Cajete Maize and Seasonal Maize in San Miguel Huautla
Authors: Paul Rogé, Aida C Ríos, Silvia V Ruiz, Patricio Sánchez, Francisco Mora, Miguel A Altieri, and Marta Astier
Date published: 2017-11-08 (for a 2016 special edition).
It is predicted that global climate change will greatly impact precipitation in Southern Mexico. There will be changes in the quantity and distribution of rainfall in time, which may affect the viability of rainfed agricultural systems, particularly in marginal regions. Farming communities in Mexico posses, on one hand, important reserves of biodiversity and indigenous knowledge about environmental management and the conservation of natural resources. On the other hand, they have a long history of adopting alternative and innovative agricultural practices over the years. To evaluate the sustainability, resilience, and adaptability of farming systems in this region, field visits and participatory workshops were conducted in the territory of San Miguel Huautla in the Mixteca Alta Oaxaqueña. In addition, in-depth interviews and soil samples were made in 10 family units. We evaluated the common cultural practices associated with the cajete (C) and temporal (T) production systems. From a historical perspective, the two systems were complementary in the sense of high agricultural biodiversity, but the cajete system has undergone a process of abandonment in the last decades. Some families now only practice the temporal system. We also characterized the landscape characteristics of the community. Our analysis demonstrated (a) the benefits to soil property characteristics and productivity of maize obtained through an intensive preparation of the soil using indigenous practices; (b) that family units that maintain high levels of agricultural biodiversity through the practice of both cajete and temporal systems meet practically 80% of their needs for food and agricultural inputs, however when they abandon cajete they suffer a dramatic loss in productive capacity and resilience. It is imperative to support the process of farmer-led innovations in the cajete system to increase its benefits and to increase its labor efficiency.
Keywords: drought, soil quality, traditional agricultural systems, Mixteca Alta, Mexico