My job was to follow and support the MIT group in the Brazilian Sertão, in Pernambuco State. Sometimes I’ve tried to give my point of view and sometimes to translate the farmers’ dialect. I also work with some communities in the Sertão of Paraíba State (neighbor of Pernambuco) in my masters (is about water management of small water systems: cisterns, alluvium systems, etc.).
The meeting with Diaconia on the first day was a typical research approach with NGO, except for one thing: the farmers’ participation. There we could hear and see some evaluation of the Diaconia’s work in their perspective. It was the beginning of our field work in Sertão.
My visit to the Ivan’s farm was with Reebie and Vimala. In their case, a new world called Brazil. Like children, when see a new world, they brought a lot of questions to me. These questions provoked me to review my perspectives. To me, in this case, the agroecologic initiative was a new knowledge to absorb.
The main discover in the trip – in my point of view - was realize how the farmers in this region are organized. I mean the collective identify.
I heard a lot of questions trying to find out why the systems doesn’t work like a business cooperative or a supply chain to feed the local (or even regional) food market. But first, we need to know what are their goals with the agroecologic bussiness, and what are the different points of view between the NGO and farmers. Collective identities are necessary if people are to believe that they can collaborate. These identities can develop when leaders and initial collaborative practices help frame ideas in new ways, cause networks to expand, build confidence among participants about their ability to work together, and led others to recognize a given set of actors as a group, as we saw sometimes.
In Brazil, new participative institutions (participative budgets, local councils of politics and managing plans) were established strongly since the current Federal Constitution of 1988, which opened space to something called “participative democracy”. In addition to it, the concept to social capital is inserted when is referred about the group’s capacity to develop a trust and cooperation network to reach collective benefits.
The influence of factors not only technical but also political, economic and cultural makes the process much more complex, and management style that tends to prevail follows a logical social-technique logical.
Collective identity need not exist prior to initial attempts at collaboration but its emergence often requires the strategic work of organizations and leaders who promote small-scale collaborative initiatives, connect previously unconnected groups and disseminate new frames about the nature of a group and the problems it can solve.
It is widely believed that resources are overused as a consequence of the inability of local communities to establish viable regulations that would guarantee a more efficient work. Commom NGO rhetoric, on the other hand, holds that local communities share common values about rights and management, that communal management guarantees equal access to resources and that all community members act according to locally established rules of bussiness management. This ‘ethno-romantic’ position tends to neglect power differential within communities that can lead to strong internal disparities in resource access and control.
But it is a hard challenge organizes all the structure. There are a big number and density of nodes (actors, like Ivan and Seu Baltazar) and links (interactions, like the farmers association meetings) in this governance regime, while deliberation refers to the power relations among these actors and the frequency, quality and depth of interactions, i.e. negotiation and coordination mechanisms, information flow, and approaches to mediation and conflict resolution.
However what happens when in the public arena of representative organizations there are not local authorities waiting to receive power or when there is no pre-defined ‘power’ to transfer? Maybe it is happening between Diaconia and Farmers Association.
People and institutions must be organized and synchronized, agendas must be defined decision-making and implementation capacities developed in ways that they were not before. Currently these labors intuitions don’t have any plan in medium- or long-term about it.
Government institutions have weak technical capacities and no good experience coordinating actions among functional agencies. Non-governmental stakeholders, inserted in the Brazilian social asymmetries, may not be well organized or have resources to cover the costs of lengthy negotiating process.
The question that thus arises is how do actors some to perceive themselves as stakeholders and as potential collaborators or negotiators around those issues? Maybe they follow the classic theory: ‘People only mobilize when the expected benefits outweigh the costs of mobilizing’.
Thank you, everybody.
Rodolfo with the MIT Brasil study tour in Afogados