Caring for the environment

Extension Work

The Montaña de Guerrero region of Mexico has many problems and is one of the poorest areas of the country. The three ethnic groups who live there – the Mixteco, the Nahua and the Tlapaneco – survive through farming the steep slopes and raising cattle. Overgrazing, soil erosion and deforestation are common.

The Central Mennonite Committee began working in 1992 with a secondary school and set up the ‘Centre for Developing Resources for the Small Farmer’. Both students and farmers learn through demonstrations and practical work to become more aware of environmental issues, returning sometimes to traditional wisdom for producing food and caring for the environment. The school has eight hectares where various kinds of ditches and natural barriers have been built to control soil erosion, using two types of forage grass to improve soil fertility. Small terraces are used for growing vegetables and many local trees are planted. Natural methods of pest control, intercropping, seed selection of traditional varieties and ways of improving soil fertility with composting and manure are all practised.

After several years of working with students, a group of twelve peasants from Chiepetlán began using many of these practices on their own land with great success.

Our experience shows that, as agricultural advisors, we have to have a great deal of patience. We have to motivate people by example, encouraging them to adopt and adapt new ideas, but never imposing them. Our work should always lead to more sustainable agricultural methods.

Jesús Gustavo López Sánchez, UH Fovisste ‘Las Aquilas’, CP 62470, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.