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Sustainable Chiapas, Mexico

Chiapas, Mexico burst into the world’s headlines New Year’s Day 1994 - the day that The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect - when an uprising led by the Zapatista movement reminded the world that indigenous people are still struggling for their rights 500 years after the European conquest. Today, the struggle for indigenous autonomy to create peaceful communities free from poverty and oppression continues as a growing and troublesome presence of profit-driven corporations in Chiapas encourages migration toward urban sweatshops. Those who remain in the countryside are systematically being robbed of their natural resources while the wealth of regional biodiversity is increasingly becoming endangered.

Since the price of coffee has hit a 100 year low, the majority of the 500,000 Chiapanecos who work in the coffee sector are struggling to feed their families while multinational corporations continue to prosper as a result of the low prices.  Recently, an estimated 500 coffee producing families a week migrated north from their parcels of land in Chiapas, Mexico. At the same time, Starbucks was celebrating a 41% increase in profits.
Sustainable Chiapas

As a result of such injustices, thousands of indigenous peoples have begun a transition back to organics as a means of obtaining food self-sufficiency and to create sustainability for their communities. From the formation and certification of fair trade and organic coffee cooperatives to traditional farming methods used to grow and harvest organic wheat, the people of Chiapas are turning to organic farming techniques to improve the quality of life and level of nutrition in their communities.

Chiapas farmers
Chiapas is one of the most marginalized states in all of Mexico, cursed with one of the highest malnutrition rates in the country. The state is characterized by having one of the highest rural populations, the least developed health infrastructure, and the lowest levels of income and education in Mexico.

In addition, Chiapanecos have one of the lowest life expectancy rates and the highest birth and infant mortality rates in the nation.  There is approximately one doctor for every 1,000 inhabitants, a figure that is 20% less than the national average. In this climate of extreme poverty, it is important that rural communities have access to a healthy diet in order to prevent diseases and development disorders related to malnutrition.  However, while the local daily diet relies upon maize, which provides what little nutrition the indigenous of Chiapas consume, last year it was found that Southern Mexico is quickly becoming contaminated with genetically engineered corn.

Scientists have recently discovered gene-altered corn growing in 15 rural communities in the southern state of Oaxaca. Given that Mexico is the origin of maize, with approximately 25,000 varieties, the ecological, economic, and health implications of genetic pollution are disastrous for local farmers and consumers.

Chiapas corn farmer The spread of GE corn in the place where maize was first cultivated over 5,000 years ago is leading to the contamination of wild and domesticated varieties and will forever alter the traditional crop interwoven throughout the culture of the Mayan people. Because many varieties of genetically engineered seeds have to be purchased every year, farmers who use the seed enter into a cycle of debt. Rarely do the farmers earn enough money from an annual maize crop to pay their debts and purchase new seeds. Just as important are the health risks associated with genetically engineered foods, which include allergies, antibiotic resistance, and likely damage to the human digestive system.

As a result of the imposition of corporate globalization, small farmers in Mexico are finding it increasingly difficult to achieve food self-sufficiency and access to a nutritious diet. To help deal with this crisis, the OCA has created the Sustainable Chiapas project. By educating consumers in North America about producer issues in Southern Mexico while directly supporting organic grassroots movements in Chiapas, the Sustainable Chiapas project will create a closer internationally focused consumer-to-producer relationship highlighting international food issues.

The OCA seeks to demonstrate that indigenous cooperatives and community groups can obtain Fair Trade and organic certification for their coffee, cacao, and other crops so as to guarantee a living wage to producers.

Acting as an informational portal for journalists, students, and concerned consumers who want to know the latest information on these issues, the Sustainable Chiapas project offers materials in both English and Spanish and leads organic eco-tours to the region.

Finally, in order to prevent dependence on genetically engineered seeds and protect Mexico's natural biodiversity, OCA's Sustainable Chiapas project is assisting indigenous community groups in the creation of community gardens and seed banks to grow food and medicinal plants. To learn more about these issues please visit our news headlines section or visit Chiapas on an OCA organic eco-tour. If you have special group eco-tour requests or questions about the Sustainable Chiapas program, contact the OCA office at 218-226-4164. To take action, participate in one of our related campaigns.
Chiapas kids

 

About Chiapas:

Chiapas mapChiapas is one of the 31 states in the Mexican Republic. It is situated in the southern region, and its capital city is Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Chiapas has 111 municipalities. It is bordered to the north by Tabasco, to the south by the Pacific Ocean, to the east by Guatemala, and to the west by Oaxaca and Veracruz.

The state has an area of 73,724 square kilometers, and approximately 3,584,786 inhabitants.

Generally speaking, the climate of Chiapas is tropical, humid and sub-humid. Since the climate varies according to the altitude, in the Los Altos region it is cool and humid, with a lot of rain in the summer. For this reason, communities such as San Cristóbal, Comitán and Teopisca have a cool climate.

On the other hand, towns situated in the lowland areas, such as Tapachula, have a hot climate. Communities situated in places that are neither very high nor very low, such as Tenejapa and Siltepec, have a warm climate; this means that it is neither very hot nor cool.

2002

 

 



Support OCA's Sustainable Chiapas Campaign by purchasing Fair Trade organic Chiapas coffee at Higher Grounds

Campaign News Headlines

2003

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Sustainable Chiapas Organic Garden Project

         

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