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Jun 1, 2018

Food security program in Chiapas - Mexico

The alternation of drought and flooding in the San Cristobal de las Casas region (Mexico) is 
confronting peasants to a state of growing impoverishment and food insecurity. For several
years, Secours Catholique-Caritas France has been supporting communities in this region to
strengthen food security. At the end of this project in March 2018, Secours Catholique-Caritas
France commissioned (as usual) the evaluation of this project. Following the results of this
evaluation, the participation of Secours Catholique in the continuation of this project could be
validated. However, the interim reports provided since 2015 by our partner are very

Context of the project
Mexico is bordered by the United States, Guatemala and Belize. The Mexican economy is very
dependent on the United States, oil revenues and funds transferred by migrants. The country
experiences very high inequalities and thus presents the characteristics of a developing country:
- increased poverty,
- institutional violence,
- social and regional inequalities,
- the importance of the informal economy,
- inadequacy in the fields of education or health.
Member of the OECD, Mexico is, after Brazil, the second largest economy in Latin America.

Chiapas is one of the 31 states of the Federal Republic of Mexico. Located south of the
Yucatan Peninsula. Chiapas covers about 75,000 km² in the 2 million km² of Mexico and has
4,823,243 inhabitants with a large indigenous population component. It is one of the
country's richest in natural resources (oil, timber, mining, fertile land, water, biodiversity).
Despite these strengths, it ranks last in the national standard of living with the highest
unemployment, child mortality and malnutrition rates in the country.

Presentation of our partner
The region of San Cristobal de las Casas covers half of the territory of the Federal State of
Chiapas (mainly in the Highlands) and has 2,500 indigenous communities.
Action Sociale Samuel Ruiz was created in 1994 to organize solidarity and provide
comprehensive support to the displaced and victims of the internal conflict. This partner has
developed since its inception an integrated approach to the development and strengthening of
the most vulnerable communities living from agriculture and depend to a large extent on
weather conditions (drought, storms and floods) in a period of adaptation to change climate.
In 2012, she received the Community Development Award from the Compartir Mexican Social
Foundation, which recognizes Mexican institutions working for social advancement and the
inclusion of the poorest.

Our project
Affected by climate change, Chiapas is in an area of high geographical and environmental risk
due to its location in one of the hurricane zones. Since 2009, peasants have particularly
suffered from the alternation of weather phenomena "El Niño" (Pacific Ocean current that
brings drought) and its current "La Niña" (which brings torrential rains). Farm families are
facing a situation of chronic food insecurity. The beneficiary communities of the project are
located in the 13 municipalities of the regions of Los Altos and La Selva. They are among the
most affected by these repeated bad weather and are considered "corn granaries" in the state.

In this context, the response of Action Sociale Samuel Ruiz is on the one hand, to support
farmers and their organizations to sustainably face recurring shortages of corn and seeds,
and on the other hand, improve production and preserve the culture of traditional "milpa".
This system combines corn-bean-pumpkin crops and can also be grown with coffee
or banana with agroforestry techniques. In this region, the Mesoamerican "milpa" is the basis
of peasant food self-reliance and rural family economies. It is at the center of a strategy aiming
at the management and the protection of biodiversity. For our partner, this component is part
of a broader process of supporting and strengthening the most vulnerable communities that
live off agriculture and depend, to a large extent, on weather conditions (drought, storms and
floods), in a period crucial to adaptation to climate change.

In addition, Social Action Samuel Ruiz faces a number of challenges: in the last elections in 
Mexico, political parties, to win votes, offered inputs and chemical pesticides to farmers,
thus encouraging them to abandon corn and basic seeds prodcution for monocultures
(avocado, African palm, peach and species for biodiesel production). In addition, in 2011, the
Chiapas government signed an agreement with North American company Monsanto to
cultivate 20,000 hectares of transgenic corn in the state. This agro-industrial model calls into
question the small peasant model that today guarantees biodiversity and the preservation of
communities through the transmission of their goods and know-how.
For 2015-2018, the project focused on 6 parishes in Chiapas. Following the evaluation of this
last tranche of the project currently underway, a new project will be established in which the
intervention area, the objectives, the number of beneficiaries and the budget will be refined.

