jueves, 9 de junio de 2011

Women empowerment or lettuces in your balcony?

I am unsure if I have truly explained what I am doing in this project. I guess the story has to do with a quite successful consultant that one day decided that his comfort zone was asphyxiating him. So he quit his well-paid job, gave up his nice apartment with an astonishing view at the city of hope (Mexico City of course), his car, his furniture and the most important: left a girl that seemed to be perfect for establishing a head (literal translation of sentar cabeza in mexican). These sacrifices were made hoping to make a better impact in the world. My major desire is that when my grandchildren ask me why the world changed so much in my lifetime and I explain the reasons I can answer to the terrible question of: "And what did you do to prevent it from happening?" with a convincing response.

The purpose of my actual studies is to understand the complex systems of human-natural interactions in the road towards development. Specifically the multiple challenges in each sector and how these challenges are all interconnected in a complex manner, meaning that you can have positive and negative feedbacks that intensify small changes in one variable.

If I eat one more plantain I will truly go crazy.
My project has to do with the use of GIS to provide a cross-sectoral decision-support analysis that helps answer some questions in this development aid project (not to be confounded with a humanitarian effort). The idea is that by orchestrating a set of proven interventions we can provide sufficient traction to a community to lift herself out of the vicious cycle of generalized extreme poverty.

When I first came to Columbia I was completely focused on Urban Agriculture and appropriate self-sustaining technologies that should help us produce all of our needs in a grassroots initiative. I remember one of my first conversation with one of my colleagues was that the single most important thing was women empowerment and girl education. I was shocked by this idea, a single magic bullet sector could solve things in the short-run. I argued back that for me there was no single intervention and that increased agricultural yields where in any case more important than who goes to school. WIthout food it doesn't really matter that you are teaching them how to use wikipedia.

The reaction was: "So basically you are comparing lettuces with women".

School garden with lettuces. Girl enrollment has also increased thanks to a couple of interesting interventions. The answer is women and lettuces... and men and tomatoes.. and maps?
What do you answer in this situation? I just sighed and thought that there is very long road to walk to be able to talk openly about gender issues.

I like women and I like lettuce but if god had wanted me to eat that much lettuce he would have made me a rabbit.

Anyway, those that achieve food and water self-sufficiency have a much greater resilience too any socio-natural disaster.

So start growing your own lettuces...

P.S. By the way we have been without water for two days already...

2 comentarios:

  1. Why choose one intervention over another? I think a world full of smart, educated, lettuce-fed women is a pretty nice image.

    Bummer about the water situation. We have no running water in our house, period, but our neighbors have been helping us secure enough buckets of (dusty) water to wash dishes and shower. The MVP office has a luxurious flush toilet - we make as many visits as possible during the work day :-P

    Keep the blog posts coming!

  2. I'm glad you are not a rabbit, Stephane. Keep posting! And know that you are not alone in being utterly sick of plantains (and fish, and yams) after only a few days...