What is the origin of your innovation? Tell the Changemakers and media communities what prompted you to start this initiative.
Over the past 35 years, I have worked with small farmers and farm workers in several Caribbean and Latin American countries as well as West and East Africa, developing ways of combining strategies for food production, environmental conservation and institutional capacity strengthening with issues of heritage, culture, family and community. This journey was started because my professional training as a soil scientist and agricultural economist taught me that the real impediments to food supply, wealth creation, stable communities and just societies were not technological. I understood then and believe even more now, that the real path to sustainable living is empowerment of local communities based on recognition and respect for their local knowledge and expertise, the true building blocks of sustainable living.
When I had the opportunity to become a Minister of Government in my country Dominica, first in 1979 and again in 2000, I was reminded that “nothing grows from the top, down” and that the failure of local, national and international governance structures to be guided by that simple fact is at the heart of much of the continued poverty, food deprivation, instability and social and environmental degradation that we see. I am fully convinced that since “the chain is as strong as its weakest link” real change comes only when we invest in strengthening the weakest links, our abandoned rural villages and communities. It must be the mission of those engaged in the ’modern’ service sectors like tourism, to note the lesson of the chain and recognize the need to build these sectors on the basis of partnerships with the rural/agricultural sectors of our countries.
We can continue along the path of imitating the ‘development’ strategies still promoted by the international donor and financial community and face the prospects of more conflict for dwindling resources, accelerated climate change, exploding poverty amidst food scarcity and war within and between nations. Or, we can decide that this is the wrong path and look to innovations from the local communities that have managed to survive in the midst of global chaos. We can accept that there is local knowledge that can ensure adequate supplies of quality food for all, preserve and protect vital water and soil resources and raise the esteem of local knowledge and experience to its rightful place among the more acknowledged bodies of knowledge sitting the Universities libraries of the world. We can start each time as we did in Giraudel/Eggleston, with an idea that challenges us to inventory our strengths, apply them to the task of making things better for ourselves and sharing that know how with others who wish to escape the treadmill of supervised poverty that is the lot of so many. The simple truth is, “the people know how” and we remain confident that one day we shall be able to take that to the bank.
Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.
Atherton Martin is a citizen of Dominica and a Cornell University-trained Agronomist and
Agricultural Economist. He worked for years as an organizer of agricultural producer cooperatives and small farmer associations in the Caribbean. Atherton has served twice as Minister of Agriculture in the Government of Dominica. He also served several terms as President of the Dominica Conservation Association and the Caribbean Conservation Association. As leader of a group of consultants he helped prepare the first Integrated Development Plan (IDP) for Dominica. In 1996 he completed construction of “Exotica” a small family-owned agro-eco Resort in Dominica, where the focus is organic production of fruits and vegetables, nutritious eating, wellness, community and, soft adventure. In 1998, for his work in protecting the Central Forest Reserves of Dominica from copper mining, Atherton was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for Islands.
Describe some unique tourist experiences that your approach provides. Be specific; give illustrative examples.
What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?
The experience of designing, presenting and managing this new product suggests that this approach can be replicated once the local knowledge and effort of groups of the area can be assembled around the task. More specifically, the potential for success and for replication in other communities depends on the presence of local “champions” who have embraced the cause of protection of the natural resources and cultural heritage of the community. The partnership requires persons and groups with intimate knowledge of the history, resources and work patterns of the area. Skills are needed in presenting new ideas and managing discussions in non- confrontational ways as well as in the preparation and presentation of the community consensus to third parties