Campaign for the Restoration and Conservation of Pollinators
A Food First Project with RICDA (The Indigenous-Campesino Network for the Defense of Agroecology)
The Campaign for the Restoration and Conservation of Pollinators works with Mexican Indigenous and Campesino organizations to restore and conserve pollinators, raise productivity and enhance agricultural biodiversity throughout Mexico. The Indigenous-Campesino Network for the Defense of Agroecology—RICDA (Red Indígena Campesina por la Defensa de la Agroecología, formerly Campesino a Campesino Agroecology Network), formed after four years of pollinator work in the states of Puebla, Guerrero, Tlaxcala and Oaxaca. The RICDA now has ten groups: Tonantlal, UNITONA, Universidad Campesina, Musculo Secreto, Tianguis y Mercados, Grupo Vicente Guerrero, Organizacion Indígena Independiente de Aguacatec, SEDEPAC, Costado Cultural, Mercados de Apizaco.
The Campaign spreads farmer-to-farmer pollinator conservation practices at the village level and reaches out to consumers and other advocates for the restoration and conservation of pollinators in five regions of México. RICDA works with national and regional organizations such as COSIN, RASA, Sin Maiz no Hay Paiz, Via Campesina, RAPAAL, Red Indigena de Turismo Alternativa, SOCLA, PIDASSA, the Friends of Pollinators, and the Autonomous University of Mexico at Chapingo and Veracruz.
The goal is to increase the Core Group to 50 farmer-experts in experimentation, restoration and conservation and recruit 600 new farmers into the Campaign who will learn and promote the basic knowledge and techniques of pollinator restoration and conservation, integrated in sustainable agroecosystems. In 2013 RICDA will hold 20 Basic two-day Workshops for 20 Core Promotores, each to be given in villages in the eight farmer organizations (400 farmers). Two Expert-Promotores will provide follow-up site visits, enabling RICDA organizations to put on village field days for local farmers (200 farmers reached).
To coordinate the Campaign, RICDA will hold three Regional Network Meetings attended by 20 core promotores from its ten participating organizations. These one-day meetings are dedicated to ongoing Campaign logistics and organization matters.
The Campaign will continue the Consumer Outreach and Education activities initiated last year. These activities consist of flyers, emails, informal presentations, identifying RICDA’s pollinator-friendly products, a farmer/products directory, and coordinating with the Friends of Pollinators (Amigos de Polinizadores) consumer support network. RICDA will continue working with fair trade and organic consumer networks as well as its existing consumers and community supported agriculture groups (CSAs).
RICDA’s one-hour radio program “Frecuencia Verde” in Calpulalpan, Tlaxcala will produce 50 radio programs highlighting Campesino a Campesino agroecology and pollinator conservation. The network will hire a specialist to teach “Campesino a Campesino” methods and re-publish its Pollinator Conservation Manual. RICDA will also hold a Regional Conference in 2013.
This coming year, RICDA’s goal is to spread pollinator conservation activities throughout the integrated soil and water conservation and agro-biodiversity management practices of the Campesino a Campesino movement. Reforestation, terrace protection (bunds) and polycultures are all potential locations to restore pollinator habitat. In 2013 RICDA will increase land under integrated pollinator conservation and agroecological practices from 60 to 100 hectares and the number of Campaign participants from 200 to 500.
The global spread of export-based industrial agriculture and extractive industries threatens the livelihoods of millions of smallholders in the Global South and puts the planet’s agro-biodiversity at serious ecological risk. This is especially true in Mesoamérica, where Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) facilitate the expansion of mining operations, the spread of GMOs and chemical inputs, and the expansion of agrofuels. The genetic home of corn, squash and many bean varieties, Mesoamerica is also home to millions of smallholder and indigenous farmers who for centuries have depended on the resiliency of their local agro-ecosystems and crop varieties to cope with drought, flood, pest outbreaks, and volatile markets. Today, under the (de)regulatory mantle of FTAs, industrial agriculture and extractive industries are undermining the social, economic and ecological resiliency of the region’s agroecosystems and leading to increased food insecurity, hunger, and migration of smallholders. The aggressive introduction of GMOs into Mexico has not only put further economic and environmental pressure on smallholders and agroecological approaches to agriculture like Campesino a Campesino, it has increased political pressure and confusion among and between farmer’s groups and organizations. The increased volatility of food prices—as well as the price spikes—have not helped smallholders. On the contrary, it has ushered in a wave of capital investment and speculation by national elites and foreigners. The result is further political and economic pressure on smallholders to leave agriculture.
Over the last 30 years, regional farmer movements for sustainable agriculture, such as the Campesino a Campesino Movement (MCAC), have been highly successful in developing the practice of sustainable agriculture. They have increased yields and conserved soil, water, and biodiversity on hundreds of thousands of small farms throughout Mesoamérica. MCAC’s farmer-promoters have used small-scale experimentation and popular education methods to raise yields and protect the environment on hundreds of thousands of smallholdings throughout Mesoamerica. MCAC’s “campesino pedagogy” helps neo-literate farmers share abstract agroecological concepts and effective sustainable farming practices, farmer-to-farmer. The movement’s extensive knowledge networks link thousands of promoters to hundreds of farmer’s unions, village organizations and development NGOs. These farmers have a livelihood stake in robust agro-ecosystems. Their horizontal knowledge networks spread knowledge and information rapidly across wide regions, and can consolidate local, political will for the protection of agro-biodiversity at territorial scales. With the help of collaboration of governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), they can act locally, regionally and nationally to protect livelihoods and agro-biodiversity.
The improvement of Mexico's agro-ecosystems by Campesino a Campesino networks is a continual, dynamic, farmer-led process, focusing on recovering ecosystem functions on indigenous farms. Because of the 30-year history of degradation—and because many farmers still continue to use agro-ecologically destructive practices throughout Latin America—often larger, watershed-level ecosystem functions continue to limit the net productivity of the region’s agro-ecosystems.
One central problem is uneven fruit set due to low rates of flowering on fruit trees and vegetable crops. Low flowering rates reflect diminished natural pollinator populations (bats, butterflies, birds, native bees, and other flying insects). The weak populations of natural pollinators not only result in lower crop yields for farmers, they result in lower populations of native flowering plants, themselves an important habitat for beneficial insects and other natural fauna. This biodiversity is itself the foundation for sustainable agriculture.
The loss of natural pollinators is also the residual effect of years of widespread use of insecticides and of habitat loss. These regional ecosystem imbalances continue to have negative on-farm effects, even on the sustainable farms of MCAC. Territorial-scale recovery of natural pollinator populations is an important step in the restoration and recovery of both farm and watershed-scale ecosystem functioning, overall.
Smallholders in the Campesino a Campesino movement readily recognize the importance of pollinator conservation, as they themselves are not recognized for the environmental services their agroecological practices provide to society—including pollinator conservation. Building consumer awareness of the importance of pollinators and the importance of agro-ecological smallholders is a step in beginning to recognize these environmental services and in building support for the Campesino a Campesino movement.