José Dias Campos
This profile was prepared when José Dias Campos was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Despite increasing attention on the need for appropriate technologies, most government- led efforts to combat drought, including a widely publicized effort to install a million new cisterns across the region, have met limited success. Hampered by a centralization of resource management and a lack of community participation, they have failed to address the fundamental problems arising from a culture of dependency and clientelism amongst local farmers. Through the Center for Popular Education and Social Training (CEPFS), José developed a system to manage a series of communal lending pools that loan directly to individual farmers at the local level. Locally-managed commissions oversee the loans, collectively deciding which investments to finance and how to manage repayment. In turn, these commissions receive support from an Itinerant Council: A monthly meeting space in which two communities make presentations about their funds and other community development projects, and with the help of community advisers, debate whatever themes and issues arise. Beyond making more efficient use of resources, the Itinerant Councils have enhanced community engagement and inspired farmers to take a more proactive approach to dealing with drought. Along with the Itinerant Councils, José established an experimental site near the headquarters of CEPFS, in which farmers can provide firsthand insight into the development of new technologies, thereby ensuring their immediate buy-in and further enhancing community participation.