In one of the world’s most arid environments, a team of agronomists -living in an agricultural coop- managed to develop, test, implement and promote a number of successful alternative agricultural methods, extremely well suited for the region and allowing neighbouring peasants to regain a sustainable way of living.
Among the team were specialists on cattle, integrated land use, irrigation, organic manure, energy, business development, primary school teachers and community health specialists. Team members all started out with great ideas in their own a areas, eager to try them out and to find ways of making them work.
Yet the project’s first year was quite frustrating. Every individual specialist found herself blocked somewhere along the road –waiting for the necessary contributions of other team members, who were all busy doing their own thing-. During the first year, the team wasn’t able to bring a single idea into fruition.
Then they decided to change their method and to work on one alternative technology at a time, each time with the entire team of specialists –even if not all specialities were fully needed-. And to start something new only when the technology was really ready and tested. At first it was challenging. However, the team discovered that a specialist in one area could be very helpful in another. Valuable enough to make the project progress a lot faster, simply by doing hands-on tasks. To everyone’s surprise, the eyes of outsiders also helped to improve the quality of the solutions, by asking “stupid” questions or comparing to other fields of expertise. It also helped that only the completion of a new technology, would allow a new project to be launched. This way they managed to fully develop and implement three innovative technologies per year and to teach them to the neighbouring peasants.