Global objective :
To support the process of food sovereignty in the Ch'ol pastoral zone in Chiapas, with an 
approach of local capacity building, resilience and sustainable development. Specific
objectives :
- The diversity and quality of agricultural production (milpa and market gardening) of families
is improved by applying the principles of agroecology.
- Rearing and production of farmyard animals is improved.
- The conservation of natural resources and the regeneration of productive ecosystems is
strengthened, they are more resistant to climate change.
- The organizations of the strengthened peasant communities act for the sustainable
development and the defense of their territory.
 Beneficiaries :
- Direct beneficiaries: 624 families (3,313 beneficiaries including 1,648 men and 1,665 women)
- Indirect beneficiaries: 578 families (2,969 people) from 84 communities.

Our results :
Technical capacity building for ecological farming
- 379 families work the traditional Milpa agro-ecological way on 199 ha
- 12 varieties of maize are grown
- 316 families grow vegetables
- 30 varieties of vegetables and local plants are grown (onions, tomatoes, parsley, beans, squash ...).
Experiments with "Milpa interposed with fruit crops" are conducted (lemons, oranges,
papaya, coconut, carambola, avocado ...) as well as with trees for the exploitation of wood.
Collective learning and knowledge-sharing spaces are developing in 9 communities. Strengthening dietary diversity through the practice of small livestock. - 289 families are able to manufacture and use veterinary care products, and create breeding
conditions for small livestock. The interest of families and community promoters in these
techniques is growing.
- New practices such as the introduction of bananas and cassava into animal feed are developing. - A specific method is applied for breeding: different groups take turns for small livestock
breeding, transmitting the animals and their knowledge to another group every 2 years .
- 40 sheep distributed to 8 communities and 30 pigs to 6 other communities. Recovery of local species and protection of biodiversity After the biodiversity inventory carried out in the first year of the project, 7,360 plants of
different species were distributed (cocoa, orange, lemon, mango, avocado ...) in the 29
nurseries created in the first year. 37 communities (279 families) are involved in this
component of the project. Some families are beginning to reap the benefits of their work
(oranges, lemons, cocoa, papaya ...) and diversify their diet
- 60 hives were installed on 3 plots managed by 3 groups
- Beekeeping and management training workshops (administration, accounting and marketing)
and 5 follow-up visits were conducted. The product of these hives is consumed or sold in the
form of honey or processed products generating additional income.

the total amount spent by Secours Catholique on this project was 46 000€ in 2017 and 
129 000€ since 2015, date of the beginning of this program.

Secours Catholique should continue its support to improve the food security of these indigenous
peasant families in the north-east of the Diocese of Chiapas. Agro-ecological production and
resilient agriculture, the preservation of seeds and local biodiversity will continue to be
strengthened, as will the structures of community organizations.


Mar 6, 2018

"Zero Unemployed Territory " in Burgundy

The first hired in the CEP 58
The first hired in the CEP 58

Territorial experiment aiming at reducing long-term unemployment is part of a country where the choices of economic organization allow a majority of the population to obtain a job and live in dignity. On the other hand, at the same time, we see that many millions of people are deprived of jobs or forced to accept precarious jobs in conditions that do not allow a dignified existence.

This experience is based on three observations that suggest that it is humanly and economically feasible to eliminate long-term unemployment at the territorial level:
- no one is unfit for work, all those who are permanently unemployed have know-how and skills.
- the work is not missing, it's the employment, because many of the needs of society are not satisfied.
- money is not missing, since each year, long-term unemployment leads to many expenses and shortfalls that the community pays for.


Who is this project aimed at?
This project is aimed at long-term unemployed. An unemployed person is considered long-term since he has been unemployed (or in reduced activity) for more than one year.
100 to 200 people are involved in this process in each territory, that is to say nearly 2,000 people at the national level, in all the ten territories that should participate in the experiment.


What is the goal ?
The aim of this experiment is to be able to offer all unemployed people in a territory a job adapted to their skills, on time.


By creating or relying on companies in the social and solidarity economy to create permanent contracts on minimum wages. Fund these additional jobs by redirecting the costs of job loss to financing a complementary local economy.

