Sustainable Organic Agriculture in Chiapas, Mexico

by Econ & Social Development of Indigenous Mexicans
Sustainable Organic Agriculture in Chiapas, Mexico
Sustainable Organic Agriculture in Chiapas, Mexico
Sustainable Organic Agriculture in Chiapas, Mexico
Sustainable Organic Agriculture in Chiapas, Mexico
Sustainable Organic Agriculture in Chiapas, Mexico
Sustainable Organic Agriculture in Chiapas, Mexico
Sustainable Organic Agriculture in Chiapas, Mexico
Sustainable Organic Agriculture in Chiapas, Mexico
Sustainable Organic Agriculture in Chiapas, Mexico
Sustainable Organic Agriculture in Chiapas, Mexico
Chicken Vaccination Workshop
Chicken Vaccination Workshop

Your generous donations support DESMI’s powerful work to improve the health of families and of the environment. Tangible improvements in families and the environment can be seen in one very common place that’s often overlooked in other sustainable development projects: the backyard.  

One of DESMI’s grassroots projects trains women in organic farming processes and helps them to start backyard family gardens. 78 family gardens have been created to date with more and more families experiencing the benefits of these gardens. Families don’t need a lot to get started: but once they’ve received the necessary training and the gardens are up and running, their impact is massive! Adding a backyard garden helps with food security which means, in short, that families have control over their food source and they have access to a diversified healthy diet that can improve the whole family’s nutrition levels and overall health.  

In addition to gardens, DESMI has helped train more than 130 families how to harvest native plants and to further diversify their diets. What used to be thought of as “weeds” are now harvested as food and families are benefiting from an expanded diet that now includes turnips, chicory, tomato and other native plants.

And if that isn’t enough… DEMSI is also helping women raise healthy chickens. Recently, DESMI supported 6 workshops on chicken vaccination. Disease can spread quickly and wipe out whole chicken flocks if not treated very carefully. As a result of these workshops, 16 communities saw a decrease in disease. The chicken coops are seen by families as an important source of nutrition and of income, and they’re especially valued because they allow women to multitask in the backyard by also planting fruits and vegetables. These are some powerful backyards that are empowering women and families!

As Cynthia Ramirez, DESMI’s executive director puts it: “So you have to conduct agriculture, conscious of the future, no longer just thinking about having corn for one year, but whether my children will have corn in 10 years and continuing into the future. It is essential to achieve this security in order to fight for other issues, for an institutional change, a national change, a total change, but if you are not eating you can’t accomplish any of this.”

This summer, consider redirecting some of your own backyard budget to help support change in Chiapas, Mexico, one backyard at a time.

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With the support from people around the world (people like you!) DESMI has taken important steps towards creating sustainable agricultural practices in indigenous communities.

Through programs such as farmer training on agroecology tools farmers learn ways to create new economic opportunities that leave no adverse effects on the environment.

Their work in Chiapas has enabled them to become an integral part of building the Mujeres Indigenas al frente de Justicia Economica (MIJE), or the "Indigenous Women at the Frontlines of Economic Justice" initiative, to expand asset building in indigenous communities through partnership, generate guidelines for asset building for the social justice philanthropy sector, build alliances among indigenous leaders in asset building and explore the results of asset building in communities.

Perhaps the most inventive part of the proposal is the development of a curriculum that is being written by indigenous women leaders that integrates ancestral knowledge, agroecology and asset building for many generations to break the cycle of poverty and ensure economic justice.

As DESMI puts it – “the promotion and practice of sustainable agriculture breaks the conventional model of farming based on chemicals.  We are constructing a new economic model for our communities that guarantees food to feed families for many generations while preserving our natural resources….we find the balance in the relationships between production for economic development and protection of natural resources, of Mother Earth, where we see that the life of the human being is dependent on the Mother Earth, as our ancestors told us.”

Your generosity has made a significant impact on creating new and exciting opportunities for indigenous communities to build their local economy through the use of new environmentally sustainable techniques.  Thank  you for your support!

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Local agriculture is key to sustainable community development for this project and the area in Mexico where  education, organic agroecology, and native horticulture are brought together.

Through your donations, so many things have been accomplished this year: 41 communities participated in workshops, learning about soil conservation, local seeds, and organic fertilizer application so they can bring back techniques to their localities and promote agroecology.

Through collaboration with communities, they've built 67 productive agricultural plots that have produced an average of 800 kilos (1,765 lbs.) per hectare using the same techniques they teach in workshops. The maize grown on these plots actually revitalizes the soil that it’s grown in!

This project strengthens the community and the land, using production techniques that are truly sustainable.

Your donations make a make a huge impact where it counts!

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Mushroom farming is not exactly how most people picture rural farming. But DESMI - one of the oldest and reputable community-based organizations in Chiapas, is helping reinvent the way communities think about sustainability.

They have introduced to the community of San Rafael, Chiapas an income-generating project producing zeta (oyster) mushrooms.

With your support, agroecology promoters are now using the “farmer-to-farmer” training method to teach community members how to grow these lucrative food crops.  It takes less than a month for the mushroom spores to be prepared and the first harvest will be ready to sell at the local market in the nearest city.

When asked about their hopes for the project, staff and trainees readily mention self-sufficiency, better nutrition, increased income, and continuing to care for the environment.

After the mushrooms are harvested, the byproducts are converted into organic fertilizer, which turns out a high quality, pesticide-free corn (most collective members have small cornfields and use corn for tortillas and livestock feed).  Then the leftover cobs are used for mushroom production. 

DESMI strives to strengthen indigenous communities in the state of Chiapas . With much of their focus concentrated on sustainable agriculture, teaching communities about opportunities by way of something as fresh and exciting as mushroom cultivation is not only agriculturally rewarding, but profitable. This fresh idea offers new skills and innovative ways of making money in the true context of sustainable agriculture. 

There are many exciting avenues to pursue with fungi and a straightforward business opportunity for locals is the cultivation of zeta (oyster) mushrooms and they are applying this method as a means to support their local economies.  

With your help, communities are becoming entrepreneurial societies working to establish new best practices using cutting edge techniques in harmony with the principles of nature.  Now that is sustainability!

Thank you for investing in communities to prosper through innovative sustainable agricultural practices and building lasting economies.  Even the smallest of donations can make the biggest difference!  

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Promoting organic agriculture for indigenous communities in Chiapas, DESMI has 4 agro-ecology centers that teach hundreds of people each year. For example:

  • Education trainers conduct veterinary workshops on backyard poultry:
    • Disease prevention in chickens, proper use and awareness of medications (i.e., commercial name, formula, dosage, expiration date)
    • The signs of fever and smallpox in chickens
    • The importance of vaccination
  • Trainers hold workshops for on transgenic corn issues including:
    • Origins and marketing of transgenic corn
    • Conservation and importance of protecting local corn in indigenous culture
    • Adaptation of corn plagues
    • The role of corn in community food

Other workshops are held on water conservation and cachement, vermi-composting, and nutrition. DESMI also has programs that provide families with the tools and skills to grown back-yard gardens.


The newest addition to DESMI’s projects is the Cold-Chain storage infrastructure implemented to store vaccines for the community. 18 women are now trained in the used of the animal vaccines and are able to visit surrounding areas to vaccinate farm animals.

Support from generous donations helps expand projects like this one and decreases the loss of animals due to disease. Thank you!

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Organization Information

Econ & Social Development of Indigenous Mexicans

Location: San Cristobal d.l. Casas, Chiapas - Mexico
Gillian  Wilson
Project Leader:
Gillian Wilson
IDEX Latin America Program Director
San Francisco, CA United States

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