In spite of the devastating loss of incomes due to coffee rust and severe drought in the region, hardworking participants in the seven communities of FRB’s Mexico-Chiapas program are managing to produce food for home consumption and sale for income. The program has supplied families with 750-liter water tanks in order to collect rooftop water whenever it does rain.
Doña Angélica said the first rains this year were few and sparse but she was able to fill her tank easily. Afterward, there was a period of 20 days without rain but, she said with joy, “Every day, for almost one month, I could water my plants with just a little bit of water, just enough so that they would survive until the next rain. My crops survived, and my family was happy because we knew we would have vegetables to eat.”
Don Rómulo lives in a community amidst the Sierra Madre mountains. He and his neighbors are now using organic farming methods to grow food, including traditional medicinal plants and native varieties, on the slopes. Romulo produces lettuces, radishes, chard and cilantro for his family to eat, and sells any surplus in a market town five hours away on foot.
Sometimes he has the bus fare, but other times he starts out walking at 2 a.m. to arrive in time for the earliest customers. From his first harvest, he was able to sell 82 lettuces, 20 bundles of chard and as many of cilantro. On his way back home he used his earnings to buy sugar, salt, butter and other necessities. He and other participating families are setting aside a portion of their land to grow vegetables for seed, thus saving money on seed purchases.
One of the program communities was recently nominated for an award that recognized their work on cultivating vegetable gardens for alternative income. All the communities involve the whole family – from elders to children – in making organic compost, exchanging wisdom and experiences, respecting the land and traditional medicine, and cultivating a culture of peace. The local communities are focused on becoming self-sustaining, producing enough nutritious food for health and wellbeing, and extra to sell for income so that families members do not have to migrate to look for work.
Mexico-Chiapas encompasses 10 communities, 170 households, and 620 individuals