Arturo García Jimenez

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1988


This profile was prepared when Arturo García was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1988.
The New Idea
Garcia has created a successful model of peasant-owned and operated cooperatives which have been more effective than the government institutions which were created to help the campesino population. Garcia has created these parallel structures of self-help cooperatives which are helping campesinos control the production, marketing, and distribution of local cash crops, especially coffee, wood, and coconuts.For years, Atoyac, in the state of Guerrero, has been the epicenter of a violent struggle between poor farmers who are fighting for their livelihood and the repression of this group by a privileged minority who control the production, distribution, and marketing processes. Garcia grew up in a family of 13 children, the son of a poor farmer, in Guerrero, and developed a clear understanding of the struggle and the failed strategies of the farmers. After an apprenticeship during which he developed small cooperatives just outside the Atoyac region, Garcia created a new model of campesino organization which has been extremely effective. The model is based on three key components:
(1)It is focused on economic rather than political objectives. For example, campesinos, who are wary of any "organizers" following the long, bitter years of government repression, meet other campesinos from successful cooperatives and hear of the economic benefits that have been achieved through cooperative work. They develop a new understanding of rural development, in which the individual is an active participant, a controlling player in the development of the community.
(2)The model of campesino organization is non-confrontational. Garcia goes directly to government institutions and functionaries and explains the campesinos' new plans and strategies for economic development. He has opened a new dialogue (to the surprise of many government leaders) between the campesinos and the political leaders in this region. In effect, he has moved away from political confrontations and instead brandishes economic production reports which authenticate the campesinos' economic reform demands.
(3)The campesino organizations parallel the government institutions which haven't been successful. For example, Garcia's campesino bank, because it is free of detailed control and government bureaucracy, offers lower rates of credit with easier terms than the Government Banco de Credito Agricola. Garcia's distribution centers, which are not held back by the inefficiency and corruption of the government distribution network, are far more successful economically. His organization has even begun selling its coffee direct to sympathetic cooperative organizations in France, the U.K., and Germany.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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