Econ & Social Development of Indigenous Mexicans

Desarrollo Economico Social de los Mexicanos Indigenas (DESMI) provides financial, organizational and technical assistance to help community groups carry out their own projects and work together in resolving community needs. DESMI supports the development of indigenous collectives of corn and coffee production, animal husbandry, crafts production and opening local grocery stores with the goal of creating an integrated network of producers and consumers as backbone to a strong rural economy.
Dec 13, 2007

December 2007 Update

DESMI provided technical assistance to farmers from 5 municipalities seeking to form a cooperative to export their coffee without needing to sell to intermediaries. The cooperative represents over 1,000 farmers. They are currently in the final phase of legal paperwork, and have negotiated their first sale. In late 2007, they will export two containers of coffee to Italy.

Most of the participating farmers are applying the organic farming techniques they learned not only on their coffee crops but also to their crops of corn, beans and vegetables. The members are studying the possibility of selling some of their vegetables in the local and national markets as their next step.

Oct 11, 2007

October 2007 Update

In the communities of Francisco Villa, DESMI provided training workshops to the community members to reflect on the importance of sustainable agriculture when it is based on a model that respects and conserves the environment. The training raised awareness of the effects of conventional farming that depends on external raw materials and can destroy natural resources in the long term.

Throughout the workshops, DESMI imparted skills on how to produce organic fertilizers such as the ones made through vermicompost and by cattle droppings.

Aug 28, 2006

DESMI Progress Report August 2006

Summary of Progress to Date

With the support of IDEX, DESMI provided monthly training workshops to representatives of 27 community collectives with over 650 members total on a variety of issues including sustainable agriculture, ecological management of livestock, financial administration and marketing, and women’s rights. DESMI also provided ongoing support to two organic coffee cooperatives called Nich Klumatic Maya (“Ancestral Home of the Maya” in the Mayan Ch’ol language) and El Chapuyol (a name derived from the chapuya, a local tree variety) to make progress towards obtaining organic coffee certification.

These two coffee cooperatives are on track to obtain organic coffee certification in 2007. The cooperatives are looking into the possibility of selling organic coffee within the growing Mexican market for this product, as they still are not producing at the volume needed for export.

Major progress was made in training 32 community members from 12 villages of the municipalities of Rubén Jaramillo and Akabalná to become sustainable agriculture promoters. With the support of the DESMI staff agronomist, these promoters completed a comprehensive training that focused on soil conservation and fertility, the usage of natural pesticides, and organic vegetable cultivation.

Promoters learned how to implement contour farming, which is a conservation practice the helps protect rich soil and water resources. In contour farming, crop row ridges are built by tilling and planting, which creates hundreds of small dams that slow water runoff and increase infiltration. Contouring can reduce erosion as much as 50 percent, helping to conserve the soil.

DESMI also trained the promoters to teach their neighbors to eliminate the practice of 'slash-and burn' farming, which is commonly used to prepare the soil for planting. This agricultural practice causes serious environmental problems, including destruction of local habitats, as well as severe respiratory problems amongst villagers. Replacing this practice with the composting and mulching of agricultural waste reduces air pollution, increases soil fertility, and protects biodiversity.

The promoters also learned how to produce plant-based pesticides, including a potent combination of chili pepper, garlic, onion and tobacco leaves for eliminating common pests, including a worm, which destroys the shade trees in many coffee fields. The mitigation of this pest using natural means helps to protect bird habitats and improve the quality of the coffee harvest while protecting the soil and water from toxic pollution.

IDEX staff met with some of the agriculture promoters during site visits in September 2005. They expressed pride in the way they are promoting the adoption of organic agriculture methods amongst their fellow farmers. They told IDEX that this has visibly improved crop yields, and therefore nutrition for local families. Interestingly, they also specifically see their commitment to organic agriculture as an important means to challenge the enormous influence of transnational agribusiness companies on farmers in the area by decreasing the sale of toxic petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Collectives in six villages of the municipality of Ruben Jaramillo have been working with cattle-raising projects and have received training in ecological management of pasturelands and sustainable animal care. IDEX staff visited two of these collectives and were shown how pastureland is rotated to prevent desertification, as well as how lush the nearby collective corn crops are, having benefited from the application of cow manure at planting time.