It is about redirecting the costs of deprivation of employment to finance the missing jobs by ensuring good working conditions. This work will be financed in part by reallocation of costs and shortfalls due to permanent deprivation of employment (allowances, unemployment benefits etc.). It will therefore involve the transfer of an existing and permanent budget without additional cost to the community, the other part of the financing being the turnover generated by the sale of the creditworthy or uncompleted work.

It is estimated that the reallocation of costs related to unemployment and job loss should cover about 70% of the cost of a full-time job paid to minimum wages.


What steps?
- Identification and meeting of people permanently unemployed from the territory wishing to join the process.
- Identification of useful works on the territory.
- Creation and identification of one or more companies for employment purposes.


The mere fact of hiring employees generates work within the company for employment purpose through the functions that support the production activity: administration, training, transportation, guarding children ...
To optimize the chances of success of the experiment, it is necessary to imagine from the beginning, within the structure, the solutions in terms of organization which will make it possible to lift the brakes with the hiring of the employees (mobility, guard of children, training ...) and thus secure their return to employment.


How is this approach innovative?
Usually, job seekers position themselves on job offers issued by companies. In this project, the mechanism is the opposite. Initially, the contracted companies identify the skills and desires of each individual wishing to integrate the approach. Then, based on this offer of skills, they search the territory for useful work that can match.


The experiment will be conducted for 5 years from the date of entry into force of the law (1 July 2016). At the latest twelve months before the end of the experiment, an independent scientific committee will carry out a precise evaluation to determine the appropriate conditions for its possible extension. To be extended, the process will have to go through the promulgation of a second law.


The community of communes "Between Nièvre and Forests" is one of the 10 territories selected for the launch of this experiment in 2016. A project manager was hired to coordinate the implementation of the project in Burgundy.


The hiring of the 25 employees, on February 6, 2017, kicked off the opening of the company for employment purpose (CEP) of Prémery (Nièvre dept) with a projection to 78 employees at the end of 2017 and 150 employees at the end of 2018.

Everything is to set up, to organize, to structure.

Not all jobs created and related activities compete with the existing market sector. These employees do logging, personal services, ironwork or market gardening, among others.

For the latter, CEP 58 has a parcel of 12 000 m2 lended by  the community of communes. 4 000 m2 are currently exploited for salads, radishes and other tomatoes. The objective is to reach a sustainable production, in particular to feed, in short circuit, school canteens of the sector.


The Nièvre departement, well ahead in terms of the number of jobs in other jurisdictions experimenting with the law, shows that the system works. CEP are fully-fledged businesses that meet a need.


For Jacques Legrain, departmental councilor, very invested in CEP 58, such a project can only work if there is an interest for the territory. "The department wants to develop tourism and improve the quality of life of its inhabitants, we must bet on it".


Former entrepreneur in the hotel business, Patrick Martin is in charge of the activity "Cultural Trails". The idea: to create new hiking trails and to propose story walks around local and regional history.


Dozens of other projects are in the box, such as a home delivery service for the bakeries and grocery stores of Prémery, or the supply of school canteens with vegetables and fruits through the market gardening activity which is in the process of to be developed.


Cyril, 40, was hired as a salesman and worked for many years in the automotive and construction sectors before his last employer separated from him seven years ago, part of a reorganization of the company. "It was brutal, says the forty-year-old. It struck me strongly morally. I dive a little. "

For all, this project is a godsend. "It put my foot down" says Cyril. If it had happened earlier, maybe it would have saved me a few years. The commercial appreciates "getting up in the morning for something". He also evokes the look of his family and his neighborhood that has changed. " I feel better. It weighed on me. It's important to look at others for self-esteem".


Secours Catholique supported the Zero Unemployed Territory experimentation for € 50,000 in 2017, which was used to invest in machinery to start the logging activity.

