Mexico: Gaining Momentum in Mobilization of Indigenous Regions

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The Hunger Project- Mexico

Executive Summary

During the second year of implementing our recent strategy, we have gained significant momentum in our mobilization, particularly in the northern parts of the country like Zacatecas and Durango. We have discovered what the real challenges of field work entail: geographical factors, extreme climate, road conditions, peoples' work seasons, staff security and transportation difficulties. We have a deeper understanding of the needs of the people, resources and costs needed for both short and long-term progress.

The strategy of The Hunger Project-Mexico is based on increasing our focus on indigenous regions, and we are working in two states in two distinct manners:

1. In Chiapas, through many attempts we have succeeded in obtaining a connection with Women's Cooperative, a strategic organization that serves as a gateway to 11 communities in six municipios (municipalities). After many years of women feeling exploited by government agencies and different non-governmental organizations (NGOs), gaining their trust has been a major accomplishment.

2. In Oaxaca, as a result of previous mobilization experience, we learned the necessity of having a detailed understanding of the national indigenous movement, the local movement, and the challenges of the state itself, which include land ownership (ancestral conflicts), local traditions of governance at the community level, and subjugation of women. We conducted meticulous research that provided us a fresh outlook and a strategic overview of what actions were necessary for addressing each challenge.

We have a new National Board composed of eight new members and four continuing members. This represents a significant increase in the degree of influence we have in different sectors. They will be active in discovering new outlets for local funding.

Details on Progress

Achievements

Mobilization Momentum

  • Trainings and catalysts: Based on the initial 2008 goal of conducting 14 catalyst trainings and inducting 970 new catalysts, we have completed 18 trainings and welcomed 466 new catalysts (see Lessons Learned, below).
  • Villages: Based on the initial target of mobilizing 97 communities, we currently have mobilized 85 villages. In addition, mobilization is underway in 11 towns and cities where municipal-level governments have been located.
  • Clusters: Based on the initial target of mobilizing 21 clusters in 2008, 18 clusters have been successfully formed.

Mobilized alignment and support of community civic leaders and local authorities: 30 strategic meetings were held with key "gate-keeping" leadership groups (teachers, priests, women's groups, etc.) and their respective communities have achieved the collective buy-in required for successful mobilization.

Created and formalized partnerships with authorities at the local and municipal level: The Hunger Project-Mexico has signed accords (letters of agreement) with the presidents of all 10 municipios where we conduct our work, and also with 67 of the 85 community authorities.

Objectives Not Yet Achieved

Fewer and smaller clusters than originally projected. Given the geography, low levels of infrastructure, and the dispersion of the rural communities, we found that our first design of 38 clusters with 10 communities per cluster was an unrealistic goal. In order to ensure that communities were within one day's walk so that staff could visit regularly, we revised the mobilization to 21 clusters, most containing five communities, and some with three or four. Lack of vehicles and extreme weather (heat and flooding) contributed to logistical difficulties in this process.

Catalyst trainings: more trainings with smaller groups. We have learned that effective catalyst trainings should only have 30 to 50 participants rather than the 80 to 100 originally planned. Consequently, the creation of a mass of catalysts in each community has progressed at a slower pace as has the process of assessment required to implement multi-sector action plans.

Revision of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and Community Development Plans (CDP) Process. We had originally conceived of PRA and CDP as two separate and distinct activities. In May 2009, we will be completing a whole community collective process of PRAs that will result in alignment with the CDP, a process that includes assessment, identifying and prioritizing goals in multiple sectors, and creating action plans for each goal. Community members and local leaders will gain the tools and skills of decisions-making and long-term prioritization. This will allow them to maintain their progress even through the change in municipal government officials, which occurs every three years.

Recent Innovations

Our detailed research and learning process of the complexities of forging effective alliances with indigenous groups has been a great innovation for us. The process included our research study in Oaxaca, practical experience on the field in Chiapas, and our participation with Chirapaq in Peru. We found we need a perspective that must be broadened by extensive research of indigenous peoples and the selection of strategic actors for partnership in the long run.

Also, in our mobilization process in Zacatecas, we had volunteer rural reporters document, graphically and photographically, the unfolding of the activities and initiatives in their communities.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Since early this year, we have worked on creating better structure for the monitoring and evaluation of our programs, particularly in the mobilization area. We are realizing that we must provide resources to local volunteers to allow for the communication of information. This would create a very important strategic result: the ongoing ownership of the community work. We are working with The Hunger Project Global Office to modify our data system current with this approach and have now begun the process of data entry. One major challenge is recording the information on time since sometimes there is no communication technology available in the states where we work.

