The Farm Experience Internship (FEI) : experiences from Brazil

Part of a joint initiative the Farming Systems Ecology group  of Wageningen University offers a new course the Farm Experience Internship (FEI). This course is presented and discussed in Grassroots Science event next July 4. See the earlier blog for more info. The course is inspired by a similar course in Brazil. Below Heitor Texeira, student from Federal University of Vicosa and currently intern at Stichting Otherwise and ILEA, tells about the Brazilian experiences and about course starting for the first time summer, from 11th to 30th of August. See for more information on the FEI course also the site of the Boerengroep.

By Heitor Texeira

The Estágio Interdisciplinar de Vivência

In Brazil family farmers and traditional communities play a very important role concerning food production and conservation of natural resources. They are responsible for the production of approximately 70% of the food consumed in the country and in many cases manage their production systems in a more sustainable way, seeking for the integration between nature and agriculture. Although their great contribution for society, the knowledge developed and disseminated in educational institutes of superior level is often disconnected from the reality and needs of family farmers. On the one hand their traditional knowledge is underestimated regarding research and extension at the University. On the other hand the knowledge produced at educational institutes is too theoretical and often orientated towards large scale industrial agriculture, creating gaps between family farmers’ needs and research. Besides, many University students of agriculture-related topics have no experience with farms or farming and are not aware of what`s happening on the ground.

Based on that and supported by Social Movements, it was initiated in 1989 by University students a project called Estagio Interdisciplinar de Vivencias (EIV), in the municipality of Dourados, Mato Grosso State. The EIV is a tentative to bring closer University and Society, Scientific and Traditional knowledge. The students are sent to experience and live the rural reality of family farmers and social movements, making possible to connect what they learned in the farm with their studies, as well as, develop their critical thinking. This open space for new possibilities of intervention and dialogue, during and after the process of academical education of the students. Currently the initiative gained national scope, being adopted in many Universities throughout the country.

In the Federal University of Vicosa – MG, the EIV started as an extension project in 1996, developed in partnership with the Landless Movement (MST – http://www.mstbrazil.org/), Atingidos por Barragens Movement (MAB – http://www.mabnacional.org.br) and a local NGO called Center for Alternative Technologies of Zona da Mata (CTA-ZM – www.ctazm.org.br). The process involves students from different disciplines and is divided in three main stages: Preparation (6 days), Farm Experience (13 days) and Collective evaluation (4 days).

Nowadays the EIV is gaining recognition inside the University but also in a national level. Recently the government created a financial line for extension projects directed exclusively for the development of EIV`s. Any public Brazilian University can have access to this resource through an annual call for applications.

Got interested in this idea?

At Wageningen University a new course is being developed jointly with Farmer Systems Ecology chair group with a similar approach and goals of the Brazilian EIV`s. It`s the result of the collective work of students, professors and different organizations towards a more resilient and sustainable agriculture and more integration between farmers and University. The course is called Farm Experience Internship (FEI) and will be offered for the first time this summer from 11th to 30th of August. Want to know more and participate? Visit http://www.boerengroep.nl/interdisciplinary-farm-experience/ or contact us via the e-mail: farmexperienceinternship@gmail.com

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