Sustainability of Agroecological Peasants of the Portuguese State

Sustainability of Agroecological Peasants of the Portuguese State

By Various Authors

The dependence on a single product for the economic contribution of the family together with the commercialization through an intermediary is the main engine of the circle of poverty in which the peasants are trapped. Agroecological production is a priority for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to achieve sustainable development.


Agroecological production is a priority for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to achieve sustainable development. This implies that three aspects regarding the quality of life are taken into account: social, environmental and economic. Thus, for the promotion of agroecology among peasants, these three aspects of reality must be measured objectively and in order to know their state and their evolution over time. For this, the present work was developed in the communities that comprise the Network of Agroecological Peasant Organizations -ROCA- in the upper area of ​​the Araure Municipality of the State of Portuguesa. Through convivial experiences, two hundred ten (210) production units were measured with twelve (12) indicators of human sustainability. A frequency graph was obtained that showed the potential of the organization studied. It is concluded that the dependence on a single product for the economic contribution of the family, together with the commercialization through an intermediary, is the main engine of the circle of poverty in which the peasants are trapped. The situation is aggravated by the concentration of profits produced by production in a specific period of the year, such as coffee. Through the production of food, with ancestral, appropriate and appropriate technologies, Latin American peasants are the resistance against domination and the hope of future generations. This work has been validated by the farmers under study.


Within the agroecological rural development proposed by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, several states are in a phase of strengthening agroecological production, with a view to guaranteeing the satisfaction of the needs of the communities and peasant families. Such is the case of the Portuguese state and, particularly, of its municipality Araure. This municipality presents strategic socio-cultural, geographical and environmental characteristics to continue consolidating a region within the municipality that is a model at the national and international level in advancing with a firm step towards sustainable development with an agro-ecological basis.

Although the main production is coffee, agrobiodiversity and natural biological diversity accelerate the consolidation process, with a large germplasm bank in the hands of the producers, mostly seeds adapted to the climatic and soil conditions. All the characteristics mentioned are part of a sociopolitical dimension of the region that is framed in article 305 of the Magna Carta.

This is how it was born from the men and women of the mountains of the middle and upper basins and rural areas of the Araure municipality: the ROCA. This Network of Agroecological Peasant Organizations is formed by civil associations called Núcleo de Desarrollo Endogenous Cafetalero Agroecológico -NUDECA-, made up of more than 600 peasants in order to be an agrarian organization guided by agroecological principles and practices, assuming that they are beings capable of produce water, oxygen and life; in addition to socializing knowledge and promoting direct and leading democratic participation of communities in decision-making. As for the NUDECAs, they are located in different villages of the Araure municipality, while ROCA-NUDECA has its address in the city of Araure, Araure municipality, Portuguesa state ( /quines-somos.html).

In this process of progress towards a sustainable agriculture based on agroecology is when a group of people with social and political commitment give themselves to this process of transformation of the peasant base. The Municipal Autonomous Institute for Endogenous Development and Popular Economy -IAMDEEP-, located in Araure, has strengthened the organization and training of peasants for the exercise of popular power and a better remuneration for their work through the fair commercialization of their coffee production, eliminating intermediaries, persistent cyst in peasant exploitation. The Institute for Production and Research of Tropical Agriculture -IPIAT-, focused on technical advice in agroecology, has been present for more than a year, with some workshops held in 2006 and a greater commitment assumed in 2007, accompanying the formation of agroecological collective peasant schools in the NUDECAs, their systematization and characterization ( All these activities were strengthened with the support of the students of the Agroecology Degree Training Program of the Bolivarian University of Venezuela whose internship to opt for the Degree of Superior Technician in Agroecology, guided by three professionals from the IPIAT, was carried out in twelve of the fifteen NUDECAs during the month of September 2007.

