By: Katie Redmiles| First Peoples Worldwide Communications Correspondent
In the face of severe water and soil contamination, Servicios para el Desarrollo Humano Sustentable (SDHS) created a project called Farmer-to-Farmer aimed at saving Tseltal farmer’s lands and community from the agricultural turmoil destroying the earth around them. The project combines agro ecological practices being taught and carried out through many Indigenous territories, as well as, integrating spiritual traditions and teachings into the process.
In areas across Mexico, especially in the region of Chiapas, the dominant agricultural practices use chemicals and industrial fertilizers to produce the mass demand for food for outside places. These chemicals and practices have caused sinister repercussions by destroying the soil and earth on which they farm, contaminating the water that is used by those who live in the area, creating a dependency on imported processed food leading to malnutrition, and allegedly cancers in children as a result of the poisoned drinking water. This haunting reality caused the SDHS to take action in an attempt to save the earth and people they love. The project was designed and implemented to bring the Indigenous communities together through organic traditional practices of nurturing and sustainably farming the land’s resources.
With a First Peoples Worldwide grant, the project was able to take a group of 20 Tseltal producers from a Pinabetal ranch and train them on technical knowledge and skills to safely use bio pesticides that are conducive to healthy soil and plant nutrition. During 10 workshops the project taught them how to manage and handle organic fertilizer and foliar. The workshops disseminated information about the harmful effects and technical process of the agrochemical practices and the benefits of reverting to traditional practices in order to remediate the disastrous effects of agrochemicals.
One of the more spiritual aspects of the project is the incorporation of the Maya Altar, with all of the participating producers from Mayan origin. Before each job is performed during the project they are to offer each other one’s hand and say a prayer asking permission from Mother Earth, the sun, the moon, and the water. The altar is made by placing all the products from the locality together and asking for permission to continue the work. By revitalizing the Maya Altar, the project strengthens the community’s ancestral knowledge and sense of belonging to one another and to Mother Earth. The methodology used to handle the natural resources, called Farmer-to-Farmer, also maintains ancestral respect and uses Indigenous knowledge to rescue the earth.
Servicios para el Desarrollo Humano Sustentable’s Farmer-to-Farmer project is a powerful testament to the positive change on the earth and in the community that occurs when reinstating Indigenous agricultural practices.
Sources: Servicios pare el Desarrollo Humano Sustentable’s Keepers of the Earth Fund grant application (translated).