Painting by Leovigildo Martínez, Oaxaca, Mexico (Source: JG-House)

Oaxaca’s Corn Growers Return to Their Fields

Now that the rains have started falling again in the central valleys of Oaxaca, farmers are returning to their fields. With an end to the drought lasting the entire month of June and into July of 2018, farmers are preparing the earth for the corn, bean, and squash varieties which make up the local diet.

Corn-on-the-Cob Vendor, Oaxaca, Mexico (Source: JG-House)

Climate Change

In the past, Oaxaca’s farmers took advantage of a consistent rainy season, which extended from April to October of every year; they planted their seeds between April and May and watched as heavy rainfall during June allowed their seeds to sprout and grow into mature plants.

Principal Varieties of Corn Native to Oaxaca (Source: INIFAP)

Children of Corn

In Oaxaca, Mexico’s most ethnically diverse state, with about 15 officially recognized indigenous groups, including the Zapotecos, Mixtecos, and Mazatecos, as well as 35 officially recognized varieties of corn, including one recently discovered variety which fertilizes itself, farmers never have produced as much corn as their counterparts elsewhere in Mexico, particularly its northern regions, such as the state of Sinaloa.

Women Selling Food on Street, Oaxaca, Mexico (Source: JG-House)

Sustainable Farming

The key, according to agricultural experts, is to switch to a farming approach based on the conservation of natural resources, including the protection of the soil and its nutrients. It is necessary, say the experts, to put an end to a farming model based on the heavy use of man-made weed and pest killers and, by the same token, synthetic fertilizers. These chemical substances, including pesticides for worms and fertilizers based on ammonium sulfate, not only poison the soil upon contact; they also lead, over time, to the destruction of the soil.

Man Leaving Doctor’s Office, Oaxaca, Mexico (Source: JG-House)

Increased Yields

In fact, experts from one prominent non-governmental agricultural organization, called CIMMYT, calculate that, if farmers switched to sustainable farming practices on 1.6 million hectares of land which they already work in Oaxaca and five other nearby states, they could boost their corn yields from 2.3 to 5.5 tons per hectare. In the process, the farmers could increase their total corn output on these lands from 4 million tons annually to more than 9 million tons per year.

Investigating the intersection of climate change, socio-economic development, and public health

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