Building learning networks for small-scale farmers: Pachamama Raymi as an innovative knowledge management system
Javier Cabero and Willem van Immerzeel
PachamamaRaymi (Raymi for short) is a capacity building system built in a creative and non orthodox search for introducing new and better solutions for agricultural innovation and natural resources management. The design of Raymi was a persistent quest, always looking to improve the creation and introduction of new technologies to care for Pachamama, ‘Mother Earth’ in Quechua, the language of the Incas.Pachamama Raymi means ‘Fiesta of Mother Earth’. The development of Pachamama Raymi started in 1986, when Huub van der Zel, a Dutch rural development expert from PRODERM1, was looking for ways to improve field irrigation techniques in a great number of irrigation systems constructed by this project, located in the mountain areas of Cusco, Peru. Van der Zel decided to entrust his compatriot Willem vanImmerzeel with the field irrigation-training program. An unorthodox proposal ensued: to use contests with cash prizes, within a setting of traditional rituals with music, dance and theatre, to honor the Pachamama (Mother Earth in Quechua). The irrigation trainers were other farmers, traditional experts known as ‘Unu Kamayoq’2, heirs to pre-Inka gravity irrigation techniques, which are laborsaving and allow a highly efficient use of water. These techniques are still considered superior to those used elsewhere in Peru, or even the rest of the world (Kosok 1965). Van Immerzeel’s inspiration came from the Dutch rural tradition of ploughing contests; along with the acknowledgement of the pivotal role of culture3 in the agriculture of the Andean region (also the case in many African and Asianrural traditions). He also found that there was very valuable local knowledge and knowhow, which had proven its worth over centuries, very well adapted to the scarcity of resources. This knowledge and knowhow, however, was not evenly distributed over the population, and it required a great deal of effort to find those exceptional people who possess it. Contests, rituals devoted to Pachamama(Mother Earth) and farmer-to-farmer training became the cornerstones of the Pachamama Raymi system. This first experience evolved into a knowledge management system, mainly dedicated to agricultural innovation and management of natural resources. This rather intuitive creation of Raymi was later understood and completed by theoretical reflections about why it was so capable of producing such successes.On
Cabero, J. and W. van Immerzeel. 2007 Building learning networks for small-scale farmers: Pachamama Raymi as an innovative knowledge management system. Knowledge Management for Development Journal 3(2): 52-63 www.km4dev.org/journal
that basis, methodological elements were incorporated (Van Immerzeel and Nuñéz del Prado, 1994). The Raymi methodology has spread to several regions andprojects of Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, Chile and Ecuador in the two decades since its creation. The methodology was designed and subsequently applied in several projects of the European Union, which found that Raymi was “the most effective capacity building system in use in their projects in Latin America”. 4 In 2004 and 2005 Raymi was adapted to be used on another continent, to improve watermanagement in polders of the coastal area of Bangladesh. Polders are large, extremely flat and low lying areas surrounded by embankments. The polders drain on, or take water in from surrounding rivers and canals. Only very recently, Raymi was proposed to be introduced in Burkina Faso, to improve the efficiency of rainwater use in a participatory way and to stimulate Sahelian villages and communities...