Mario Miguel Costa Grecco

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1996
Unión Cooperaria Cololó


This profile was prepared when Mario Miguel Costa Grecco was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
An agronomist by profession, Mario Costa is demonstrating that it is possible to create sustainable farming businesses run jointly by human services professionals, farmers, and abandoned and orphaned children. He is also demonstrating that this setting, organized on a communitarian basis, is ideal for providing the children with a healing and caring environment in which to grow up, and the social and technical skills needed to move on into society as productive young adults. Mario is piloting these ideas on a formerly-defunct cooperative farm in an agricultural region of western Uruguay, where he aims to show that declining rural areas can be revitalized by young people capable of and committed to living on the land.
Through three decades of work in human services, agricultural extension, and communitarian methods of production, Mario has integrated a number of insights that together make his current initiative unique in its approach. First, he has found that children in public and private care institutions fare better when they feel that they are part of a community, when they can identify with something larger and purposeful. Second, he has seen that as the children of farmers migrate to the city in ever greater numbers, there is an older generation of farmers with no one to whom they can pass their skills. Third, the cities and the urban economy simply cannot absorb the swelling populations of rural migrants. Fourth, many of his friends and colleagues caring for children in institutions are very open to re-locating to rural areas should that offer better conditions for the children.
Mario is putting into practice his beliefs and insights in a project intended to cause a major shift in the organization of farming cooperatives and the care of abandoned and orphaned children in Uruguay and beyond. He has taken over a failing farm organized on a cooperative basis and transformed it into a model caring center for children. The children's home-cum-collective farm is showing a profit, thanks in part to the large numbers of neighboring farmers he has involved as friends, advisors and occasional contributors to the project.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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