Mexico Maize Festival (Dec 2010)

Mexico Maize Festival (Dec 2010)

The Mexico Maize Festival took place in Northern Mexico from 1-4 December 2010, bringing together local Tarahumara farmers, several NGOs and a government representative from Mexico’s Protected Areas Commission for the maiz criollo initiative.
With support from The Christensen Fund Regional Program in Sierra Tarahumara, the festival honoured farmers in a region where over 20 varieties of maize and many varieties of beans and their wild relatives are still found. Tirso Gonzales, on behalf of the Indigenous Partnership, contacted Laurie Monti, TCF’s program officer for the region, to share ideas on the proposed Mexico Maize Festival. Both agreed that the Indigenous Partnership should start by building a consultant directory database organised by region and agroecological issues. Tirso Gonzales and Paola De Santis from Bioversity International were both invited to take part in the Ferie del Maiz. During their stay, they visited two organisations, CONTEC (Consultoria Tecnica Comunitaria) and RAKEMA, that are working with 30 communities of small farmers around priority issues of production, food security, agrobiodiversity and self-governance.

CONTEC also focuses on political action and human rights, associating closely with regional organisations such as Via Campesina. De Santis has prepared a briefing note and once her report is submitted, the Indigenous Partnership will discuss possible follow-up activities. De Santis feels there is potential for collaboration and highlighted some possible project areas, such as the need for a more structured baseline survey that could account for other crops in addition to maize and beans varieties. She reported that pests and disease are a concern for farmers, but felt that there are opportunities to design a more thorough training programme, since it was not clear what the level of farmer knowledge of such diseases is. She also pointed out that production does not always meet annual need. She felt that some improvements could be obtained through training on management practices. The establishment of community seed banks managed by leader farmers could be a useful initiative for the Tarahumara region. These issues will be discussed more thoroughly with the Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research and TCF’s Regional Program Officer during 2011.

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