Changing climate altering age-old habits in Mexico

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Members of the Mayan community of Tabi, around 200 (120 miles) kilometers southwest of Cancun on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, say changes in the weather are forcing them to change their lives.

A boy sells handicrafts near the Kukulcan temple, a step pyramid dominating Chichen Itza archaeological site, a complex built by the Mayan civilization in the Yucatan Peninsula. The dusty streets and modest homes of the community of some 400 people do not suggest wealth, but the land’s bounty of corn, squash, beans and fruit made it a perfect place to raise a family.

That has changed since Eunice Be Chuc moved here, 28 years ago.

These days rain is increasingly unpredictable in a region where the wet season has come like clockwork since the times of the ancient Maya.

Now drought, floods and hurricanes alternate — extreme conditions that devastate crops.

“Even if you plant crops, the soil only gets drier with all the sun and if there is no water, how do we water it? So even if we are doing our part, if the soil doesn’t produce, what else can we do?” Be Chuc told AFP, looking across a parched field.

Corn is to Mexico what rice and bread are to much of the rest of the world.

The tortilla is a staple, and without it, many would go hungry, in a country where around 40 percent live in poverty.

A family passes by one of the stands promoting green energy at the Climate Village in Cancun, Mexico. But agricultural officials say climate change and poor farming practices have cut Mexico’s corn yields up to 60 percent over the past 15 years.

Last year, Mexico suffered the worst drought in 60 years; this year it saw record flooding in parts of the country.

“When it doesn’t rain, the entire crop is lost. When it does rain, the entire crop grows,” said community leader and farmer Saulo Chuc Moo.

Locals are beginning to adapt in order to survive — turning away from old slash and burn techniques that left fields barren after just a few seasons.

Now they clear rocks and other debris from the soil and mix in organic fertilizer to create sustainable fields.

Anti-poverty campaigners say rural communities around the world are feeling the same strain — and being forced to adapt.

“There are only a few issues that have been consistently increasing in awareness for the past few years and one of them is climate change,” said Antonio Hill, from Oxfam.

“And among others, part of the reason is … the fact that around the world people are convinced that something is changing.”

Members of WWF make a representation of the Earth with lit candles in a beach in Cancun. Farmers in Tabi struggle to keep up with the pace of that change, seeking alternatives to feed their families, such as apiculture and selling firewood, while women are doing crafts to earn extra money.

They receive some government help to finance new agriculture techniques, but last year’s severe droughts, which destroyed their harvests, led to big protests in the region, and calls for more aid.

Those still relying exclusively on agriculture to make a living are becoming poorer, and some even fear agriculture will disappear completely.

“Many people are leaving to find other places to work, many go to the hotel zone, where they become slaves for others,” said local resident Eunice Be Chuc, referring to the massive tourist developments along the coast, such as Cancun.

As negotiators from more than 190 countries arrived at the Caribbean resort Sunday for a final week of UN-backed climate talks, Tabi residents looked to global leaders to bring help to keep their crops growing.


Source: AFP via France 24 [December 06, 2010]


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