Small actions ... big changes …
They say that hope is a voluntary construction to start changing the world. And while many are in a "waiting" situation, there are others who have gone to work. They have converted the "healthy distance" imposed by the current viral pandemic into actions that revolve around healthy communication and coexistence.
The challenge is to harmonize the health contingency with the economic crisis and environmental restoration in a context of climate change. Here the conversation resurfaces as a crucial tool to incentivize change. The comprehensive project Cuenca Sana-Comunidad Sana [Healthy Watershed, Healthy Community], recently implemented by Salvemos al Río Laja, A.C. in collaboration with the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature A.C. and the Forest Service Department of Agriculture, proposes to protect and restore the hydrological and ecological functions of the watershed through education, dialogue, new agreements, and practices in the areas that need it most.
In principle, a healthy diet strengthens the immune system. Likewise, the health of the environment —from the personal to the family and collective— requires small but effective changes to involve families in projects of family gardens, community gardens, installation and reproduction of eco-techniques such as rainwater harvesting systems and other productive tasks. The focus is preventive health, conservation and restoration of soils and water systems. The purpose is to adapt to climate change and improve the family economy.
If we add to this that conventional tourism in San Miguel de Allende has been the main source of income for many families and today it is decreased. Why not take advantage of the situation to create new sources of income? Why not encourage fruit growing and nursery farming in the communities, create bird observatory trails, produce school and backyard gardens, and build rainwater catchment systems? All of this requires work and collective action. The Cuenca Sana-Comunidad Sana project proposes the transition from conventional tourism to nature tourism as a platform for the comprehensive restoration of rural life.
"The scenic beauty we have is very little known and we need to study and work on it," says Agustin Madrigal, director of Salvemos al Río Laja. “We will have to consolidate working groups with people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. The people of the city will better appreciate these sites at the same time that the population of the communities will discover the potential of their resources. This may be one of the most relevant topics in the coming years. We have talked with some sectors involved in tourism and they are betting on that direction."
Cuenca Sana-Comunidad Sana will be carried out in the communities of Cabras, Agustín González, Panal de las Flores, Doña Juana, Sosnavar and Lomas Lindas with the possibility of replicating it in others such as La Cañada. “At Dr. Mora and San Luis de la Paz we have worked on similar projects because we believe in the integral management of the watershed. Later the communities can relate to each other to exchange experiences. Community action for conservation, regeneration and reforestation work is very important in our work. We must reverse the erosive and desertification processes. In addition, we are open to all kinds of ideas that may arise along the way. "
Jalil Aragón, socio-environmental promoter, also in charge of the Cuenca Sana-Comunidad Sana project, maintains that “we must begin to promote social communication processes to inspire, rather than convince or raise awareness. Exercising the power of imagination and research to create sustainable alternatives is our goal. Involving these communities in this initiative requires a different type of language than judging, imposing and recommending as communication strategies.” Because it is not only about knocking on doors and offering a series of benefits to families, but about generating work and new consumption habits in a context of climate change. "We can make alliances with those who know their trades well." The exchanges will be a fundamental tool and contrasts with the paternalistic attitudes of imposing, advising and raising awareness. "The change must come from within, starting with the project facilitators."
Finally, children are the inspiring voice of the community. Believing in a transversal education where young people inspire their families about the benefits of germinating seeds, seeing the little plant grow to put it in the backyard garden is an enriching experience. They will be the masters of community work and in their own schools. “Children are capable of moving the family and then moving the community. We start with small actions in order to make big changes,” says Jalil.
The engine of transformation is to encourage critical thinking in "ourselves and in the community." This holds people accountable in decision making. “Setting up committees to transfer responsibility for continuity to the community and inspire… it is for life.” (to be continued)