This program was defined to be applied in a long term, from 2002 to 2010, including its Structure, Goals, Terms of Reference, Guiding Principles and Methodology.
Goals were defined as: a) to strengthen capacities of community groups, increasing their self-management abilities; b) to improve local dwellers’ knowledge about their territory, c) to promote equity in community access to such resources, through sustainable practices; and d) to achieve a permanent sustainable development process, linked but not dependable of government institutions, universities and civic groups.
The program is based on 10 Guiding Principles: 1) Facilitate the organization and strengthening capacities of communities, 2) promote the use of land based on its natural vocation, 3) strengthening community management and diversified use of natural resources, 4) comply the current legal framework, 5) promote equitable access to natural resources, 6) give priority to productive activities to meet basic needs and integration in local and regional markets, 7) to conduct ongoing research and monitoring, 8) promote multiple mechanisms of financing, 9) count with a facilitating group to provide advice and help decision making process, 10) structure conditions for a coordinated institutional participation in support of the settlers decisions.
Given the social, ecological and economic context of the region and considering the budget constraints and difficulties of political-administrative nature, it was chosen, using the 10 Guiding Principles, conduct the activities with communities using four methodological criteria, being these Dialogue of knowledge: use both the knowledge of community groups and the technical advisors, since both are complementary; Use of generative questions, foster generation of answers from participants to identify problems and solutions, based on the experiences and knowledge of the community; Differentiation of responsibilities: emphasizing that it is the right and obligation of each community to bear responsibility for their own development; Positivization of conflicts: to identify the existence of different points of view and interests, and the constant need of people to organize themselves to overcome difficulties through joint solutions.
Such principles were structured using two psychological theories, constructivism by Jean Piaget (Guzmán, 1993) which considers that knowledge it’s not provided but constructed within each individual and community; and Vygotsky’s theory (Leotiev, 1991), in the sense that learning is a socio-cultural process that considers the particular context of learning as determinant of development. Also during the project were incorporated and/or improved instruments of communication, transparency and accountability.
An advantage of using such methodological criteria instead of fixed methodologies is that with a small but permanent technical group it’s possible to cover a wide range of situations with lower cost than through the recruitment of specialists for each stage of the program (characterization, diagnosis, structuring of work programs, project development, processing and management, implementation, monitoring and accountability). Also the permanence of concrete persons from the technical group is important because linkages with communities require mutual trust, a condition not easily constructed or achieved overnight.
To provide an easy to understand Structure, six modules were defined as described:
Module 1: Organization strengthening: It’s the base of the process. Includes problem identification and ranking, problem-source analysis, reinforcement or creation of legal and administrative structures; decision-making improvement (defining specific responsibilities). Finally, structuring of working projects and plans, including follow-up roles and rules. Derived projects can then be defined to be included in any of the other five modules.
Module 2: Forest improvement: Include restoration, conservation and productive activities such as soil conservation, seeding, forest pest control and prevention, forestry, tree nurseries, payment for environmental services, ecotourism, wild fruit recollection, etc.
Module 3: Agricultural improvement: Include soil conservation activities, training to prepare and use biofertilizers and compost, seed banks, organic agriculture, multi-purpose crops, etc.
Module 4: Livestock improvement: Include health controls, stabling, grazing control and rules, multi-purpose farms, genetic improvement, among others.
Module 5: Productive alternatives: Several non-traditional approaches to include other productive activities or improve those already existing but with low profile: honey production, collecting of wild sweet potatoes, medicinal plants, flowers production and others.
Module 6: Ecotechnologies: Any kind of easy to install and reproduce technology, with low maintenance cost: rainwater catchment systems, biodigestors, dry toilets, solar stoves, firewood-saving stoves, etc. Such technologies must have an easy to perceive positive effect, in order to foster its quick reproduction, preferably with local materials.
Deriving from Module 1 (Organization strengthening) a set of 11 participative management plans were prepared, which particular needs and priorities had to be assigned to each one of the other five modules. As a whole, more than 100 specific projects were successfully funded and applied (see next section).
As a complementary field (not directly involving community participation) it was necessary to create “Research activities”, taking into account the small number of documents relating CCMR and the importance of monitoring the process to understand its changes and proceed to adjust the program. As part of this, biology inventories and expeditions were conducted (Figure 4), altogether with social studies.