Lidiethe Madden Arias
San José, Costa Rica
Fellow Since 1999
This profile was prepared when Lidiethe Madden Arias was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999.
The New Idea
Lidiethe Madden Arias is challenging farmers to take advantage of existing opportunities for commercialization of their produce. She understands that rural improvement strategies must move beyond the status quo of crop enhancement and land management training, to focus instead on effective agricultural business development. To that end, she has designed an approach with two components. The first is a demonstration farm, set up to promote alternative production processes, new uses of natural resources, and marketing techniques. The second is a training and technology transfer center. Through technical assistance, credit, and access to the Costa Rican and international markets, the center helps peasant families to organize themselves and produce outputs that are marketable, of reasonable quality, and ecologically sustainable. Lidiethe has established the demonstration farm and proven the value of the model, identified the reasons for its success, systemized the project for later replication, and increased participation by the peasants benefiting from the farm. Lidiethe has a lively and participatory style of instruction, which she has organized into a set of educational modules. She helps men and women develop new methods of production and management, based on the training and their own experience. She also promotes the values of solidarity, commitment, self-management, and innovation, which are fundamental to the success of community organizations and the coordination of these organizations with their environment.