Date: November 2023
Author(s): Jonathan Fox and Carlos García Jiménez
Publication type: ARC Accountability Note
Published by: Accountability Research Center
In Mexico’s state of Guerrero, a broad-based, collaborative social accountability campaign led by a network of agrarian community leaders contributed to improving a large-scale free fertilizer program, targeted at smallholders.
In 2019, the newly-elected federal government took over a state government subsidy program that had been synonymous with clientelism and corruption, promising to clean it up and include access to organic fertilizer. When the program’s historic deficiencies persisted during its first year of transition to federal management, farmers responded with widespread, confrontational protest.
To address this chaotic situation, veteran activists and community leaders from across the state transformed protest into proposals, launching a participatory, statewide monitoring and advocacy campaign with the Guerrero Network of Ejido and Communal Commissioners.
The campaign advocated for the validation of program beneficiary rosters in community assemblies, based on federal agrarian law, also using the official public information request system. It helped to ensure the distribution of fertilizer to smallholder farmers, reduced diversion of fertilizer for corrupt or electoral purposes, and promoted more inclusion of women and indigenous smallholders.
Despite these achievements, the Network’s proposals for transparency, peasant participation, accountability, and agroecological transition were rejected by the government officials responsible for the fertilizer program. In response, the campaign coordinators shifted their focus to other government agricultural programs and coordinated with agrarian leaders in other states to launch their own advocacy platforms.
This organizing process led to the second Agrarian Convention of Guerrero, which included participation of agrarian leaders from a dozen other states, followed by regional meetings and state conventions in half of the country’s states. On April 10, 2023, five thousand agrarian leaders gathered in Mexico City for the First National Agrarista Convention.
Reflections on this experience include:
- The focus of the farmer oversight campaign on immediately felt needs generated social energy and inspired a new organizing strategy.
- The state-wide mobilization to promote better fertilizer delivery was grounded in revitalized civic life in historic local participatory governance institutions that were created following the Mexican Revolution. Elected leaders of these ejidos and agrarian communities gave the campaign both scale and legitimacy.
- Though mainly driven by grassroots organizing, the farmer oversight campaign also used technical open government tools.
- The campaign combined the monitoring of agricultural programs and local problem-solving with social mobilization, scaling up advocacy for greater recognition of peasant movement oversight to the national level.
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