Reviving Farming in Mexico

Reviving Farming in Mexico

A small farmer in Oaxaca, Mexico is spreading knowledge of ancient farming techniques to discourage citizens from abandoning their land.

The Mixteca highlands, where Jesús León Santos resides, is home to some of the most barren land in Mexico. However, in the last two decades, León and a group of farmers have worked to reclaim and reforest the land. Farmers are getting bigger yields a reason to stick around by adopting long-discarded farming techniques.

As the land has begun to produce again, Mr. León has reintroduced the traditional milpa, a plot where corn, climbing beans and squash grow together. The pre-Hispanic farming practice fixes nutrients in the soil and creates natural barriers to pests and disease.

Although the yields are tiny in comparison to mechanized, bulk-producing farms located elsewhere, they're enough to provide the option for people to remain on their own land — and in their own country.

Mexican farmers continue to abandon their land and migrate to the U.S., some because their soil is unproductive or they can no longer compete under Nafta. And those who remain face escalating global food prices. As one former Oaxacan farmer put it to AP, "Not only are farmers not growing food, but we are going hungry because we can't afford the foreign food that drove us off our farms."

León’s aspiration is to give options for a better life in Mexico itself. So far, his strategies have given some farmers an opportunity they haven't had in centuries.

For those of you interested in learning more about the Mixteca highlands and how farmers are implementing ancient agricultural practices, check out the book The Other Game: Lessons from How Life is Played in Mexican Villages.

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