As part of the agroecological process, it is essential to know the production units from a point of view consistent with sustainable development. This type of development, as opposed to exclusive economic development (concept of growth, Colom 2000), has as its center the quality of life of human beings. Thus, to know if the conditions for this quality of life are being met and how the process is evolving, the IPIAT has developed a line of research in human sustainability indicators since 2006 (Birriel & Sosa in prep., Sosa & cols. In prep.). Although there are a multitude of indicator systems (Fernández 2006), the IPIAT has guided their generation and their applicability according to certain criteria: a) that measure the three dimensions of sustainable development (social, environmental and economic), b) quantity, Wautiez & Reyes (2001), mention that they should not exceed 10 and, c) that they are appropriated by the social base. In this last point there are two considerations for its fulfillment; The first is that any farmer can measure the indicators, that is, high-cost technology, university preparation, bureaucracy, etc. are not necessary. Y; the second is that they are developed in a participatory manner. In this sense, the IPIAT has been evolving, the first proposal of indicators was made exclusively by technicians and professionals of the research team, although taking into account the local reality and with indicators that can be appropriated by the social base. Although this is in line with the MESMIS proposal (López-Ridaura & cols. 2002), it was taken into account that the indicators were appropriated by the peasants, something that is not always visualized by the academy, proposing indicators from their vision , that require specialization of studies or technology available to research centers and not to farmers. Thus, the IPIAT proposal incorporates the peasant vision, from the knowledge of reality, training and promoting that the peasants themselves are the actors of the process, achieving, in this last stage that we are going through today, that producers build indicators of human sustainability that here have been included.

This procedure is essential to collect information, to know how the production unit is currently and how it could direct its operation under the application and adoption of ecologically appropriate techniques that allow transformation to achieve the long-awaited agri-food sovereignty and sustainable development. agroecological based. The application of human sustainability indicators allows simultaneously applying other characterization tools such as vernacular maps and semi-structured interviews that raise a specific type of information. While this was done, it is not included here as it is outside the scope of this publication.



Strengthen the sustainable development process through knowledge of the socio-productive realities, of the natural and financial resources of the different hamlets (community) of the ROCA.


• Apply human sustainability indicators in the different villages.

• Observe the productive social organization of the producers.

• Share their daily life with producers, which allows us to learn about their traditions and customs.

Materials and methods

Study sites: The characterized producers are distributed in the Río Acarigua parish, Araure municipality of the Portuguesa state. They are also related to the NUDECAs, either by being associated (the majority) or being in a community where there is a presence of the aforementioned civil association.

Data collection in the field: Eleven students from the Agroecology Degree Training Program of the Bolivarian University of Venezuela, a senior technician and two professionals from IPIAT visited 96 farms in the Portuguese state distributed in 12 communities, human sustainability indicators were applied to 210 productive experiences. To collect data, the UBV students and the IPIAT technician, tutored by several IPIAT professionals, carried out a convivial experience.

Indicators of human sustainability: This tool is part of the participatory action-research proposal. A template of twelve (12) indicators of human sustainability was applied (see Table 1) through dialogue with family members and a tour of the production units. The indicators have been prepared by the IPIAT technical team, which include farmers, as well as the data collection sheets (Birriel & Sosa, in prep).

As part of obtaining information, a dialogue of knowledge was established between producers, students and technicians. Producers are expected to take ownership of the tool, contributing to its evolution; applying it and adapting it in the different productive realities.

On the other hand, as part of their experience in the communities, the students of the UBV together with the IPIAT participated in 32 cultural activities and assumed the daily activities of the host peasants (planting, fixing roads, weeding, tracing, collecting natural resources , cooking, cleaning, parties, etc.). The rescue of peasant values, the conservation of natural resources, and social organization were also encouraged, emphasizing the political-ideological commitment and the importance of each person organizing with their community. For this, in addition to coexistence, meetings and participatory discussions were held.


The results obtained from the application of the sustainability indicators in two hundred ten (210) production units were collected in a double entry matrix. From this data matrix, the frequency graph for the twelve applied indicators was prepared (Figure 1).

From the data obtained from the frequency graph, we perceive that the indicator "Diversified income, economic sustainability" is one of those that presents the greatest weakness since just over 130 producers demonstrated a value of 1 in this indicator, depending only on the coffee category. generally (see table 1 for reference values).

The second indicator with the greatest weakness is that of "Recycling practices" with 110 producers that present a value of 1 in it since it was observed that the family lacks awareness on the issue of solid and liquid waste management (see table 1 for value reference). This contrasts with what is indicated by "Agroecological knowledge", which says that many producers handle concepts of traditional and agroecological agriculture.

