Modeling of Social Networks of communication for rural development in marginalized zones in Latin America

Author: Juan Felipe Nuñez Espinoza. June 2008

Director: Xavier Álvarez del Castillo
Department: Catedra Unesco de Sostenibilitat
Date: 26 June 2008


The concept of rural social networks, as a social relational structure made of nodes that are tied by actors such as small farmers, rural development projects, non-governmental organizations, public institutions, universities and other participants, can be very useful to study the communicational relationship between different actors in a wide and diverse territory like Latin America.

It is known that many social networks are faced with challenges like the following one: how to find the best strategies in order to develop and generate synergies that do not only permit the exchange of general information, but also of strategic knowledge which permits the reinforcement of innovative, creative and productive capabilities of many poor rural communities that are trying to resolve two essential problems. The first one is how to get out of the stage of poverty (or, at least, manage to survive), and the second one is how to get enough information in order to understand changes (climatic, economic, social, etc) that are occurring in the world and that are not only affecting the urban and industrialized societies, but the whole world, especially the poorest countries and their most sensitive and fragile populations like the rural communities.

The study of rural social networks, as a functional communicational system, provides an interesting point of view towards that direction.

The author studied two social networks that were working with rural communities, non-governmental organizations, small farmers and rural development projects. The first one is a network named National Network of Sustainable Rural Development (RENDRUS), which is receiving financial support from different governmental levels in Mexico. The second one is a network which involves several Latin American countries including Mexico. It is called Initiative of Human Nutrition and it was financed by international sponsoring. Although the two social networks emerged and worked on different scales, they followed similar objectives, they used similar strategies, and they consisted of similar actors: small poor farmers, rural communities, rural development projects, universities and non-governmental organizations. The most important point is that they allowed the exchange of information and knowledge between actors that are not only different in cultural terms, but they are located in distant geographical regions as well.

The topic of social rural networks is not a new one, but it is necessary to continue its study in order to know more about the social complexity in which this phenomenon is developing and occurring. The rural communities have been studied for a long time, but we are not able to understand its social dynamics yet, especially the facts of exchange and improvement of knowledge, technology, and equipment developed locally by rural communities that do not only belong to a specific country, but to several Latin American countries and regions.

These types of studies are valuable for the creation of communication and development models of rural communities in order to confirm the effectiveness of rural social networks as a mechanism to exchange information between rural people, about how to improve their local agricultural systems in order to have a higher income and better food to improve their social conditions, especially in those days that the climatic changes have made social life conditions worse.

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