We reached several agreements and common understanding at this first meeting:

  1. To draw up a Charter of Principles and elaborate the definition of ARC and our network in Mexico on the basis of a consolidated report of this meeting (in process)
  2. To develop a more precise mapping process with a directory of organizations and actors involved in ARC (the directory is ready, the mapping in process)
  3. To create our own space on Facebook (done: FB group MASA “Mercado Activo que Sustenta la Agricultura”)
  4. To hold an ARC meeting every year

The UMSNH Faculty of Economics Dean clearly expressed his intention to host an annual Seminar on ARC, within the framework of PhD programme on Social and Solidarity-based Economy coordinated by Josefina Cendejas. Furthermore, the Valor al Campesino Initiative and ANEC pledged to keep on supporting the ARC Network activities as they consider this 1st Meeting was a success and ARC is a relevant answer to many of the challenges Mexico is now facing. To begin, IVC offered to facilitate the creation of a digital platform for communication and information between producers and consumers of the Network.

That is how Urgenci International held its first ARC / CSA event in a Latin American country, complying with the agreements reached during the last Symposium in Beijing in November 2015. We hope to continue extending our activities towards Central and South America in 2018 with equal success.