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Barry Commoner




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Community Development | Ecology & Agriculture

Ecology is the relationship of living things to each other and to what’s around them. The root of the word “ecology” from Greek means “study of the household”. It is the study of the “household” of living things and how we all interact with each other. In our urban world, where 50% of the human population now lives in cities according to reports form the Millenium Goals., we have become removed from a clear relationship with our physical environment and even further distanced from the natural world.


Urban populations benefit from expanded awareness about their physical environment. Urban communities can reduce their impact on the earth with efficient housing, mass-transit, and shared energy systems. The fastest growing urban areas, however, are unfortunately the sprawling slums of nations whose agricultural regions can no longer support growing populations.


Promotora Family Health and Food Security Outreach Education Program - One such city is Tijuana Mexico, where incoming residents establish a household in the marginal areas of the city and often have no water, sewage, electricity, or transport services. They often come from rural areas and are not familiar with nor do they know how to adapt to the urban physical environment. Via International’s sister organization, Los Niños, has designed a class the supports residents to learn about this bio-region along the US/Mexico border. Themes include water conservation, recycling, and small gardening methods that are adapted to the climate. These courses are provided to mothers and school children. An outcome of this process has also been the development of small businesses that create useful items for sale (tote bags) our of recycled materials.


Environmental Youth Education Collaborative - Many children who are born in urban areas do not have any understanding of the ecology of their home. They do not know where their food and water originate and have little connection to the broader natural world. Incorporated in the Los Niños’ Tijuana program is a collaboration with EcoParque where thousands of children each year visit and learn about their bio-region, experience the gravity fed wastewater systems, and learn simple gardening techniques. Via International supports these efforts with resources and volunteers.


Sustainable Agriculture calls for an integrated system that incorporates environmental health, economic viability, and social equity. This system includes the natural world, the local ecosystem, the farmer, the transporter, the processor and the consumer. It entails the stewardship of both natural and human resources with the focus of “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”.


As our world becomes more and more urban, our connection with our food source is more remote. Small realistic steps can be made even in urban areas to steward humanity toward a more sustainable food system.


Working along the US/Mexico border, urban participants in the Los Niños Nutri-Ecologia program learn or reawaken skills they can use to produce a portion of their food in a sustainable way. Community and family gardens are key outcomes of the program and include the development of small home gardens as well as the collection and saving of local seeds.


In the border region near Mexicali, some community groups are developing viable agri-business. The apiculture cooperative, Las Cachinillas, is a group of women who, staring with 2 bee hives, have grown their effort to 200 producing bee hives. They support additional families in the area to learn and begin beekeeping.. Via International contributes to this program with resources and technical support, as well as facilitating a Build-a-Beehive activity for groups interested in being of service.