Nurturing the Seeds of the Water Forest
The chaos of rising global temperatures and changing climate condition is causing the springs and wells in Zapatista communities to dry up at an alarming rate. One can point to many factors (changing precipitation patterns, industry and agricultural exploitation of water, deforestation) that are exacerbating these circumstances, but what we need urgently right now are on-the-ground solutions. Over the years, Schools for Chiapas has accompanied many aspects of agroecology alongside the Zapatista communities, including native bee-keeping, starting nurseries, and diversification of perennial food sources. As we have continued along this path, however, we have learned that loss of reliable water sources is a concern faced by increasing numbrers of communities each year. Accounts of the challenges faced by communities, especially women, urged us to action. In the summer of 2019, researchers Rosa Lopez Valentín and Nils McCune dug into the opportunities for recovering wells and springs through soil conservation and planting of native trees. Working alongside the staff of our tiny nursery in San Cristobal, the effort included making calendars for seed collection, a few trials of native species known to help retain water tables, and beginning educational materials to be used in the communities. Other efforts concentrated on literature review, curriculum design and media production.
Our nursery continues to nurture food trees, tubers and perennial medicinal plants, and to add varieties of native “water-protector” trees. Our work that centered on food forests has grown to accompany what we refer to as “water forests.”
The water forest effort looks to support campesino strategies for reforestation and water recovery in the Altos and Selva communities of the Chiapas. This initial research marks our first step on the path toward finding solutions. The work that truly restores ecosystems and sustains water systems is based in the knowledge of communities and their practices of autonomy. With this work, we seek to contribute what we can from sources outside of the communities, to listen, and to learn. In our nursery in San Cristobal, we continue planting and learning so that we can share the plants as well as our lessons with the communities in resistance.
We invite you to help us to support water autonomy in Zapatista communities! Water is Life!