MESOLIDER: An Itinerant School for Indigenous Leaders of Mesoamerica
In Mesoamerican countries, indigenous communities have been historically excluded from formal education processes, as the academic systems are structured around a western, non-indigenous worldview.
This is why ICCO Cooperation and the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests are implementing MESOLIDER, an itinerant school for youth training and leadership development for indigenous communities in forest territories.
Blog by Danilo Gonzalez, ICCO’s Program Officer in Central America
In Mesoamerica (a cultural area in the Americas, extending from central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama), indigenous peoples and forest communities have a historical influence on 50 million hectares of forests.
Managing forest territories
In the last decades, governments have implemented strategies to manage forest territories, including Protected Areas and Biological Corridors. However, the social and economic conditions of indigenous peoples and forest communities did not improve. Through initiatives like community forestry, indigenous peoples and forest communities sustainably manage protected areas, in a context of increasing deforestation, due to the advancement of the agricultural frontier, livestock and excessive wood extraction.
School for youth training and leadership development
In Mesoamerican countries, indigenous communities have been historically excluded from formal education processes, as the academic systems are structured around a western, non-indigenous worldview. This is why ICCO Cooperation and the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests-MAPF (a political platform promoting the land rights of indigenous and forest communities) are implementing the MESOLIDER School, as an itinerant youth training and leadership development initiative for indigenous and community based organizations in forest territories. The School aims to create a continuing education model, based on practice and peer learning.
Between May 8 and 10th, 2018, the MESOLIDER School team gathered in EstelÃ, Nicaragua to reflect, debate, agree and launch the implementation plan for the School. The team is spread between Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua and it’s composed by professionals with diverse backgrounds and expertise, including women and youth.
As a team, we had the chance to talk with Ruben Pasos and Levi Sucre, Advisor and President of the MAPF Board. Together with the Executive Secretariat (Marvin Sotelo and Isabel Pasos), they facilitated the conversation on how MESOLIDER has become a lynchpin to promote territorial and forest governance in the region, and how it’s intended to connect to a local and international advocacy and lobby agenda. As a result of this meeting, the team was able to discuss the methodological approach for the school and there were very interesting reflections about incorporating elements of popular education and indigenous peoples approaches to share knowledge and leadership.
The Mesolider school
The MESOLIDER School began its activities in 2018 with programmes in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, including workshops, leadership exchanges and participating in advocacy events. The School has funding from Auxilium Stiftung (PORTICUS), the European Commission and Ford Foundation. With the School it is expected that Indigenous people and forest dependent communities of Mesoamerica are empowered and have adequate capacities to manage sustainably their territory, dealing with threats and capture opportunities.