In the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Doctors for Global Health works in partnership with Comunidades Campesinos en Camino (CCC- Rural Communities in Cooperation). Established in 1994, CCC is a rural agricultural worker’s collective that represents over 2000 local organic farmers in over 25 communities- indigenous men and women of Zapotec, Chontal, Mixtec, Ikoot, Chinantec and Zoque ancestry. In total, over 5000 community members including production workers, families, and support staff belong to CCC. The mission of CCC is to establish an alternative socio-economic model guided by principles of solidarity, transparency, community participation, advancement of human rights, and respect for the environment and local cultures. Values of respect and recognition of the rights of the poor are held in the highest regard.
Current project work in partnership with DGH integrates themes of health and wellbeing into the existing agricultural work of CCC, and is intended to meet the physical and mental health needs of agricultural workers and their families in the context of work and community life. Through education, health promotion, and participatory community health efforts, the project addresses health in the broadest sense- from individual and family wellbeing to the social factors that impact the health of communities.
Previously, DGH worked with El Centro Popular de Apoyo y Formación para La Salud (CEPAFOS- The Community Center for Health Training and Support). The current work with CCC builds on the prior work with CEPAFOS (which is no longer in operation). For over two decades, CEPAFOS provided greatly needed services to the marginalized populations of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, recovering ancestral knowledge of medicinal plants and natural therapies, and organizing and training groups of health promoters throughout the diverse regions of the Isthmus. The promotion of traditional healing practices as natural and inexpensive alternatives to conventional medicine was a cornerstones of the vision of CEPAFOS to support communities to strengthen their own wellbeing, and embodies the current project goals of CCC to put “la salud en manos del pueblo” (to put health in the hands of the commuity). To keep this vision alive, under construction is a medicinal garden of therapuetic plants at the headquarters of CCC in San Jose, Oaxaca.
Health promoter training: The approach and philosophy of CCC is to serve communities through health promoter training and sharing of cultural knowledge, to address not only specific disease states, but also the individual, social, and economic factors that affect health. CCC supports the full autonomy of each community and provide this by using a model of community accompaniment. The results are communities that are prepared to respond to the many threats to healthful ways of life with dignity and strength.
Therapeutic garden of medicinal plants: This project, currently a work in progress, aims to expand the use of medicinal plants for the health and healing of local communities in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The goal is to train health workers and communities that partner with CCC in the region on use of native plants for medicinal purposes, and to assist in cultivating medicinal gardens in local communities. The garden serves broader educational, ecological and cultural purposes, raising awareness throughout the region about the medicinal properties of plants and preserving native seeds and species. Patients, community members, and visiting health workers will be able to learn about these native plants. A bank of plants and seeds native to the region is currently being established for the preservation of knowledge and for communities to use to cultivate gardens.
Recommended Reading: Teaching Rebellion: Stories from the Grassroots Rebellion in Oaxaca, Diana Denham, CASA Collective; Zapotec Renaissance, Howard Campbell; No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy, Wendy Call.