In the austral spring of 1992, representatives from 10 rural communities officially committed to rescuing the future for farm families in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The representatives had been meeting since 1989, a year before Argentina’s notorious rate of hyperinflation peaked at some 20,000%. If the outlook was bleak, the group was determined. The members organized, elected a board of directors chaired by beekeeper Norberto Gorosito and became legally constituted.
The backbone of their strategy was a Centro Educativo para la Producción (CEPT), a school to prepare young adults for careers in agriculture and a springboard from which to promote development throughout the surrounding countryside.
“It was very hard,” Gorosito recalled when he spoke to us in 2002 — another turbulent time — about the initiative pioneered a decade before. “We were betting on a complete unknown and it was a huge gamble. What was the CEPT back then for the families in this area?”
The CEPT was an idea with tremendous appeal. As the 2012 fiscal year drew to a close, Federación de Asociaciones Centros Educativos para la Producción (FACEPT) prepared to celebrate its 20th anniversary with 37 CEPTs in operation and a reach that extends over 300,000 kilometers. At the IAF we awarded grants to FACEPT in 1995, 2001 and 2009 to support this expansion.
Each CEPT accomplishes its educational mission by recruiting in rural elementary classrooms just as parents are wrestling with whether to send their barely teenaged children away for secondary school. The CEPT's five-year course makes a decision in favor of more education much easier because CEPT students spend one week at school and two weeks acquiring directed, hands-on experience on the family farm. Teachers make frequent house calls to supervise students, especially during the required income-generating practicum in the final year. Teachers also further FACEPT’s development function with the family and the community by encouraging, for example, collaborative animal husbandry, group purchases, the adoption of uniform standards and pooling harvests to sell in volume at better prices. FACEPT’s approach to academics prepares graduates to earn a living from farming or to undertake university studies.
"I don’t have words to thank the CEPT," one parent said of the opportunities FACEPT offers.