Last week I had the priviledge of heading out for 4 days to the Yucatàn, in order to become more familiar with the school known as U Yits Ka’an (in Maya), or also the School of Agroecology (AE), located in the beautiful town of Manì. The school has been running for approximately 20 years, and is largely the product of many years hard work of several priests in the region, who have worked alongside the campesina population. The school has a well developed campus set in the Yucatàn forest…and they have water, which makes all the difference in terms of what can be practiced, demonstrated and accomplished. Some years ago the school made an intentional move to decrease the focus on bringing people to Manì for training, and rather developing strong groups within the communities from which many campesinos came for training. Thus, there are 6 “subsedes”, or satellite schools in operation – I participated in group meetings in Valladolid, and in Yodzknot, and enjoyed sharing information of our respective work, and of course seeds!
My primary reasons for connecting with this school were two-fold: 1) to increase some my own knowledge base in AE, particulary their management of the milpa (corn field), a bee species known locally as meliponas (I have no idea if this is a name used widely or not), and a native pig variety, the name of which in Maya escapes me right now, and 2) to learn of how the school is building its capacity of “subsedes”, or satellite schools.
While this in not the place to expound on workshop details, I was very impressed with how the school is weaving traditional knowledge with certain aspects of science-based management. In particular, in our session on the milpa, the wisdom from our one workshop teacher, an elderly gentleman who has been growing corn for over 50 years, demonstrated the simple yet sophisticated techniques used to grow corn out of thin soil and ashes over limestone. We soil scientists have much yet to learn!
Other pieces of the trip included spending some down time in town centers, and one night in Merida. My five nights were spent in a bus seat (2 nights), hammock, cheap hotel and cabaña in the forest. I noticed the salsa was certainly mas picante…..they like their habañeros (chiles). Thanks to INESIN and MCC for supporting me in this time of learnig n and sharing. Thanks to Jacquie for keeping the fort down and caring for the niños while I was away….much appreciated! See photos below……..chau.