We intend to generate a deeper understanding of the strategic importance of monitoring and evaluation, through our local organizations of volunteers, catalysts and staff, so that it becomes a central piece of our everyday work. Also, we are in the process of finding the best candidate to fill the senior staff Monitoring and Evaluation position

Partnerships

Our alliance with the Technological Institute for Superior Studies of Monterrey (ITESM) has grown stronger in the last year. The students of ITESM serve as volunteer facilitators in the Participatory Rural Assessment (PRA) process and also support initiatives for economic development through the assessment of newly-registered enterprises.

Our partnership with the government of the state of Zacatecas has proven to be very effective. The first two-year agreement is now complete, and we are in the process of renewing agreements with the original two agencies, SEPLADER (State Secretary for Planning and Development) and DIF (Family Integral Development), in addition to SEDAGRO (Secretary for Agricultural Development), SEC (Secretary for Education and Culture), INMUNZA (Institute for Zacatecan Women), SECTUR (Secretary of Tourism), INJUZAC (Institute for Zacatecan Youth), COPROVI (Council for Habitat Promotion), and SSZ (Secretary for Health in Zacatecas), thus expanding from two to a total of nine state governmental agencies.

In-country Funding Opportunities

INMUJERES, National Institute for Women (Instituto Nacional para las Mujeres), granted funds to the Women's Cooperative in Chiapas, J'pas Joliviletik or "Hands that Weave," to create a virtual store on eBay, so that new markets are opened and their products can reach international buyers.

CONSEJO LAGUNERO DE ONGs (Lagunero Council of NGOs) ensures transparency in granting local government resources that are, by law, to be allocated to organized civil society. Normally, people in communities do not know that such resources are available to them. This organization encompasses civil society organizations of the La Laguna region in Durango, and we have participated as a member since 2006.

We have created a standard template with the information needed for obtaining potential grants from government agencies, private foundations and other civil organizations, and we have coordinated the timing and the resources needed to gather such information and documentation. This is part of our preparation for our 2009 funds strategy

Broader Awareness of The Hunger Project/Media Coverage

  • The Hunger Project-Mexico Country Director is a member of the Consulting Council of the National Social Development Ministry (SEDESOL). The Council participated with the Ministry in the review and revision of Mexico's national development strategy and advocated the construction of effective social development policies.
  • Presentation on Social Responsibility at ITESM, Campus Monterrey.
  • Country Director interviewed on national TV broadcasts, channel 11 and channel 34 on the issue of the food crisis.
  • Publication of an article in the Morelia Magazine about The Hunger Project.
  • Publications in local Newspapers in Zacatecas

Future Plans

Fourth Quarter (2008)

Follow-up and fulfill the promises outlined in phase I of mobilization for 2008. The indicators are:

  • Number of trainings: 15
  • Number of catalysts: 950
  • Number of clusters: 21
  • Number of villages: 97

First and Second Quarters of 2009

Start phase II of mobilization. The indicators will be:

  • Number of Community Development Plans;
  • Number of The Hunger Project national programs implemented (local democracy, education, Millennium Development Goals);
  • Number of women enterprises;
  • Number of income generation initiatives; and
  • Number of partner trainers.

In Oaxaca, we will build strategic alliances with civil society organizations and begin field work in communities from a pilot region. The indicators in consideration are:

  • Number of partnerships;
  • Number of trainings and catalysts;
  • Number of clusters; and
  • Number of villages.

Profile of a Leader

Gilberto Orozco is a young high school teacher and physician who lives in Torreon, Coahuila. He participated in a VCAW in 2005, and since then has been participating as a volunteer. He won a national prize for cultural and technological proposals outlining short and long-term actions for dealing with pressing environmental issues. He is now a volunteer trainer and very effective in inspiring others. He currently serves as a volunteer municipal coordinator for San Juan de Guadalupe Municipio in Durango. Orozco's life has turned from being, as he described, "empty and bored" to one filled with a "passionate commitment to humanity."


Country Profile - Mexico

Population109,955,400 (53,822,620 male; 56,132,780 female)
Percent of population in rural areas24%
Infant mortality rate19.01 deaths/1,000 live birhts (2008 est)
Maternal mortality rate61.9 deaths/100,000 births
Life Expectancy75.84 yrs (73.05 yrs - male; 78.78 yrs - female)
Percent population undernourished3%
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate0.3% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths5,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS160,000 (2003 est.)
Literacy rate91% (92.4% male; 89.6% female)
Primary school enrollment (gross)99.7% (99% male; 99% female)
GDP per capita$12,800 (2007 est.)
Populatoin below National Poverty Line17.6% total, 27.9% rural (Mexico does not track $1/PPP. Data from unstats.org)

Source: Development Economics, Development Data Group (DECDG), CIA World Fact Book - Mexico Profile

Secretaria de Salud. A partir de Defunciones: INEGI-SSA. Bases de datos. Poblacion y Nacimientos: CONAPO.