Ramon Aristides Valencia Arana

Ashoka Fellow
San Salvador, El Salvador
Fellow Since 2003


This profile was prepared when Ramon Aristides Valencia Arana was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003.
The New Idea
In the wake of a devastating civil war in El Salvador, Ramón has developed a model of democratic self-organization that allows communities to overcome deep divisions, fight poverty and environmental degradation, and effectively confront the ruinous natural disasters of recent years. When the 1992 Peace Accords ended years of civil conflict, the Salvadoran government transferred land to large numbers of displaced persons. In many cases this led to the creation of new communities housing combatants from both sides of the war. Ramón recognized that land distribution was only the beginning. Without organizing themselves in a cooperative way to overcome war-based divisions, the communities would never withstand the task of creating a new regional economy, particularly in a high-risk area prone to drought and flooding.
Ramón cultivated a process of organization, production, and conflict resolution that provides a foundation to address common problems in a way that is applicable to war and peace zones alike. He worked with communities to develop La Coordinadora (The Coordinator), a participatory structure through which all members of the community work together to identify problems and implement solutions. At first, this democratic process did not interact with the official government, which did not reach down to the level of communities. But later, the process became the basis of how government is built in that region. The model–which has fostered peace, safety, food security, livelihood, and environmental preservation–gained national attention when, in 1998, the region organized by La Coordinadora was the only area of El Salvador without fatalities from the devastating Hurricane Mitch.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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