Discussing about degrowth in the Global South is often a delicate topic. Compelling issues might acquire priority in a deprived “developing” context. However, foreign aid is mostly self-interested and hence venomous: when help is heteronomous and adopted for long time, populations risk to have their metabolism and resilience compromised. Nonetheless, such populations have a strong point on their side: the heritage of a close cultural past, often loathed and repudiated for not meeting the requirements of the appealing Northern imaginary, but whose skills, concepts and values are still present in the minds of elder generations.
Cooperation and degrowth-oriented strategies for the Global South are discussed, starting from the appraisal of an academically-led project in El Salvador. There, after two decades of postwar international aid, a peasant community is facing the consequences of abrupt globalisation, while suffering from the jeopardising of its environment, health, culture, economy and societal organisation. Following a request for support in achieving sustainability, a community planning project free from growth-oriented claims was started: a participatory process was conducted, aimed at promoting people’s empowerment and community debate. Overcoming the subsidy mentality, this let the locals plan strategies for achieving (or restoring) durable acceptable living conditions. No conditioning was operated nor was the word degrowth ever mentioned, yet the community made significant choices: a new imaginary was drafted, and change proposed as a social challenge by reviving the community’s cultural heritage, including sharing, relocalisation and a shift to agroecology.
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Questioning or reconceptualising North-South cooperation? (Or how to support communities in choosing to avoid dead-end paths, and enter virtuous cycles instead)“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.