Campesino a Campesino: Voices from Latin America’s Farmer to Farmer Movement for Sustainable Agriculture

Eric Holt-Giménez | 04.01.2006


Campesino a Campesino tells the inspiring story of a true grassroots movement: poor peasant farmers teaching one another how to protect their environment while still earning a living. The first book in English about the farmer-led sustainable agriculture movement in Latin America, Campesino a Campesino includes lots of first-person stories and commentary from the farmer-teachers, mixing personal accounts with detailed analysis of the political, socioeconomic, and ecological factors that galvanized the movement.

Campesino farmer leading a farmer to farmer training session in Mexico by Eric Holt-GimenezMany years ago, author Eric Holt-Giménez was a volunteer trying to teach sustainable agriculture techniques in the dusty highlands of central Mexico, with little success. Near the end of his tenure, he invited a group of visiting Guatemalan farmers to teach a course in his village. What he saw was like nothing he had known. The Guatemalans used parables, stories, and humor to present agricultural improvement to their Mexican compadres as a logical outcome of clear thinking and compassion; love of farming, of family, of nature, and of community. Rather than try to convince the Mexicans of their innovations, they insisted they experiment new things on a small scale first to see how well they worked. And they saw themselves as students, respecting the Mexicans’ deep, lifelong knowledge of their own particular land and climate. All they asked in return was that the Mexicans turn around and share their new knowledge with others—which they did.

CAC campo3_photo by Food FirstThis exchange was typical of a grassroots movement called Campesino a Campesino, or Farmer to Farmer, which has grown up in southern Mexico and war-torn Central America over the last three decades. In the book Campesino a Campesino, Holt-Giménez writes the first history of the movement, describing the social, political, economic, and environmental circumstances that shape it. The voices and stories of dozens of farmers in the movement are captured, bringing to vivid life this hopeful story of peasant farmers helping one another to farm sustainably, protecting their land, their environment, and their families’ future.

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About the Author

Eric Holt-Giménez, PhD, spent over 25 years in Mexico and Central America as a community organizer and agricultural outreach worker. He is executive director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy.

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Praise for Campesino a Campesino

“Eric’s book is a model for how to build farmer capacity for using agroecology for solving problems and building alternatives in their farming systems. This book will prove to be a benchmark for farmer-based partnerships in sustainable development. It is a reflection of Eric’s commitment to making a real difference for rural communities in Latin America. Eric’s goal has always been to empower farmers to build local capacity, autonomy, and self-sufficiency. He shows us how the best agroecologists are often the farmers themselves. We have much to learn from them. Campesino a Campsino will stand for a long time as the example of how to de meaningful participatory action research.”

–Stephen R. Gliessman, Alfred Heller Chair in Agroecology, Program in Community and Agroecology, Department of Environmental Studies University of California Santa Cruz

“Engagingly written, this book tells the story of a powerful social movement that originated in Guatemala and spread through Mexico, Nicaragua and Cuba. Holt-Giménez’s highly knowledgeable account of the Campesino a Campesino movement offers us an alternative vision of sustainable development, one that is truly bottom-up rather than top-down. This book promises to be an excellent teaching tool for undergraduate and graduate students alike.”

–Rachel Schurman, Associate Professor Sociology and Global Studies University of Minnesota

“Campesino a Campesino is perhaps the world’s foremost sustainable agriculture movement, and everyone concerned about the future of farming should study it. This book is the essential guide to the history and lessons of this crucial movement.”

–Peter Rosset, Land Research Action Network

“This innovative and engaging book is of immense significance for understanding development and environmental sustainability, both in Latin America and beyond. Drawing on extensive, long-term involvement in the Campesino a Campesino Movement, Holt-Giménez describes how Mayan campesinos in Guatemala pioneered methods of soil and water conservation and farmer-to-farmer pedagogy that they first shared with each other and then with small agriculturalists in Mexico, producing effective practices of agroecosystem management, nonhierarchical communication and local social change that peasants themselves eventually spread throughout Central America and the Caribbean. This book tackles some of today’s most complicated political, ecological and economic conundrums and, in the campesinos’ compelling stories, we come to understand that viable alternatives exist in even the most impoverished zones of rural Latin America.”

–Marc Edelman, Professor of Anthropology, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, author of Peasants Against Globalization

Grassroots development at its best! While many cross-border networks get called transnational social movements, this one’s the real thing. Holt-Giménez creatively chronicles the history and impact of twenty-five years of campesino innovation in sustainable agriculture in Mesoamerica.

–Jonathan A. Fox, Professor, Latin American and Latino Studies Department, University of California, Santa Cruz

Download the Table of Contents.

Download the Preface.

Download the Introduction.

Download Chapter One, “Emergence: Mayan Roots, Mexican Branches, Nicaraguan Fruit”

Click here for instructions on requesting a review, desk or course adoption copy of this book.

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