Worldwide indigenous people are recognized for their unique culture and ways of relating between their own communities, other communities and also with the environment. This specific relationship with nature is directly reflected in the way they live.
There is an old Mayan Quiché legend that says gods tried to create humans with wood and mud, but they were not able to live, think, speak and feel until they were made with corn. In Mexico corn is one the most important grains, this country is the 6th worldwide corn producer and 4th consumer. Nicaraguans from Tisey and Apaguají mountains believe that the first woman and man were created with corn dough, beans soup and honey, bones were created with branches, organs with chili and avocado, and finally, the hair was also made by corn.
Legends not only represent how essential grains are for these cultures but also describe what is sacred for them and how that guides their life. In India Hindu population believes in Buhu Mata, Mother Earth and Rivers are also treat as goddesses that bring water to crop fields and villages, prominent ones being Rivers – Ganga (North India), Yamuna (North India), Narmada (Central and West India), Godavari (Southern India), Krishna (South India) and Kaveri (South India); and of course, cow is worshiped as mother – Gau Mata because they provide milk which is life sustaining .Also, there is a Maasai legend that tells the story of how God gave cattle to Maasinta (the first Maasai), who was told to love cows in the same way God loved him.
Unfortunately, indigenous people in developing countries of Latin America, Asia, and Africa represent 15% of the poorest world population, this is due to obvious factors such as lack of access to essential goods and services. The most significant of these behaviours is the lack of public policies that could deliver basic goods and services to indigenous communities.
In the lexicon of the dominant development, small farmers are antiquated and shortsighted, and they should adapt to modern agricultural technology rather than promote agricultural technology designed for their needs. For example in Kenya, the increasing population has led to increased urbanization and a change of lifestyles. This together with the reduced farmlands has lowered the incentive to cultivate traditional crops such as sorghum, millet, cassava and indigenous vegetables. This change has severely strained the environment leading to climate change.
Then, the question is “what if social enterprises, civil societies, and governments could work with communities to close the gap between the actual access to basic goods, services and technologies.” One such initiative is being carried out by the International Renewable Resources Institute (IRRI-Mexico) and Sistema.bio in Mayan communities of Yucatán, since 2014, and in a Zapotec community in Oaxaca, since 2018. Through biodigestion – biogas programs.
Biodigesters and its by-products (biogas and biofertilizer) reduce the structural gap by providing access to clean energy source, and organic fertilizer for better and more abundant yield, as well as a sustainable sanitation alternative to animal waste. Our educational methodology aligns local myths and cultural components with the basic ecological principle that there is no waste, only inputs into other productive processes. This is done through explorations of the local stories and values of each area, creating emotional and empathetic links with local farmers to inspire a deep desire for change.
Besides, a Biofertilizer Research Center has been implemented in Maya Mexico Region to promote among the indigenous community, best practices in sustainable agriculture while integrating the local ancient knowledge that is still preserved in the towns, but facing risks of displacement by harmful industrial-agricultural practices.
We acknowledge that there is still much to be done, however at IRRI-Mexico and Sistema.bio we firmly believe that inclusive and sustainable initiatives will reduce gaps in access to basic goods and services. Promoting local capacities and providing tools to the communities that respect their traditions and knowledge so that they become agents of change in reducing the current gaps under their cultural terms.