Those that are still weak are those of "External inputs", showing that there is a great dependence on them. More than 50% of the production units depend for 80% on inputs that come from outside the farm. In the case of “Farm planning and production records”, 68% of the producers use less than three farm planning tools.

Regarding the strongest indicators, “Social organization of production” presents 120 producers, a little more than half, with an intermediate value (3). The indicator “Agroecological Knowledge” shows that there are 175 producers with values ​​greater than 3, more than half. Regarding the "Communal Work" it is observed that there are 135 producers, close to 50%, with values ​​greater than 3.

It is also necessary to highlight the indicator "Participation of women", 40% of the production units use women as labor, regardless of their opinion. Obviously, these women do not participate in activities in their community either.

Regarding "Food security and nutrition" there are more than 60 production units with a value of 1 and 70 production units with a value of 3, which are at low levels of sustainability.

In the indicator “Agrobiodiversity” it is found that more than 80 producers have a value of 2 and 70 producers have a value of 3, categorizing them in low-medium levels.

Discussion and Conclusions


Social organization of production: This indicator has great strength since the producers assumed to start an organizational process 2 years ago in endogenous development nuclei that make up a network called the Network of Agroecological Peasant Organizations -ROCA-. This process has been strengthened steadily by the advances that have been obtained in the struggles and demands of each day. Consequently, the degree of awareness in the peasant ranks of what it means to be part of an organization to achieve common objectives has increased.

Agroecological knowledge: Analyzing this indicator, together with the coexistence with the producers, it is shown that there is traditional and ancestral knowledge of the farmers, but they are not aware that they are also agro-ecological practices, acquired in the transfer from generation to generation. Likewise, this knowledge tends to be devalued to a large extent due to the imposition of technologies, education, techniques and exogenous knowledge introduced by the followers of the Green Revolution.

Communal work: Due in large part to the grassroots work that has been done, peasant families have understood the importance of the community objective and therefore the union in work and organization to achieve these common objectives.

Agrobiodiversity: Although, this indicator gave low to medium levels at the individual level, at the global level, the diversity used by the Portuguese producers who work with the IPIAT reaches more than 232 plant species and 10 animals; of the former, 84 are food. Although the indicator was designed to record the species managed by the producers, in the sense that they can reproduce them, used species were included, that is, wild ones that the producer uses for various purposes but does not reproduce. This results in a methodological noise that further lowers the value of the indicator at the individual level. However, the aforementioned corroborates the degree of contact and interdependence of peasants and natural resources, being the first guardians of biodiversity when they mutually domesticate each other.

Food security and nutrition: The process of dependency that the capitalist system, through the Green Revolution, has deepened in the peasant classes around the world, has made the peasants change their objectives of self-sufficiency and food sovereignty, framed in ease, for capitalist objectives profit and consumption. This has notorious consequences in the current peasant reality, such as the change of a great agrobiodiversity to satisfy food needs for monoproduction, from which the total costs of all the family's consumption (basic needs, secondary and inputs have to come of production). However, half of the surveyed peasant families supplement their diet self-sufficiently with five foods, daily. This, with respect to the Venezuelan average, is well above, which indicates that the peasants are still the resistance against the models of domination that past and present oligarchic governments have imposed on all of Latin America, which will fall under their own weight and thanks to alternative models, such as those proposed by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.


Recycling practices: It was observed that the producer lacks knowledge in the management of waste (solid and liquid), lack of awareness regarding the environmental damage caused by their mismanagement and their potential for recycling.

External inputs: The coexistence with the producers made it possible to determine that most of them depend solely on the market for the acquisition of agricultural inputs (fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, etc.), making them dependent and restricting their autonomy. This involves them in a vicious circle with a difficult exit; increasing the dependence and oppression exerted by transnational companies on the peasant class.

Estate planning: Regarding the planning of the farm, there are great shortcomings since the tools for this purpose are not applied, the producers expressing the lack of time for said activity, not visualizing its advantages, or, in some cases, the lack of literacy; which is part of another problem. As a consequence, the resources acquired for agriculture are not projected and their administration is not prioritized.

