For many years, the Institute for Intercultural Study and Research (INESIN) has continuously worked with many rural, indigenous communities in the central Chiapas region to support food sovereignty and holistic health. They do this in response to the scarcity of resources to meet basic alimentation needs in rural, indigenous communities. They encourage the development of organic vegetable gardens for home consumption as well as the cultivation of medicinal plants to contribute to the overall health of the rural indigenous family.
Chiapas is a Mexican state rich in jungles and forests. It receives abundant rainfall during the rainy season that lasts between 6 and 8 months each year. Its rivers and lakes represent nearly 40% of Mexico’s fresh water. For reference, the per capita water availability in the country is 4,573 m3 per year, and only in Chiapas it is 25,008 m3 per capita per year. In addition to its jungle, Chiapas is rich in minerals, oil, medicinal plants and sites for possible tourism development.
In contrast to this natural wealth, we find a population facing severe social problems for various reasons, but usually due to economic inequality. Rural families harvest coffee, corn, and/or beans just once a year. Between harvests, most farmers look for a daily labor job with irregular income and no social security. In most of these communities, young people, men and women, migrate to the United States or Canada to seek income to support their families. The earth is fertile, but the people have not developed a culture of environmental care and don’t know how to fully use the natural resources.
Access to health services is difficult and usually expensive and when faced with the possibility of losing loved ones, people go into debt to pay for private care. It is believed that with eating a healthier and balanced diet, these people will be able to prevent a lot of the sickness and diseases they contract.
The communities who participate in this INESIN project have land where they can plant. In some cases like Mexquito, La Siberia, Ejido Jardín, El Llano and Juan de Grijalva they only have water during the rainy season and are not able to cultivate the rest of the time. In all the communities in this situation, INSIN plans to implement systems for collecting and conserving rainwater and hold workshops on rain cycles, planting calendar and plague control. In communities like San José la Nueva and neighboring communities, where they have access to a river and drinkable water, they mostly do monoculture and their diet mostly consist of corn and bean. Even though they plant vegetables, there is not a lot of variety and they suffer from plagues. They want to reduce the use of chemicals and learn how to improve the seeds they are using.
This is the reality of hundreds of indigenous rural communities across Chiapas, but INESIN chose these specific communities because they are already involved in another INESIN project and this is a way of offering them a more holistic accompaniment. The other project is called Transformative Ecological Spirituality where we teach spirituality that links faith and care for the environment. Through this program came the need for more concrete practices to follow up with the commitments they made. A former Mennonite Central Committee service worker facilitated workshops on making their own organic fertilizer and the communities want to learn more and are committed to implement these practices. INESIN does not enter a community unless invited. INESIN is also complementing this program by a reforestation project that is led by a Swiss engineer who came with DM Exchange et Mission. The project’s goal is to create small tree nurseries to do local reforestation. INESIN is very excited to be able to have these complementary projects with a focus on security and food security.
Lindsey Mercer serves as a Global Mission Intern with the Institute for Intercultural Studies and Research (INESIN) in Chiapas, Mexico. Her appointment is supported by Week of Compasssion, Our Churches Wider Mission, Disciples Mission Fund and your special gifts.