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Community Agroecology Network (CAN) is an international organization actively working in eight regions of Mexico and Central America. We confront social, economic, and environmental injustice through research, education, and action. CAN partners with community-based organizations, farmers’ cooperatives, nonprofits, and universities to generate local approaches to sustainable development. Our programs promote:
During the height of the coffee crisis (1998−2003) farmers received such low prices for their coffee that hunger, outmigration, and deforestation threatened the survival of rural life. CAN was founded in 2002 by a group of international researchers as a way to link farming communities in Mexico and Central America and consumers in the United States.
CAN’s goal was to raise awareness about the coffee crisis and establish an alternative trade model that would bring farmers a fair price for their coffee. Ten years later, CAN has a successful model that not only returns higher prices than Fair Trade Organic, but works with communities to improve rural livelihoods and environments. CAN’s success relies on an approach that integrates participatory research, action education, and alternative trade.
At the heart of CAN’s participatory approach to research lies a simple commitment: to combine research and action for social change. CAN’s action research initiatives study the interrelated problems of food security, rural outmigration, agricultural sustainability, and the lack of opportunities for young people in rural areas. CAN researchers partner with communities and local organizations to determine research agendas and methods so that research findings will be relevant and useful. The result — knowledge that inspires action. In fact, it was participatory action research with coffee farmers and cooperatives that led us to our current research initiative on ending seasonal hunger. CAN has placed local youth leaders at the center of on-the-ground strategies in building community food sovereignty.
CAN envisions action education not only as learning by doing, but as a form of advocacy for a more just world. We work with university students, rural youth, farmers, and the public to raise awareness and create tools for change around global trade, hunger, and sustainable agriculture. We use field studies and courses, youth empowerment, farmer exchanges, and research-based trainings to educate and inspire action for social and environmental justice.
Through CAN’s Trade Innovations program, CAN developed an alternative-market business model for coffee to help small-scale farmers transition toward sustainability. CAN’s approach to the supply chain — directly linking farmers, roasters, and consumers — generates higher returns for coffee and improves rural livelihoods. In addition, CAN’s AgroEco® Coffee from Nicaragua and Mexico contributes proceeds to a Sustainable Agriculture Fund. Most recently, the Fund was used to invest in a low-pollution coffee milling plant and to support research on bird and tree abundance and diversity.