Collective actions for empowerment and poverty reduction in rural Chiapas, Mexico
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The present thesis is an investigation of rural community development in the Venustiano Carranza Province of Chiapas, Mexico. The objectives have been to analyze people’s experiences of collective work, and how this work, the social capital formation and access to capacity building courses might be leading to individual empowerment in the rural communities. The thesis begins with an introduction to the study area and an outline of the theories of alternative development and community approaches, and a presentation of the theories of empowerment, social capital and collective actions. It is argued that developing the intellectual, physical and environmental capacities in rural communities can lead to various processes of individual empowerment (Monaheng, 2001), and that the strong social capital can enhance these achievements (Narayan et al, 2002b: p.15; Villager and Enes, 2004: p.6). Further it is argued this can be actualized only through a participatory rural organization, as the most important element in a capacity building model (Friedman, 1992; Monaheng, 2001). Using the case of the NGO DESMI’s work in rural Chiapas, important discoveries were made in the fieldwork. The collective work, assisted by DESMI, clearly led to social capital formation as trust-building between the members. This was particularly visible in collectives where the members participated in regular meetings, and jointly planned and carried out the work. Norms of solidarity and reciprocity were established between them from being in the same life situations, which serve as protection against sudden poverty or difficult times for the member families. The members of the collectives investigated, further enjoyed several processes of empowerment from the participation. As a collective, they achieved contact with DESMI, and obtained loans to improve and advance their work. And maybe most importantly, they have gained access to capacity building courses. The access to new information and knowledge has signified social empowerment and enhanced self-belief and self-reliance. Particularly have the courses about organic farming methods the prospects of being economic empowering. The capacity building approach is without doubt geared towards empowerment, but it is the social capital formation in the collectives which have helped the members to fully enjoy and benefit from the access. The thesis further argues that smaller organizations, like DESMI, have the potential to become an appropriate participatory institution for people's empowerment. The empirical findings from the field research, mainly focusing on a number of collectives in Chiapas, suggested successful performance of the organization in some economic, social, technology, educational and training areas. Important discoveries backing this up are that the organization promotes and trains the collective members to participate in the collective related decision-making processes. I am left without doubt that the empowerment impact of collective work and new knowledge formation through capacity building courses, has multidimensional outcome.
Master's Thesis in Development Management - Agder University College, 2007
PublisherHøgskolen i Agder
Agder University College