Margarita Barney

Grupo para Promover la Educación y el Desarollo Sustentable (GRUPEDSAC)
Year founded: 

GRUPEDSAC’s mission is to educate, train and carry out activities for the creation of sustainable societies, offering sustainable solutions for low-income people, especially in rural areas.

Focus: Organic Agriculture, Eco-Training and Application of Technologies to Satisfy Basic Needs, Environment, Sustainable Community Development, Handicrafts, Housing, Rural Development, Corporate Volunteer Work, Environmental Education, Rural Eco-Tourism, Volunteerism
Geographic area of impact: Mexico and Latin America
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 12,000 (2011)
Annual Budget: US$ 1 million (2011)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 46%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Mexico, 2008

Although Mexico is considered an emerging market and middle-income country, many inequalities between the urban and rural populations remain. In the rural population of 24 million, 56% live below the poverty line and half are considered extremely poor. The GDP per capita in the rural area is 73% lower than the national average, life expectancy is 10 years less and infant mortality is three times higher than in cities. Poverty in the rural areas often translates into abandonment of fields, mass migration, inadequate housing and food insecurity. Environmental problems such as deforestation, water scarcity and land erosion, are exacerbated in rural communities. These problems are largely ignored and considered of lesser importance than the fight against poverty.

Innovation and Activities
GRUPEDSAC takes an integrated approach to solving the problems of rural poverty and environmental degradation. It does this through skills training and programmes of human development that increase a community’s organizational capacity and autonomy.

Through its learning centres in the states of Mexico and Oaxaca, GRUPEDSAC addresses a range of problems faced in rural Mexico, like the lack of water, energy, food insecurity, rural migration and inadequate housing. The centres provide hands-on training in appropriate technologies and methods of organic farming, rainwater harvesting, ecological construction, and solar and wind energy. All technologies are adapted to the respective environment and make sustainable use of the existing natural resources.
In addition, GRUPEDSAC revives cultural traditions and resources that have been neglected and underutilized and combines them with modern techniques. The organization also grants microfinance loans for the development of small business and housing improvements.

The training centres receive groups from Mexico and other parts of Latin America. Once trained, these experts then replicate the appropriate technologies in their countries. There are now nearly 30 centres throughout the region, all started by organizations trained at GRUPEDSAC and following its model. The government of the State of Mexico has also constructed eight small training centres in its most remote municipalities with the intention of introducing sustainable development in these areas.

GRUPEDSAC also works with children, adolescents, corporations and universities for environmental awareness, to increase social and environmental responsibility and promote sustainable income generating activities. It offers programmes in volunteerism and family rural ecotourism to benefit local communities.

The Entrepreneur
Born in the Mexican city of Chihuahua, Margarita Barney studied languages and became an interpreter and translator. She dedicated most of her adult life to the support of education in Mexico. As part of a group of young parents, she started a Montessori school in Chihuahua, and in Mexico City worked for a school that prepared Montessori teachers. Witnessing the pollution in Mexico City and the widespread indifference of its inhabitants, she carried out awareness-raising campaigns. Later, she studied ecology, population and development at the Ibero-American University and formed the group Environmental Volunteers of Tecamachalco, which later became GRUPEDSAC. Barney and GRUPEDSAC have been recognized nationally and internationally for their work.