In general, as mentioned above, many of the farmers of Portuguesa depend on a single product for economic contribution: coffee. This, coupled with dependence on an intermediary for the commercialization of their production, is the main driver of the cycle of poverty. As is known, in the capitalist system in which we are still immersed, the economy is governed by the laws of the market. These operating laws respond to the supply and demand of products, and this would not be the worst for a small producer if this were done fairly and fairly. But when these offers and demands are managed and moved at the whim of large multi- and transnational corporations, and the producer does not market his product locally but must place it where he can, an unexpected shift in the supply of a product on a global scale, from a year after year, it can cause prices to drop suddenly and the producer, having to sell off his production, lose everything, including his land, the basis of his livelihood and freedom. This is not new, it happened with the coffee crisis starting in 1995 and has happened countless times in our Latin American history. If the price of the product falls, then the producer is forced to work elsewhere, neglecting his farm, not being able to diversify and selling his cheap labor.

The situation is aggravated in the case of an item where profits are concentrated in a short period of the year, such as coffee. When it is harvest time, the producer finds himself in a very poor economic situation and in need of hiring labor to harvest. This situation is taken advantage of by the intermediaries who buy the harvest still in the plant and at the price they want. This is currently the ROCA's greatest weakness, coupled with the fact that coffee is not an essential product of the basic basket and therefore producers are obliged to sell it, not contributing to their food sustenance.

It is concluded that the economic dependence of a single item in the upper area of ​​Araure (coffee) is the main driver of the circle of poverty that the producers of ROCA present.

It is noteworthy that producers are walking the path to change this situation. In fact, the community organization that they have generated has allowed them to negotiate the price of coffee with a company directly, without intermediaries, in 2006. This year they are in negotiation with the Venezuelan Agrarian Corporation -CVA-, a state body that guarantees the official gazette price of the products. So far, if there are no setbacks, ROCA has managed to get the CVA to receive 100% of its production. On the other hand, they are the "guinea pigs" (in this case in a good sense) of a new credit regime where producers can directly manage the money, without depending on the signature of a technician from the State credit body -FONDAFA-.

Regarding the diversification of their products, some NUDECA community farms have been implemented where products of the basic basket will be cultivated in an agroecological way; being also a learning space so that producers can be disseminators of knowledge. In addition, credits will be implemented for Agroecological Units, a new FONDAFA modality that, for the first time in its history, responds to the endogenous development needs of the country.

With the agroecological approach, farmers are expected to improve their quality of life. In the case of the production units investigated, the producers are sensitized and have made the decision to move towards sustainability. According to what has been observed, within the indicators, the one that indicates that the first step has been taken is the one that considers family participation in community affairs, whether it directly affects them or not. This, in farmers who want to incorporate Agroecology in their lives, speaks of a critical mind and the desire to contribute to making things better for everyone. This indication must be investigated more in depth, although it can be said that to achieve sustainable development, an essential and initial step is to form ideologically and organize. A proposal for this research is to characterize from coexistence to find out what are the interests that move the family and verify the existence of a correlation with community participation. Facts that reinforce this hypothesis are, for example, producers who approach Agroecology for a purely economic purpose and not because they are convinced that it is the best for their lives, they are reluctant to participate in community activities, maintaining an individualistic mind ; or in the worst case, they participate to satisfy their lust for power and occupy leadership positions. In both cases, these individualistic people delay the process and hinder the progress of others. When the social base is well formed, these people end up being excluded from groups that have clearly defined their ideology.

In conclusion, the producers of the ROCA have taken the first step, solidly, to get out of the cycle of poverty and dependency that the peasant classes have suffered for centuries.

Despite the fact that the peasant family depends on an item from the economic point of view, half of the production units provide more than five foods on a daily basis. In other words, rural areas have food conditions far superior to those of the majority of Venezuelans. That the peasant family is able to produce their livelihood implies that the poverty generated by market conditions does not starve them. The day the peasants lose their land, miserable human beings are generated, they are excluded from life.

It is necessary to rescue the agroecological knowledge of production and the practice of some of them that are still preserved. It has been seen how they are lost day by day. However, traditional knowledge that allows producers to develop practices related to the agroecological proposal is still found in the communities of the ROCA. It is worth mentioning that for a year, a training process given by the IPIAT has been developing, which has also contributed to the rescue and maintenance of these practices.