Veronique Fayet, president of SCCF visiting CEP 58
Veronique Fayet, president of SCCF visiting CEP 58
The gardening activity
The gardening activity


Dec 6, 2017

Day care for homeless people in Avignon (Vaucluse)

Breakfast at day care
Breakfast at day care

Accompanying homeless people: our mode of action

The diversity of our actions with people living in the streets, responds to both the diversity of situations encountered and what can be done locally. These actions are in addition to the responses provided by our associative partners or by the public authorities. To best respond to the distress of people in great need that we meet, our teams in the field have deployed several modes of action:

- Work on the street: to be present with people on the street who do not attend, or more, the usual centers and shelters.
- Day cares: offer a listening, an orientation and sometimes an accompaniment in the duration.
- Shelters: Since 1990, the management of our shelter establishments has been entrusted to an association we created, the Association des Cités du Secours Catholique. Since then, Secours Catholique has continued to manage many shelter places with lower capacity (an average of 10 beds).

Three landmarks guide our actions:
- Reach out to others: identify and be present alongside people who do not attend usual devices;
- Adapt our interventions by seeking a reciprocal relationship over time, if necessary; in fact, the exchanges and the sharing of experience between volunteers and people in precariousness are a richness that should allow each person we meet to become an actor of their change.
- Doing with: Facilitating the expression of the potentialities of people by taking into account their real needs (expressed or not), no longer look at people in hollow, through their shortcomings.

The solidarity expressed by our teams of volunteers is citizen, it corresponds to a desire to be open to others, especially the most disadvantaged, in order to build together a fraternal and just society. Our volunteer teams are professionals of social link and offer a range of relational modes:
- The personalized welcome in a friendly and collective environment, or in the street, through exchanges and listening, gives full place to the person (informal relationship);
- Participatory activities allow personal and collective expression and reinvigorate each person;
- Individual support, in the long term if necessary, is a formal relationship with objectives shared between the accompanier and the accompanied: access to rights, but also individual projects, with involvement of partners if necessary.

Focus on day cares

In small rural communities, as well as in medium-sized towns and large cities, Secours Catholique has created places to offer a first welcome and to support the various requests of people on the street to make their daily life easier.

More than 70 day cares are open throughout France. In Paris, Avignon, or Marseille, these people find landmarks and a friendly welcome. It starts with a listening, an orientation, and sometimes prolongs by an accompaniment in the duration to help them to reach their rights: domiciliation, research of lodging, steps to benefit from the social benefits ... In parallel, these receptions propose services (showers and dry cleaning), meals and various cultural, educational and sports workshops.

These day cares are often a landmark for people wandering. Even in the event of a temporary break in the relationship, the fidelity of the relationship is a principle. They facilitate meetings, personal relationships of trust. Day cares are a fertile ground for considering the always delicate transition from an informal relationship to a formal relationship, from a punctual relationship to a planned relationship, reflected over time. It becomes possible to get on the road together.

The day care of Avignon

Secours Catholique has a day care in Avignon, the only day care in the city, with 60 volunteers engaged for an average of 80 to 150 passages per morning, 5 days out of 7. This facility proposes:
- Breakfasts
- showers, laundry,
- Individual reception with administrative support
- Financial aid
- A health point (doctor, dentist, psychiatric nurse, addictions)
- French learning lessons
- Domiciliation

Avignon's day care is currently located on the ground floor of a building in the city center.
Today, it is no longer suitable for day-care activities, where more than 130 people are welcomed daily. It is old, unwelcoming and too small. It must be completely renovated and restructured to bring it up to full standards in terms of accessibility and security.

The health inspection carried out by the Prefect in February 2017 also confirmed this state of affairs.

We have now set about building a new day care project where the desired orientations for this place have been formalized:

- A place that meets the basic needs of people living in a street

- A place of orientation for access to rights

- A place to rest

- A place proposing activities in a perspective of autonomy and participation of the people coming.

The venue will be open every day, including evenings, depending on the activities planned and the volunteers involved.

A building corresponding to these specifications has been identified. Covering an area of 620 m2, and located in the immediate vicinity of the actual day care, this place, by its configuration is adapted to the creation of a day care.

However, it is necessary to refurbish and undertake major work: modification of the partitioning to create reception desks and an activity room, creation of a luggage room, a tea room, a laundrette, sanitary and showers.

Compliance is imperative to accommodate people with reduced mobility and a review of facilities: electricity, heating ...

In 2016, operating this day care in Avignon cost 200 000 USD.


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