Developing the rural landscape : sustainability efforts through women home gardens in a Yucatec Maya community
Marginalized rural populations are the main actors in a growing multi-disciplinary effort to conserve some of the most biodiverse and culturally rich regions of the world. Within a context of greater political tensions and environmental worries on a global scale, alternative modes of development are drawing greater attention. Sustainable development, women in development and indigenous land use are all important issues in the rural landscape. This thesis examines these issues in the Felipe Carrillo Puerto (FCP) ejido (communal land-holding) community in Chemax, Yucatan, Mexico, which has been working in collaboration with a national non-governmental organization (NGO), Bioasesores, A.C. Focus is placed on the ‘Women’s Home Gardens Project.’ This new take on an old tradition aims to reduce economic pressures, improve access to nutritious foods, and empower the female group through participatory strategies. The NGO-community relationship, of which there is a growing multitude in Latin America, becomes critical in this endeavor. Through ethnographic data based on interviews with the women and participant observation, it is clear that decisions made by this Yucatec Maya community function within their political environment, economic pressures, and societal norms. The environmental consultants working within the community exercise well-intentioned, participant-based methods that improve upon government actions of the past; however there are several challenges that are not fully addressed. There is a clear potential for these efforts, though there are also problems that call into question the project’s sustainability. In a region that continues to struggle due to external economic pressures, there is a need to ensure that current development efforts in the ejido take both the needs of the people and environmental conservation into account. The rural landscape continues to develop in Mexico, and both NGOs and local communities are actively involved. This research offers a glimpse into the dynamics of one relationship between an NGO and an ejido, and provides suggestions for improvement.