Zapatista Food Forests of Today: Recouping Ancient Mayan Knowledge

Zapatista student surveys her work planting sugar cane as the first plant of her school's Food Forest in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico.

Zapatista student surveys her work planting sugar cane as the first plant of her school’s Food Forest in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico.

FAQ 1: Why are the Zapatistas of today reviving and recouping ancient Mayan knowledge to plant permanent food forests for the 21st century?

Beginning in 2015, Mayan students, education promoters, and other Zapatistas began the process of constructing 18 multi-species food forests at autonomous schools in several climatic zones of Chiapas, Mexico ranging from mile-high oak/pine forests to lowlands rain-forest jungles.

Food forests represent an ancient, alternative agricultural system which can provide food, medicine, and many other useful products through mimicking the ecology of a young forest. The ancient Mayan civilization was one of many cultures around the world which utilized perennial food forests to meet their basic needs.

For the Zapatistas their efforts to plant food forests today represent both a revival and a recuperation of agricultural practices utilized by their ancestors; it is also a practical response to the bankruptcy of contemporary

Zapatista education promoter displays a beginning list of tall species for his school's Food Forest.

Zapatista education promoter displays a beginning list of tall species for his school’s Food Forest.

commercial agriculture and food distribution systems. Within today’s modern Mayan communities, Zapatista educators, students, and activists are uncovering, documenting, and utilizing a rich reservoir of biological knowledge still practiced by their parents and grandparents. These communities have donated the land for each food forest and have freely shared their extensive plant knowledge with the young students. Most of the plants used in these new Zapatista food forests are being donated directly from surrounding Mayan communities.

Naturally today’s food forests are usually designed utilizing native plants as well as a biological tabloid including trees, scrubs, grasses, vines, and roots from around the world. The Zapatista process of food forest construction also includes research into non-native species which may eventually be included in their food forests for the 21st century. Design elements are being drawn from videos, photos, and visits to specific food forests. To date the Zapatistas have studied contemporary Food Forests in Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Mexico, Morocco, United States, and Vietnam.

FAQ II: How can you support this exciting new effort of the Zapatistas to grow Food Forests in Chiapas, Mexico?

Schools for Chiapas volunteer presents to Education Promoters at Food Forest workshop.

Schools for Chiapas volunteer presents to Education Promoters at Food Forest workshop.

You can help by sharing photos, videos, or written research materials about Food Forests you are planting. Others might help by bringing seeds and plant-starts of useful forest species you grow.  Maybe you can share a book or article about Food Forests   Schools for Chiapas is helping coordinate the educational materials and will gladly receive your materials via email, snail mail, or in person.

Zapatista students and education promoters design their Food Forests during quarterly workshops.

Zapatista students and education promoters design their Food Forests during quarterly workshops.

Donations are urgently needed to pay for food, transportation and educational materials at quarterly workshops with Zapatistas in the three climatic zones. Additionally, there is a need for funds to establish native stingless (melipona) and Apis bee hives; rustic nurseries will eventually be needed at all eighteen of the Zapatista food forests.

Volunteer instructors with extensive knowledge of food forests who have participated in the Escuelita Zapatista are also needed immediately for quarterly workshops and nursery work. Eventually, there may be opportunities for others to actually get their hands dirty on the ground in Chiapas; for the moment we ask that you consider planting a food forest where you live and that you also donate what you can to the Zapatista food forests of Chiapas, Mexico. (store/gifts-of-change/support-food-forests-in-chiapas/)

Morning comes early during Zapatista Food Forest workshops and coffee helps start the day.

Morning comes early during Zapatista Food Forest workshops and coffee helps start the day.

As a multi-species, organic, perennial system, food forests are beneficial to human beings everywhere and to our Mother Earth who especially needs help in this moment of deep capitalism-driven crisis and rapid climate change. Please consider contributing what you can to support this exciting new educational and agricultural initiative of the Zapatista communities in Chiapas, Mexico. (store/gifts-of-change/support-food-forests-in-chiapas/)

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To learn more about Food Forests in general we now offer you contact with one Mexican organization and suggest several English language texts that we have found useful. We ask for your suggestions of additional educational materials (especially in Spanish) and other support that might be useful in creating autonomous, indigenous food forest in Chiapas, Mexico.

  1. La Cooperativa de Las Cañadas: Centro de Agroecología y Vida Sostenible ~ This ecological agricultural center and 30-family cooperative features a growing food forest, bio-intensive gardens, forests, as well as milpa production. They offer outstanding week-long courses, a large nursery of plants, and an outstanding collection of useful seeds. Tel/fax: 273-7341577 bosquedeniebla@prodigy.net.mx, bosquedeniebla.com.mx

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  1. The Mayan Forest Garden: Eight Millennia of Sustainable Cultivation of the Tropical Woodlands by Anabel Ford and Ronald Nigh, Left Coast Press, LCoastPress.com
  1. Jardineria Forestal Maya de El Pilar / The Maya Forest Gardent of El Pilar: Un Libro de Colorear Plantas / A Plant Coloring Book Por / By Anabel Ford
  1. Creating a Forest Garden: Working Nature to Grow Edible Crops by Martin Crawford, Green Books, greenbooks.co.uk
  1. Edible Forest Gardens: Ecological Vision and Theory for Temperate Climate Permaculture (Vol. I & II) by Dave Jacke with Eric Toensmeier, Chelsea Green Publishing Company, chelseagreen.com
Zapatista student views her work planing the first species of the Food Forest.

Zapatista student views her work planing the first species of the Food Forest.

 

 

 

 

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