“I’m dreaming of a future where the young generations actively choose farming for love and personal passion rather than necessity.”
Javier was born in Calisco, Mexico in the 1960s and moved to Mexico City to complete his studies in Marketing in the 1980s.
During the economic growth of the second half of the 20th century, Mexico found became increasingly separated between industrialized areas and leaving rural areas. Rural areas were often left in poverty as a consequence, with the majority of farmers below the limit of self subsistence, especially in the south of the country.
(As in “Il Tramonto del Regime Rivoluzionario - Messico 1970-2010” Tiziana Bertaccini / page 127 onwards), In the early ‘40s, following the great economical boom, free lands started being distributed to the farmers, but later on these were just addressed to those people who were producing uniquely for exportation purposes having therefore a huge impact on the rest of the population.
“In the north of Mexico farmers buy satellite guided tractors. In the south, farmers are still investing their money on ploughs by hand.” Said Javier. “There are several reasons for this, lack of knowledge, fear of change and lack of economical means are a few. All of these factors have a great impact on the general development in rural areas and on new generations’ decisions to continue working in the fields.”
Javier noticed, during his travels in several communities around Mexico, that just a very small percentage of students commits to a farming life after school while most of them choose to move to the major cities to continue their studies in other fields like medicine, law or finance.
Farming is heavy work, and it has a big impact on the person’s general health reducing by several years the span of life compared to other jobs. Javier spent the past 30 years traveling in different parts of the country, speaking with local farmers and studying the new technologies to find the best way to reduce this physical impact.
He has also organized workshops in small communities within the state of Oaxaca.
“If we want to see a real radical change, we have to start educating the younger generations. It’s between 6 and 10 years old that kids start understanding nature’s cycles and the importance of a self-sustained agriculture. They see how hard their parents work in the fields and they don’t want to get involved because of that, but if we teach them how to reduce that physical impact, they might change their minds.”
Efficiency and technology over physical effort.
Furthermore, for centuries farmers relied on nature’s cycles to cultivate their fields, but the global impact of climate change and the resulting shortage of water started affecting those farmers that do not have access to more advanced irrigation technologies, impacting their production over 50%. More specifically, being Agave the main source of income in Oaxaca area, when provided water throughout the whole year instead of relying only on the heavy rain of wet season, has been seen his 10 years growth cycle can be reduced to 5 years, doubling his production.
“The cost of this irrigation system is very low, around $250, and lasts up to 10 years. A small investment that can have a massive impact on general productivity. But most people don’t have the entrepreneurial mindset and the knowledge to make this change.”
This is where Javier enters in action.
He is currently working with Luisa, a local land owner he has worked with over the years, and creating a 6x6m garden in the primary school of Union Zapata.
After several attempts through the years, AHAH has finally been the link connecting Javier’s ideas to the local schools.
When the ngo started the project in July ribuilding the two schools impacted by the earthquake of 2017, the community got really interested and involved in the opportunities that this work could have had in the years to come and has been more open to embrace changes and new ideas.
This agricultural program consists of a two-cycle plantation system with a simple automized irrigational unit that will help the kids to have complete and effortless control over the cultivation.
During monsoon season the kids of the school will be planting seasonal vegetables like cucumber, chilly, zucchini, tomatoes, etc. while during dry season the focus will be on lettuce, onion, radish, coriander, swiss chard, etc. with the purpose of reaching a self sustained small community and eventually start selling the product in excess to the local families to improve their business skills.
“I met Javier three years ago in a village close to Union Zapata and after a short conversation about agriculture I could see his passion and commitment. My attitude towards farming changed forever.” Said Luisa. “My sister has a few acres of land and together we decided to implement our irrigation system using the technology that Javier brings. It simplifies our lives and growing our production in an impactful way.”
Since then, Luisa decided to start collaborating with Javier in the rural communities around Oaxaca to show the local farmers a valid alternative to the traditional strategies used until now.
“A few weeks after the installation of this new irrigation system, some of my neighbors started asking questions. At that moment, I realized the impact our example can have on the community.” Continues Luisa. “I decided then to have workshops in my home here in Union Zapata to share everything I knew and studied about agriculture. At the beginning only a few people showed up, but now numbers are rising and more people are interested and open to learn more about these new systems. I have the feeling things can start changing soon.”
After this implementation, Javier will follow up over the next few years to manage and grow the impact this small garden has on the community and the students, hoping to see his dream come true.
“Seeing these involvement of the community and the passion these kids are putting in, will make me die happy!” concluded Javier, “a really beautiful ending for my commitment to the cause”.