El Diálogo de Saberes: La Via Campesina’s “Dialogue of Wisdoms” comes to the Bay Area!

| 05.18.2016

On Wednesday, April 27th, the Nicaraguan Farmworkers Association, Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo (ATC), members of La Via Campesina (LVC), gave an open talk in an event supported by Food First at the University of California, Berkeley. More than 30 people–mainly students, faculty and members of the non-profit sector–gathered to learn about the work that ATC and LVC are doing to scale up agroecology among the peasant’s social movements. Residents of Nicaragua, Marlen Sanchez and Nils McCune talked about the formation of the Latin American Institutes of Agroecology  Instituto Latinoamericano de Agroecologia (IALA Mesoamérica).

LVC has a network of schools of agroecology around the world where members of its peasants’ organizations train. The curriculum is based on four main principles: Internationalism–teaching students that they are not fighting alone and that peasants around the world are all facing similar struggles; structures of organizations – emphasizing organization skills in order to be efficient and effective workers and students; mystic –educating students about ancestral cosmovisions that praise and honor Mother Earth; and praxis–applying that which is learned in theory.

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From left to right: Marlen Sanchez (Member of ATC and LVC), Nils McCune (Member of ATC and LVC) and Erika Takeo (Member of Friends of ATC organizer of the ATC member visit to the USA)

Marlen opened the dialogue with the inclusive words, “los dos, somos un equipo,” (us two, we are a team) in reference to Nils and herself. Sanchez and McCune represent the two halves of the agroecology movement that are actively working for change, local “peasant” farmers who wish to implement their traditional methods into farm work, and academic activists who wish to bridge these traditional techniques with modern science in order to best benefit the local peoples. They refer to this union of two different backgrounds as the “methodological approach” in which they begin with a dialogue of the different ways of knowing–including recovering ancestral knowledge and consulting with allied academics in an effort to construct something positive without one method dominating another. This process is aptly referred to as “A dialogue of wisdoms,” El Diálogo de Saberes.

As the night progressed, they talked about the history of ATC and its influential work in Nicaragua supporting the demands of the working class and peasants in the country. The speakers emphasized that the progressive government that Nicaragua plays a vital role in Central America as center that provides the environment for youth of the surrounding countries to study and then return to their own country to apply what they have learned.

After a short presentation, Marlen and Nils engaged in a lively, hour-long dialogue about how Universities could support social movements, how students at UC Berkeley could be involved in the ATC’s programs and communication strategies, how to engage civil society, and much more. It was a lively Diálogo de Saberes!

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Some information about the presenters

Marlen Sanchez has been a member of  the ATC for 14 years and was trained as an agroecologist in the IALA Venezuela. She works in educational policy at both a national and regional level in Nicaragua. Since the age of 16 she has been involved with rural youth leadership in Nicaragua, and became the leader of her department. Her work focuses on empowering women and providing them with access to education.

Nils McCune hails from Northern California, growing up in an area close to the Napa Valley. He discovered agroecology around the age of 18 when he studying as an undergraduate at the University of California in Santa Cruz. His political formation began in his youth, having been exposed to both strikes and labor union movements. When he discovered agroecology he realized it was a good option for farm workers. After graduating from UCSC, he spent a few years working as a union carpenter before moving to Cuba to receive his masters degree. He then moved to Mexico and began work with LVC, and for the last four years has been working with Marlen in Nicaragua to establish the Latin American Institute of Agroecology of Mesoamerica.

Thank you to DREW MCKENNA GINET MACK intern at Food First who wrote this post.