Inspired by the Agenda 21 Program developed by the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development, the municipality of La Huacana created an alternative development strategy based on environmental sustainability. The principles of this development model are institutional, economic (particularly for rural areas), social, and environmental.
Some of the main objectives of the Model, which includes La Huacana’s 2005-2007 Strategic Plan for Sustainable Municipal Development, are: to establish an efficient administration that is both professional and transparent, to encourage active participation of social actors in the decision-making processes of the local government, to support a culture that promotes caring for the environment and rationing natural resources, and to emphasize economic development connected to the production, commercialization, and financing of agriculture (particularly cattle ranching and fishing).
As an integral part of the project, innovators proposed networking across government agencies to extend the program’s effectiveness. Through networking, reformers have been able to apply worldwide standards of sustainability to projects across the municipality. All development measures are undertaken by consensus, a consensus of both government employees and community leaders. By gaining active public support for these development projects, reformers have worked to guarantee that citizens feel ownership in the newly proposed public works process, giving a degree of stability and continuity to public projects. To ensure that La Huacana’s initiatives are in compliance with global standards of sustainability, the program has solicited monitoring and observation by the World Bank, the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN), and Michoacana University. Also, by using this innovative model for development, La Huacana has been successful in attracting financing and technical assistance from the Secretariats of Agriculture (SAGARPA), Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), and Social Development (SEDESOL), at both the state and federal levels.
The La Huacana Model provides an example of how city government can direct the use of natural resources. At the municipal level, reformers have a unique opportunity to integrate government with civil society organizations to give beneficiaries of development initiatives a sense of ownership; through project design, community members can also direct the allocation of resources to areas they perceive to be particularly in need of development. Management of city funds becomes transparent and regularized through active citizen oversight, which in turn increases public trust in the professionalism and commitment of local government team members. Social participation by, for example, cattle and fishing associations, has been essential to achieve the government’s development objectives.