I am trying to find funding to do participatory research/development work
with the Bribri indigenous people of Costa Rica. I will be working with the
Universidad Rural which is associated with FUNDAEC in Columbia. The project
works with the Bribri to combine their traditional agricultural knowledge
with agroecological principles to allow them to create their own sustainable
agricultural systems in the rainforest of Costa Rica.
Does anyone have any ideas of funders (either individuals or foundations)
interested in traditional agriculture, indigenous people, and Latin America
that we could approach?
If not, does anyone have suggestions on who might know of such funders?
I am including more info on the project below.
Thank you for your help,
Case Studies: Community Development with the Bribri of Costa Rica
Overview: Human resources within communities are developed to strengthen
local community structures. Farmer participatory research, based on
traditional agricultural systems, develops learning processes for human
Scale: Household, subsistence farm, population, rural community, local
Upper Talamanca Valley, Limon Province, Costa Rica (82.8°- 83.3°W, 9.6°-
Elevation: 600 to 3000 meters
Climate: Tropical rainforest (Af. Am - G.T. Trewartha)
Agricultural Region: Plantation agriculture/Shifting cultivation (G/E)
Population Density: 13.5 persons / square kilometer.
Principal Crops: More than 120 species of domestic and wild crops per
hectare, including subsistence crops, medicinal plants, commercial crops,
building and boat construction, firewood, crafts, natural pesticides, and
Domestic Animals: Pigs, Poultry; wild animals and birds.
Soils: Inceptisols (Aquepts 12 - G. T. Trewartha) Seasonally saturated with
Natural Vegetation: Broadleaf evergreen trees (B).
Ecoregion: Rainforest Altitudinal Zone (Tr4)
Basic Principles: Conserve Resources, Manage Ecological Relationships,
Adjust to Local Environments, Diversify, Empower People, Maximize Long-Term
page prepared by: Neil Whatley
Description: Agriculture is the main activity of Bribri indigenous
communities of Costa Rica, with more than 120 wild and domestic crop species
planted per hectare to provide food, construction materials, crafts,
medicine, firewood and commercial exchange. By developing human resources
within these communities using an agriculture research oriented,
farmer-participatory, systems approach, community structure is strengthened
to confront influences from both inside and outside the region, assuring
that Bribri culture and traditional farming knowledge are preserved and
supported. Agriculture research utilizes multidisciplinary on-farm
participatory techniques to develop essential capabilities and attitudes in
farm family members. Current research projects focus on swine control and
management, agronomic features of the traditional bio-diverse farming system
(a form of agroforestry), and the marketing of alternative crops. Formal and
non-formal educational programs within communities are used to socialize
knowledge gained by investigations and to develop local human resources.
This approach helps farmers become valuable human resources who participate
in processes of social change while still desiring to remain and work on
family farms, preventing urban migration. Extending experiences to more
farms enhances local farming systems as they are continuously modified to
become more appropriate under different conditions. Experience in
bio-diverse farming systems demonstrates an integrated approach to community
development and research, as the Bribri people walk their own path to
Lessons learned: The Bribri's bio-diverse farms are sustainable perennial
polyculture systems that mimic natural rainforest architecture. They use
natural nutrient cycling and symbiotic relationships between plants,
insects, birds, bats, and other animals to provide natural mechanisms for
pest control, incorporate soil rejuvenating legume trees, and produce relay
harvests throughout the year. The development of human resources helps the
Bribri people to determine the importance of retaining these valuable
agroecological characteristics in their traditional farming systems, along
with choosing appropriate new technology. The resulting farming system is
more appropriate with respect to biophysical, socioeconomic, and cultural
conditions than both the traditional farms and the "technological packages"
introduced from outside. Bribri women have traditionally been the owners and
managers of swine, so the swine management learning process includes 80%
women, enhancing gender equity and improving the stature of women in the
community. Research within the bio-diverse farming systems has helped both
Bribris and project facilitators to gain a deeper understanding of these
complex traditional farming systems and to realize the need to promote
learning processes that necessarily begin within communities. Three of
these processes are 1) cultural expression by rescue of local crafts, use of
puppetry with children and theatre with youth to express traditional
legends, 2) drug and alcohol abuse prevention programs and 3) improving
primary formal education programs.
Conserve Resources: Use of bio-diverse cropping systems minimizes erosion
because topsoil is protected by increased leaf litter fall and conserves
endemic crop species. Capital conservation is enhanced by reducing
dependence on external inputs for household and farm use.
Manage Ecological Relationships: Increased plant biodiversity provides
flowering and aromatic ornamental plants that attract beneficial insects,
birds, and bats providing natural pest control and optimum flower
pollination. Shading and allelopathy are used to decrease weed incidence and
also provides natural plant barriers preventing fungal spore transmission
between crops from similar plant families. Many leguminous trees and shrubs
exist in the bio-diverse farms, thus providing biological nitrogen fixation.
Crop biodiversity creates many usable species for household use.The
bio-diverse farms include perennial crops that provide shade to decrease
soil water loss and fungal disease incidence.increases efficiency of
Adjust to Local Environments: The bio-diverse cropping system mimics the
natural rainforest, thus optimizing productive potential in the wet humid
Diversify: Efficient crop diversification is achieved by using indigenous
knowledge to arrange plant association in polyculture systems on the
bio-diverse farms using traditional intercropping techniques and integrating
swine and poultry that forage within these farming systems at appropriate
times. Bio-diverse farms are designed to produce diverse products, including
both household goods and crops for commercial sale.
Empower People: On-farm participatory agricultural techniques are used to
enhance human development and retain valuable characteristics of traditional
indigenous knowledge. Indigenous people and communities are empowered and
strengthened by programs to enhance cultural expression, prevent drug and
alcohol abuse, and improve education. Women are empowered by orienting
development processes, such as swine management improvement, toward their
strengths in the community.
Maximize Long-Term Benefits: For thousands of years, the Bribri people have
dedicated themselves to agriculture, and their traditional bio-diverse farms
maximize intergenerational benefits, not just annual profits. Long-term
strategies are used to design and maintain these farming systems which build
soil fertility and ensure soil organic matter development over the
long-term. Long-term benefits are socially maximized by facilitating
generational land transfers to male and female offspring alike. Traditional
systems, with their immense crop biodiversity that is now integrated with
swine production, are the traditional "banking" systems that support Bribri
livelihood and quality of life.
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