Thus, it is concluded that in the ROCA communities there is agroecological and traditional knowledge that makes it possible to propose promotion packages and technical monitoring appropriate to the sustainable agriculture proposal. Furthermore, as mentioned above, the peasants are still a bastion of resistance against domination and the hope of future generations.

As mentioned, there is weakness in the recycling of waste products, the farmers do not have the habit of recycling them. This has consequences in terms of the contamination of waterways by products such as household waste, animal waste and waste from coffee processing (coffee pulp); in addition to other health problems that this may entail. In the vast majority of the waste produced in the productive and family processes lack decontamination and recycling processes, therefore, the population of the upper area of ​​Araure is exposed to human and zoonotic diseases due to the contamination of living spaces and waterways.

Another aspect to take into account is the dependence that peasants have on externally sourcing inputs for production. The result obtained shows the contradictions that exist in the Venezuelan agrarian process when it comes to endogenous development.

Regarding the social, women do not participate in productive processes or community development. Which represents a profound weakness in the advancement of development processes with gender equality and a profound contradiction with what is established in the Magna Carta. This characteristic represents a great disadvantage for the development of Agroecology, since it is women who appropriate and resist with greater strength in the processes of harmonious coexistence with nature.

It is worth mentioning that the methodology, results and discussion of this work were presented to the leaders of the NUDECAs; it is thus validated by the peasants under study.


• Raise awareness and raise awareness of the environmental and economic importance of proper management and subsequent recycling of solid and liquid waste, and include technologies and techniques for this purpose in the training plan.

• Emphasize, from the collective spaces of agroecological production, the political, environmental and economic importance of the production of internal inputs with local raw materials.

• Point out the importance of planning in the short, medium and long term, the records being fundamental tools to be able to project and prioritize the use of all the resources of a farm as much as possible.

• Demonstrate in practice and in areas of collective discussion such as rural schools the importance in our health, politics and economy of the production of our food to guarantee a balanced and healthy diet for the communities and the entire country.

• Valorize the plant and animal resources that we have in our communities, adapted to the area and with great productive potential.

• Encourage the management of the species used by farmers, that is, that they are capable of reproducing all the species they use for their benefit.

• Continue to strengthen the organization with the formation of the peasant ranks and new leaders so that the positions to be filled are distributed among more people, not overloading a few, these being spokesmen for the community and taking the decisions that were made to the executive levels the community in sovereign assemblies

• Raise awareness, value and rescue the ancestral practices and knowledge they possess.

• Develop a training plan in the form of peasant schools included in the collective agroecological farms, valuing local knowledge and technologies.

• Strengthen and generate new organizational and decision-making spaces within the community; also of community work such as the repair of roads, collective farms, communal security, etc., to spread values ​​such as solidarity, companionship and demonstrate the potential of the people in the community and that not everything is done with economic resources.

Authors: Ignacio Birriel, Jimena Sosa, Alvaro Pi, María A. Acurero, Carlos Boada, Dyana Britos, Yaneth Castañeda, Karina R. Fontalvo, Belynda García, Katherine León, Raúl A. Lira, Gabriel Nieve, María E. Orzusa, Maribel Rengifo, Karim A. Subero

Bibliographic citations

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- Fernández, F. 2006. Indicators of sustainability and environment: methods and scale. Junta de Andalucía, Ministry of the Environment. 237 + 8.

- López-Ridaura, S., Masera, O. & Astier, M. 2002. Evaluating the sustainability of complex socio-enviromental systems, the MESMIS framework. Ecological Indicators 35: 1-14.

- Sosa, J., Birriel, I. & Núñez, M. A. Indicators of human sustainability. Methodology. 13 approx.

– Tuxil, J. & Nabhan, G. P. 1998. Plantas, Comunidades y Áreas Protegidas. Una guía para el manejo in situ. Manuales de Conservación de la Serie “Pueblos y Plantas”, Editorial Nordan-Comunidad, Montevideo, Urguguay. 227 pp.

– Wautiez, F. & Reyes, B. 2001. Indicadores locales para la sustentabilidad. Publicaciones Acuario, La Habana, Cuba. 136.

Video: Charles Massey and Regenerative Agriculture. DPIRD (May 2021).