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Participatory rural appraisal as an educational tool to empower sustainable community processes

Solano Lara, Citlal, Fernández Crispín, Antonio, López Téllez, María Concepción
Journal of cleaner production 2018 v.172 pp. 4254-4262
community development, development projects, educational materials, humans, humid tropics, hydraulic fracturing, models, people, problem solving, social environment, sustainable communities
In response to attempts to establish unsustainable projects (fracking and hydroelectric plants) in an indigenous community in the Mexican humid tropics, this study aims to empower its citizenry using knowledge about the local biophysical and social environment and its associated problems, raising awareness of how to help solve these problems, and actively working towards their solution. Action Research and Community Problem-Solving was used to design a participatory rural appraisal workshop to analyze the situation from a cultural, biological and legal perspective in order to promote sustainable development on a human scale. The results of this research show that the Totonac community in the municipality of Huehuetla has deep knowledge about their environment and a close relationship with the land and the natural world. Despite this biological and cultural wealth, there are problems with disturbance and marginalization in the region, with a big part of the problem being a lack of autonomy in the community's management of its own resources. The final outcome of the workshops was a community action plan that managed to stop the implementation of development projects that threatened the native culture and its biocultural heritage. The educational model proposed proved to be useful in empowering the citizenry to confront the development of unsustainable projects. It also provided insight as to the formation of a new social base in which coexistence between indigenous and non-indigenous people is possible.