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Research performed by CAN researchers in the early- and mid-2000s showed that the higher prices provided by alternative market certifications such as "fair trade" and "organic" provided stability and less vulnerability for smallholder farmers. However, it did little to promote farm household livelihoods, community development, or agroecological sustainable production practices. To address these discrepancies, CAN began developing a model to complement the stability of higher prices by addressing the other critical factors involved in alleviating hunger and promoting community sustainability in rural farming communities in Mesoamerica.
Rural communities in Mesoamerica are losing youth to outmigration due to the lack of viable rural livelihoods and pride in rural life, and with them the possibility of a truly sustainable future. Jobs in rural areas are scarce, and even as the economic situation improves, young people are leaving farming communities in search of wage work in the cities as they see rural livelihoods as increasingly unviable. Many leave to find work. Without young farmers to promote and practice sustainable agriculture in their communities, many things are at stake: the spirit and impact of cooperative and community development, local cultures of healthy food production and preparation, and food sovereignty, which is dependent on access to those foods that people prefer as well as a cultural valuing of those foods, as stated in the definition above.
Food Security & Sovereignty
CAN’s work in food sovereignty and security began three years ago with an initiative with a coffee cooperative and a nonprofit organization in Estelí, Nicaragua. From that experience we learned how critical youth leadership is to the culture rescue and change necessary to build food sovereignty. Our subsequent food sovereignty research and projects have placed the development of local youth leadership at the center of on-the-ground strategies in building community food sovereignty in the Yucatán Peninsula, México, Veracruz, México, and San Ramón, Nicaragua.
An immediate goal of CAN is not only to expand its Action Research Initiatives in food sovereignty to other partner regions, but also to develop a multinational, intercultural network of youth in North America and Mesoamerica to promote community and regional food sovereignty.
The overall strategy we use to address these interrelated problems of malnutrition, preservation of local and sustainable food cultures, and youth outmigration is to empower local youth leaders to develop school, community, and family gardens as spaces of education and community capacity-building to promote a culture of healthy and sustainable food production, preparation, and consumption among local families. We see the transformation of food cultures as complementary to, and supportive of, efforts to increase food security and sovereignty (for a definition of Food Sovereignty, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_sovereignty.
ARI projects involve both implementation of strategies and the ongoing monitoring of their immediate and long-term impacts. Initiatives are developed in concurrence with CAN partner organizations in Central America and Mexico.