This profile was prepared when Jaime Idrovo was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Jaime Idrovo believes that combining pre-colonial agricultural techniques with those of post-modern organic agriculture can help indigenous farmers economically and socially. Jaime's twenty years of archeological experience convinced him that every society develops its technology from a vantage point that incorporates the natural environment and resource base, forms of social organization and economy and the common ideology and culture. Jaime's research demonstrates that the re-introduction of pre-colonial techniques for irrigation, terracing and cultivation can dramatically improve agricultural yields, especially when combined with the new "permaculture" methods now sweeping the world in the wake of the shipwreck of high-input "modern" agriculture. The social benefits of Jaime's approach may be even more significant than the direct material benefits. By demonstrating the enduring wisdom of ancestral knowledge, the long-oppressed and culturally-demeaned indigenous farmer of the Andes can see how the practices of his or her ancestors are more effective than those of the modern system."Without recovering its identity, no people can march along their own path, nor satisfy their aspirations of justice and equity, in harmonic development with nature," says Jaime. Thus, his approach emphasizes that the community must lead each phase of the program, which always begins a systematic inquiry into the cultural-historical context of the technology in the area.