The Heritage Route’s Team visited examples of how to live daily in a sustainable way. Indeed, by living, eating, behaving in an eco-friendly way, in respect of traditions and believes, you can contribute concretely to the preservation of natural resources and cultural heritages. In some words, live responsibly!
Permaculture As a Way of Life
Let’s introduce you the beautiful Permaculture Centre Luum Ayni located near Valladolid, in the Mayan community village of Chichimila, Yucatan, Mexico. Thanks to Cesar and Lisa, we had this chance to discover and touch shortly (5 days) the big world of permaculture.
It is an Ecological and Sustainable Family Project where César y Lisa implement, experiment and spread alternatives to live a simple, happy and sustainable manner in harmony and cooperation with nature. In fact, they apply (no!) … they adapt principles and methods of permaculture to their place in the Yucatecan selva for their own well-being as well as for the local community.
Before starting remodeling this cattle ranch in December 2010, they observe and evaluate everything that could be preserved and reused, about existing infrastructure, terrain and surroundings in order to suit the Permaculture concept and design. In July 2011, they started with the work of permaculture design of a bio-intensive gardening, two edible forests, designing a pond for water retention, irrigation, reforestation planning, installation of photovoltaic systems, bio constructions, breeding of European bees and native Melipona bees, chickens, etc…
A place where I feel happy, and where I really would like to live (David)
What is Permaculture?
In the design of your permaculture project, you’ll have to respect three ethic principles:
- Take care for the Earth: Rebuild the natural capital
- Take care for people: Take care of yourself, loved ones and the community
- Share with equity: Celebrate the abundance of nature and accept their limitations
Also, you’ll have to respect the Permaculture design principles:
- Observe and interact : The beauty is in the eye of the perceiver .
- Capture and store energy : Collect hay while the sun shines.
- Get a return : You cannot work on an empty stomach.
- Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
- Use and valorize renewable resources and services : Let nature take its action.
- Do not produce waste : Avoiding producing waste makes generating deficiency
- Design from patterns to details : The tree obscures the forest.
- Integrate rather than segregate : Many hands make light work.
- Use small and slow solutions : The bigger, the harder they fall
- Use and valorize diversity : Do not put all your eggs in one basket .
- Use edges and value the marginal: Do not think you are on the right path because there are many other ways.
- Use and respond creatively to change: Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be.
Tenancy and community governance:
Since they bought the ranch with 15 ha (3,5 years ago), they tried to integrate local people, first employing 4 from the community. In January 2014, they launched an online shop to sell weekly organic vegetables to local clients, giving them a rare opportunity to eat healthy. There is a project to establish a cooperative in order to involve and responsabilize the 4 employees, as well as the members of the community of Chichimila. This will be a way to share the costs with its members, which is different from an eco-village. Actually, there is no conflict because of the center. They took time to talk about the project and involve themselves in the community life. Also, it was very important to implement « good things » where local people can see that the center is not harmful but can develop good things for the community. The message carried by the employees, when returning to the village, contribute to this positive promotion and acceptation. However, the center had created jealousy at the beginning, as we can imagine when foreigners arrive in a remote place. Moreover, they want to establish a rural school to educate in the Nature children of the community. The idea is to share more widely the products of the center.
Management of the soil and biodiversity:
They succeeded to create a real garden, which is very rare in the Yucatecan Peninsula, mainly because of the lack and bad quality of soil. But thanks to their manure from worms and horses and rock excavating up to -70cm, they did it. Also, designed small parcels for vegetables associations, using respective effects to each other to repulse pests and disease agents, e.g. basil and tomato, carrot and onion, etc. They do not use chemicals at all but check daily every plant and use an herbal tea. When it is necessary to remove plants for a new culture, they water the parcel with boiled water in order to kill all micro-organisms. « It is necessary because in this region, it is full of pests and if you don’t control them using natural means, they will eat everything ». Mayans use burning techniques for this purpose. Also, They rotate families of cultures, e.g. avoiding tomatoes after potatoes. helps to The little greenhouse is very important. It is the place to grow plants in a more protected area, experiment new seedlings. They sow only seeds from their own plants.
Trees contributes to low temperature and keep humidity below the canopy like in an agro-forestry system. Also, they protect in some ways plants from pests. The existing orchard is converted into an « edible forest »: every tree has a use as food, medicine or auxiliar for other plants. For example, they facilitate achiote, chaya, guana (green fertilizer), anil (blue color), sage (medicinal), oregano del monte (medicinal, attract birds), moringa (proteins).
Water comes from the ground, pumped by a solar engine. The use for watering is reduced by organizing adequate association between plants and trees.
A built environment:
They built new buildings, dry toilets, oven using existing parts, and local natural materials like palms trees and soil (adobe), rocks. Also they use recycled elements like glass bottles, packages to reduce use of other materials or use their characteristics: insulation, transparent. They learnt how to do it. To learn this know-how, they read, volunteered in other projects, took lessons and investigated. Electricity comes from sun, through three solar generators plus batteries. They have a fuel generator for exceptional cases. Water from kitchen and bath water plants, because they only use natural and biodegradable detergents (e.g. limon peals in vinegar against grease).
Tools and instruments :
They recover traditional techniques: carpenter, dry rock building/electrician. They build a deshydrator for fruits and herbs, like ovens solar or wood. They have an idea to buy a carriage for horses to help carrying. They reuse various things and do not to consume garbage without second use, like plastic bags.
Education and Culture:
They investigate all what they need through Internet, neighbours, networking. They are contributing to recover the meliponiculture through a newly created NGO. They build natural hooves to promote to local community the potential of this Mayan traditional apiculture of melipona bees. Honey is very nutritional and medicinal. They promote education of children in the Nature, out of books, fostering natural abilities and interests. They want to open in the center an alternative school for community children. For artistic creation, it is not developed yet in the center.
The center has a yoga room that can be used as well for classes. Lisa is a yoga teacher. As we mentioned, they use the curative potential of plants. First of all, well-being comes from a healthy alimentation, by enjoying natural and nutritive food.
They participate in exchange of seeds with neighbours, and welcome international volunteers to share their knowledge and know-how, and create some income for the center. They are developing new options to sustain the activity of the center, e.g. developing « La canasta » online shop to distribute organic seasonal and fresh vegetables and fruits for local consumers.
Luum Ayni’s philosophy is a slow, small and long-term process, taking nature as the first example.
Other Responsible Initiatives
In Puerto Morelos, Mr. Oscar Canul introduced us one other important collective initiative in East Mexico for healthy food and well-being. Libertaria is a network of people through our food and everyday actions performed for our own well-being, the common benefits and Earth’s ones: members sow, transform, consume, exchange, share food products free of pesticides, GMOs and financial speculation.
« Ferias del Trueque » are events organized by Libertaria. This is the 1st thematic barter network in Quintana Roo, Mexico: ecologic agriculture, eco-friendly goods and services with the Nature.
An interesting work is also done with the collective « Transition Town » in Playa del Carmen as other places in the world. Villages or towns’ inhabitants are involved in the anticipation and preparation of the after-oil period of initiatives avoiding petroleum use. Translating the Transition concept to Mexico’s cultural diversity and complexity is a great challenge. Let’s wish them good luck!