Community Gardens from the Mayan Culture
How the ancient ways of the Mayan culture can provide an example of the future for our food security
Today is the final day of our practicum here in San Marcos la Laguna, Guatemala, in urban agriculture for the Huertos Para Todos Project where 30 volunteers have spent 7 days learning to design and install family and community gardens with the promise of helping 10 families and 1 community build a garden. I believe that there is no more important thing to do in these times than to become self-sufficient and this project called to me like no other project before. As soon as the quarantine hit us the only thing I could tell my staff I had to let go in Costa Rica was PLANT FOOD. It’s the only way to secure our survival through these unsure times. We have no idea what is to come and every day in this quarantine all over the world our food security is being threatened.
What I have come to realize by talking with the community elders here in San Marcos la Laguna is that the way of life here 20 years ago before roads and boats connected San Marcos to the outside supply chains of commerce closely resembles the vision that we volunteers seek to create. Here in the floodplain close to the lake there were tons of fruit trees and food crops being produced for all the community to come and harvest the food for their families regardless of who actually owned the land. With the popularity of the Lake and the development from mostly foreigners who have bought the lakefront land to fence off and build their homes this way of life has become obsolete and the locals who were forced into extreme poverty now needed to “earn a living” so that they could buy food which changed drastically their way of life. Like most every country our western capitalism has changed their ways of life and community gardens were directly affected.
Today we are talking with the land owners of these properties near the lake and the pieces of undeveloped land in the barrios in the hills where the majority of the local population live. We are securing pieces of land to plant for all the community to harvest and maintain. I feel like this example is happening to many communities around the globe that we are reverting to an old, pre capitalism way of life which I must admit is a positive change coming out of this strange time in our history.
I often contemplated why city and state governments spent so much maintaining perfectly groomed parks that produced no food and we have so many people starving. Why do we plant ornamental trees in the parks and not fruit trees? The same resources spent to care and water could feed the homeless and needy in our society. This is a global issue, not unique to any country.
The capitalistic tendencies of agriculture are also a huge problem today. Regardless if you believe that a GMO fruit or vegetable is healthy to eat it is clearly a problem for our self sufficiency when the seeds cannot be planted from the fruits and vegetables that we buy because Monsanto has removed that gene. This single act has destroyed local agriculture in developing nations and has decimated small farmers all over the world the first year they plant the GMO seeds and cannot save seeds from their harvest for the following years crops. Thus forcing them back to the seed store to buy seeds running up their overhead and eventually forcing them out of business for the large agribusiness farmers to buy up their land at a bargain and pollute it with chemicals.
We need to change the way we think about our food supply and take back our power to grow our own food. This is not a regional problem but a global one. Thank God for the heirloom farmers who for years have understood this problem and saved seeds of our agricultural heritage. At no time is it more important for every human to reconnect with nature and grow their own food.
In our practicum we have learned the techniques this past week of vertical and planter gardening for small spaces so anyone no matter how small an area can plant their own food. There are countless free online sites and apps to learn food production. I feel that we need to be teaching our children how to grow their food thus securing our survival for the next generations.
What is clear today is that our only sure way of survival through these next few years is going to be each of us uniting in our community to secure our food supply. The powers that are in control in our governments are funded by the multinational corporations who make the GMO seeds and chemical fertilizers and herbicides. In countries like the USA home food production has practically been outlawed with zoning restrictions and during the pandemic many states deemed that gardening supplies are not essential to be sold during quarantine. Thus while the shut down of the economy was preventing new crops to be planted which is eventually going to severely affect the food supply chain. Fortunately for us here in Guatemala the Ministerio of Agricultura (MAGA) is pro self sufficiency and organic small scale farming and is helping to support the Huertos Para Todos project to install gardens for all starting here in San Marcos. This time is ripe for humanity to wake up and realize that we need to take control of our own food security and that we need to help our neighbors do the same as we are all in this together.
If you would like to learn more about the Huertos Para Todos (Orchards for All) project you can follow on Facebook or Instagram @HuertosParaTodosGT and if you are interested in creating your own community project please reach out to us. We are sharing all materials open source and providing support however we can to anyone who feels the call to help their community in these unprecedented times.