Brazil: Building agreocological knowledge at the 5th Congress
Linked to the fifth National Congress of Agroecology, ABA Brasil organised the first Seminário Nacional sobre Construção de Conhecimento Agroecologico - a special meeting meant to look at the way in which agroecological knowledge is built. This took place between the 3rd and the 4th of October 2007 in Guarapari, in the southern Brazilian state of Espirito Santo. This seminar was expected to look at different "transition" experiences taking place with the collaboration of researcherts and extension agents. All debates at this congress followed a short presentation of these cases, all of which were documented in advance. The main objective of the organisers of this congress was to create a positive environment for reflection, analysis and the exchange of information.
The process followed
The various documentation efforts which were encouraged were to facilitate a joint learning process, involving the different groups and institutions taking part. It was not expected to show "good methodologies", nor to present recipes to be followed.
ABA drafted some Terms of reference in May 2007, and these wre broadly disseminated. Sixteen different experiences were submitted, of which 12 were chosen by the committee in charge to be discussed in Guarapari. Most of these (nine) came from the country's southeast (the states of Minas gerais, Sao Paulo, Espirito santo, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro), involving universities, and research and extension institutions (such as IAPAR or EMATER).
The seminar itself was divided into 2 parts. During the first day, all participants were divided into 4 subgroups, and each one of these listened to and discussed the results of three cases. During the second day, all participants came together, and discussed the results presented by each sub-group, and identified the main lessons learnt. In terms of networks and research groups, the conclusions presented included:
- the organisation of networks fulfils different roles, ranging from training to organisations strengthening
- these networks help break the feeling of isolation which many farmers expereince
- systematization, or the documentation of an experience, plays a very important role
- the participation of women and youth is essential
- in all exchange processes, it is crucial to recognise that the one with most knowledge is the "owner" of an experience
- acknowledging this knowledge is a important tool for empowerment.
In terms of systematisation methodologies, the group concluded that
- it is necessary to find a simple methodology which enhances the dialogue process between all actors
- farmers are to participate throughout the whole process
- one important challenge is to consider the different needs of all actors (in terms of time, methods, interests, etc.)
- systematisation is to contribute to the establishment of links and relations among actors
- a systematization process must start by identifying a clear focus
- the person in charge of a systematisation process is the one who has lived or experienced a given experience.
The discussion among all participants helped identify a few key issues:
- all participatory processes which aim at building knowledge help create an empowering environment
- these processes also contribute to enhancing the self-esteem of researchers and extension agents
- there is a strong relationship between knowledge and power: the development of knoledge leads to autonomy
- it is important to develop a participatory process for the identification of indicators (social, technical, etc.).
All participants agreed to continue developing the process started here, and at the same time show the results achieved. All of them agreed to develop an extensive database of "cases", and to continue with the identification of the mayor limitations which the systematisation processes face.
Please write to Paulo Petersen , AS-PTA
Rua candelaria, no. 9, 6 andar
Centro, Rio de Janeiroi, Brasil 20091-904