ERA is a group of high-level professionals committed to promoting social equitable and environmentally sustainable development processes in rural areas of Mexico, through the integration and strengthening of model small farming Campesino systems, in collaboration with other actors relevant to rural development. ERA 10 staff members include agronomists, foresters, biologists, and experts in finance, communications, and solidary economics. Consultants and field assistants are hired when needed on a project by project basis. For ERA, as for the Merriam-Webster dictionary, "development" is the process to develop; i.e. to elaborate ideas and bring them to action. Rural Development is t... read more ERA is a group of high-level professionals committed to promoting social equitable and environmentally sustainable development processes in rural areas of Mexico, through the integration and strengthening of model small farming Campesino systems, in collaboration with other actors relevant to rural development. ERA 10 staff members include agronomists, foresters, biologists, and experts in finance, communications, and solidary economics. Consultants and field assistants are hired when needed on a project by project basis. For ERA, as for the Merriam-Webster dictionary, "development" is the process to develop; i.e. to elaborate ideas and bring them to action. Rural Development is then considered as the process where local communities "unfold" their ideas about their own future, seeking the means to achieve it. With this in mind, ERA has supported the development of several approaches that have been influential in rural areas of Mexico: Since 1980 ERA and other organizations supported forest communities that opposed to the concession by the government of the forests within their territories to private companies. Developing this idea of community ownership of forest resources, led to a vigorous national Community Forest Management movement. In 1990 several communities approached ERA with the idea of making their own land use plans as a mean to strengthen their livelihoods in a sustainable way. ERA and other organizations supported them to develop this concept. This lead to the design of a Community Territorial Arrangement (Ordenamiento Comunitario del Territorio, OCT) approach that became a nationally used tool for production and conservation integrated planning. Later on, in 1994, when the North America Free Trade Agreement started, rural communities had the idea of making community forest different than the commodified forest in other places of the world. ERA and other organizations supported the development of this idea, which led to the organization of a forest certification system. Because of the vibrant national movement for certified community forestry, the international Forest Stewardship Council was founded in Oaxaca, Mexico and still has a small office in that city which is considered the capital of community forestry in Mexico and is the home of ERA. ERA was part of the founding group that created the Mexican Civil Council for Sustainable Silviculture (CCMSS), which is now a reference for community forestry in Mexico. The CCMSS Director is a member of ERA. ERA also supported the development of quite sophisticated community ideas. In 2002, several communities had the idea of bringing in support from those who may benefit from the biodiversity hosted in the conservation areas their OCT processes identified. With support from ERA, these communities negotiated the pioneer "Payment for Environmental Services" in Mexico, that became a major tool to implement the biodiversity policy of the country. The communities interest on their biological resources, led also to the setting up of a field laboratory to monitor genetically modified corn. That laboratory found and exposed the first documented case of corn contamination by genetically modified materials and raised the need for an improved national policy for biological and genetical resources. Following the communities idea of bringing support to the maintenance of the areas being under conservation by these communities, in 1999, ERA presented to the joint meeting of environment ministers of Canada, the United States of America and Mexico the idea of a program to support biological conservation projects born within indigenous communities. This led to the launching in 2001 of a project funded by the Government of Mexico and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) of an "Indigenous and Community Biodiversity Conservation" project, that experimented during 2001 to 2008 the potential and extent of rural communities collective action to pursue biodiversity conservation. The results of this long-term experiment led to the legal recognition of community conservation initiatives as a category comparable to National Protected Areas. Since 2014, ERA has been developing a bottom-up approach to watershed management in Veracruz State. Elaborating with rural communities their ideas for a better future, agroecological systems are being setting-up to face the widespread attack of coffee rust and the deterioration of local livelihoods. Using local plants and newly introduced coffee varieties resistant to rust, communities are crafting with ERA support more diversified agroecosystems that primarily take care of the conservation of soil and then build economies that address local needs and produce marketable products, including coffee, fruits, and herbal health products. This approach still in process of "development" is leading to an effective management of local watersheds and can become useful for wider areas. In the present, ERA keeps supporting communities to develop their ideas for a better future. The feminization of rural population, its "peri-urbanization", and big scale processes, such as the promotion of biofuels and industrial plantations of oil palm and soy, are challenges that need innovative approaches. As in the past, ERA knows the ideas; i.e. the seeds of new approaches, are there with the Indigenous and rural communities but need to be developed. ERA considers its mission is to give high-level professional support to rural communities to make these ideas/seeds vigorously grow and bloom.
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