JASMINE AGUILAR

Mexico,

Through training in and support for management information systems, Jasmine Aguilar is enabling rural citizens' groups in Mexico to draw lessons from their work and develop long-term strategies by expanding their access to information about their own and one another's programs and successes.

This profile below was prepared when Jasmine Aguilar was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1993.

Additional information on this Fellow is also available in Español y Español.

Asociación sin fines de lucro que busca contribuir a la sustentabilidad de la vida en el planeta y a la resolución de problemas socio ambientales, poniendo énfasis en la generación de conocimientos útiles, la gestión comunitaria de los recursos naturales, el mejoramiento de la calidad de vida, el ejercicio pleno de los derechos colectivos e individuales de hombres y mujeres y la equidad en los vínculos campo-ciudad. Con ello colaboramos en los cambios civilizatorios que requieren las generaciones presentes y futuras, y conformamos un espacio de resistencia propositiva con una visión liberatoria de apoyo a lo más vital de la naturaleza y de nuestras culturas.

Jasmine Aguilar trabaja en la resolución de problemas socio-ambientales desde la gestión comunitaria de los recursos naturales e incide en la elaboración de políticas públicas en el ámbito rural. Por medio de su organización PASOS, Jasmine contribuye a la sustentabilidad ambiental, el mejoramiento de calidad de vida, los derechos colectivos e individuales de las personas como la equidad entre campo y ciudad. 

 

INTRODUCTION

Through training in and support for management information systems, Jasmine Aguilar is enabling rural citizens' groups in Mexico to draw lessons from their work and develop long-term strategies by expanding their access to information about their own and one another's programs and successes.




THE NEW IDEA

Since the mid-1980s, there has been a proliferation of citizens' organizations in Mexico that work to improve the living conditions in Mexico's poor farming communities. There are more than 500 regional farming organizations alone. Jasmine Aguilar has experienced firsthand the frustration faced by local advisers who often work in isolation one another and find themselves reinventing programs without the benefit of one another's data or track records. By developing an effective system for assessing the success of community-based programs in the farming sector, she is developing a training dimension for their work and generally strengthening civil society in Mexico.

Jasmine coordinates input from farming organizations, other citizens' organizations, academics, consultants and government officials to systematize and disseminate their experiences in rural development. In this manner, not only will the farmers and other advisers be able to avoid repeating one another's mistakes, but they will also be able to make use of successful or innovative ideas and help establish long-term cooperative strategies for entire regions.




THE PROBLEM

Although their projects have managed to improve local economies and have introduced fundamental public and health services, many of the rural citizens' organizations in Mexico have established isolated programs focused on solving immediate problems. All too often they do not have a long term strategy and rarely one that would carry their impact to areas beyond the few villages they serve directly. Often the projects have been designed by outsiders who are not familiar with the local people's history, needs or expectations, and who are obliged to learn, often at considerable cost, how to adapt their approach and tools to the realities of the rural communities.

Consequently, the number of unsuccessful, limited-impact attempts at rural development by far exceeds that of successful ones. Poorly planned investments have left abandoned chicken farms, idle corn mills and other examples of failed projects all across Mexico.

Although many regional farming citizens' organizations have established networks for communication, these relationships are usually organized around specific interests, with corn growers communicating only with other corn growers, coffee growers only with other coffee growers and so on. The sectoral networks typically direct themselves to very specific problems such as marketing, financing, price control or lobbying, and have not developed the capacity to systematize and reflect on their experiences or to plan more globally for the future. Their technical teams generally work in isolation, each trying to solve daily problems in remote areas. Some generate innovative and interesting ideas and solutions, while others unknowingly repeat mistakes that have been recognized and/or corrected by others. In the cases where organizations have tried to systematize and evaluate their work experience in to establish better long-term planning mechanisms, their results have not been made known to the public.




THE STRATEGY

Through workshops and international contacts, Jasmine is creating a network of trained specialists who can replicate her information management techniques: strategic meetings, systematic record keeping and broad dissemination through print and computers. Working through PASOS, which means "steps," an organization she founded, she runs workshops to be carried out at the request of farming organizations or technical advisers wishing to evaluate their experiences or plan strategically for the future. Jasmine provides them with simple methodologies for data collection and evaluation that they can then conduct independently. Reaching further, her organization conducts thematic workshops in which farmers and organizations from many communities and across sectors come together to compare experiences and build common long-term regional and national strategies.

Jasmine is developing an array of techniques to spread her idea still more broadly. The contents and conclusions of the workshops are fed into an already substantial computerized network and database. Her organization produces a collection of publications that include five documents on the theme of workshops, an annual magazine and monthly articles in Ojarasca, a magazine published by Ashoka Fellow Ramon Vera. By collaborating with GEYSER and the Foundation for the Progress of Man, two French citizen organizations, Jasmine facilitates an exchange of information between groups in the developing world and their European counterparts; and she will be able to coordinate further interchanges within the developing world by utilizing Ashoka's Fellowship Support Services.

In the long term, Jasmine plans to create a computerized encyclopedia of rural development approaches in Mexico, which will include the history of the work, told in the voices of of its main protagonists, and a systematic review of its progress. It will include traditional agricultural techniques used by indigenous peoples, thereby helping to maintain the heritage of these communities.




THE PERSON

In her youth, between years at a private bilingual school, Jasmine spent summers with her family in the agricultural state of Sinaloa. There she first became aware of rural development issues. Later, having left high school in search of a non-urban, non-traditional lifestyle, Jasmine went to Oaxaca, where she became involved with efforts to organize coffee producers. This experience led her to pursue an undergraduate degree in agricultural engineering, after which she returned to Oaxaca to study corn production. She went on to earn a master's degree in rural development in 1985.

In 1977, Jasmine helped found the Environmental Studies Group to work with farming organizations and more urban citizens' groups to provide technical advice for the detection and understanding of environmental problems. Through her work with the group, she recognized the need for communication with others, not only for the exchange of techniques, but also to discuss methodology and the role of the technical advisor in community development.




RELATED: