AGRICULTURE : MAYANS : COUNTRIES: MEXICO : ENVIRONMENT GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE: Mayans Have Farmed The Same Way For Millennia. Climate Change Means They Can't

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AGRICULTURE : MAYANS : COUNTRIES: MEXICO : ENVIRONMENT GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE: Mayans Have Farmed The Same Way For Millennia. Climate Change Means They Can't

David Dillard
Administrator



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AGRICULTURE :

MAYANS :

COUNTRIES: MEXICO :

ENVIRONMENT GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE:

Mayans Have Farmed The Same Way For Millennia.
Climate Change Means They Can't

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Mayans Have Farmed The Same Way For Millennia.
Climate Change Means They Can't

February 3, 2017 12:00 PM ET

GABRIEL POPKIN

NPR

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/02/03/510272265/ 
mayans-have-farmed-the-same-way-for-millennia-
climate-change-means-they-cant

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A shorter URL for the above link:


http://tinyurl.com/jmdu8l6

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In recent years, however, Yam Moo and other Yucat milperos have struggled
to keep their farms alive. Climate change has brought erratic rainfall,
making the growing season less predictable. Yam Moo says he has always
planted his corn in May. But in 2015 for example, he says the rains didn't
come until August. And then it flooded. He lost most of his crop, he says.
Because milpa farming depends entirely on rainfall, which is never fully
predictable, "there has always been a level of uncertainty, and the Maya
have dealt with that for millennia," says JosMartez Reyes, an
anthropologist at the University of Massachusetts Boston. "But with
climate change, I think that uncertainty has grown exponentially."

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Years of unpredictable rainfall and failed crops pushed Yam Moo to find a
solution, and it's one that could in turn help fight climate change. Along
with other farmers in the area, he developed a modified milpa called
"milpa maya mejorada" or "improved Mayan milpa." Yam Moo no longer cuts
down new forests, but he still grows the same diversity of crops. And he
has incorporated into the ancient practice a host of modern techniques
that help him farm despite the more unpredictable rains. A recently
installed irrigation system, which relies on an above-ground rain water
collector (the Yucat has almost no surface water) ensures that Yam Moo can
survive droughts. And he has found that by tilling in compost, chicken
manure and other organic additions, he can grow far more crops per
hectare. The added nutrients keep the soil healthy and productive, meaning
he doesn't need to clear new ground as often, or perhaps at all.

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In 2015, after the rains ended in late summer, he replanted corn in a
nearby field, arranging seeds in tight rows with the aid of a small garden
tiller, and added organic fertilizers to boost yields. Later that year, he
planted beans and vegetables. "As long as you keep feeding the soil, the
soil will feed you," he says.

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Today, he's back on his feet, feeding his family with what he grows on his
plot. He hopes that his success can be a model for the more than 70,000
Yucat milperos who, like him, are facing the punishing effects of climatic
changes.

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Yam Moo's efforts have gotten some high-profile attention. As part of a
project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and
private donors, the environmental group Nature Conservancy (TNC) is
providing technical and financial support to get more farmers to adopt
improved milpa. By helping farmers like Yam Moo adapt to the changing
climate, TNC hopes to fight climate change, by reducing the deforestation
traditionally involved in milpa: the practice is estimated to cause up to
16 percent of the deforestation on the peninsula. At a larger scale, the
project aims to help Mexico receive payments from private companies and
governments of developed countries to combat climate change.

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"We're addressing drivers of deforestation with cutting-edge,
science-based practices that are good for the producer, that are good for
the ecosystem, and that mitigate climate change risks," says Mariana Vez
Laris, a local coordinator for TNC. The organic fertilizers and reduced
burning help soil microbes thrive, she says, while sparing forests and the
many species that thrive in them.

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The improved milpa project is still small, with only twenty-five milperos
in the area participating. But the staff at TNC has big hopes for it  they
see it as a key tool to reforest much of the Yucat peninsula. As milperos
transition away from slash-and-burn practices, TNC hopes that forests can
now regrow and soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

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As it is, milpa had been on the decline for decades, even before the
effects of climate change hit farmers hard. The expansion of cattle
ranching and large-scale mechanized agriculture, the Yucat's two largest
sources of deforestation, has dramatically reduced land available for
milpa. Moreover, younger generation of Mexicans have opted for other
professions, laments Silvia Teran, an anthropologist at the Gran Museo del
Mundo Maya (Museum of the Mayan World) in Mera. Many go to work in the
tourist resorts of Cancun and Tulum, or the kitchens of San Francisco and
Dallas. "There is almost no connection now between young people and the
milpa," she says.

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Despite these challenges, milpa has been witnessing a revival in recent
years, as tourists and Mexican consumers have started to seek organic,
locally grown alternatives to industrial food, says Teran.


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The complete article may be read at the URL above.

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