Apoyamos iniciativas concertadas y autónomas de bienestar social y conservación ecológica en Oaxaca desde 1991
ENTREVISTA AL MAESTRO JUAN JOSE CONSEJO Y A DON PEDRO SANTIAGO ENTRE OTROS, ACERCA DE LA LUCHA QUE SE LLEVA A CABO EN CONTRA DE LA EROSION Y LA SEQUIA REALIZADA POR PRI´s THE WORLD, QUE ES UNA ESTACION DE RADIO INTERNACIONAL, A CONTINUACION PODRAS ENCONTRAR EL AUDIO Y LA TRANSCRIPCION DE ESTA ENTREVISTA
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LISA MULLINS: Farther south in Mexico, residents of the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca are still digging out from a rash of late summer landslides. The disasters killed dozens of people, destroyed homes and blocked rural highways. The landslides were blamed on unusually heavy rains. But deforestation and poor agricultural practices have made erosion a chronic problem in the region. Now some local residents are trying to address the problem by experimenting with low-tech, traditional practices. Shannon Young has the story from Oaxaca.
SHANNON YOUNG: Back-to-back storms have drenched Oaxaca and three neighboring states in this busy hurricane season. Much of this rain has hit remote mountainous regions that are already prone to landslides. Storm-related damage to roads has left some towns unreachable by car for weeks.
YOUNG: Forest management consultant Jose Rodriguez says the Mexican government hasn’t provided much help in cleaning up, so the task has largely fallen to unpaid locals with their own shovels. Impassable roads are a fact of life during the rainy season in southern Mexico’s most remote areas. Deforestation and overgrazing on steep mountainsides have helped create serious erosion problems here. But much of the erosion is preventable. And without much help from the government, some local residents have begun fighting erosion and other land use problems, with low cost do-it-yourself techniques. The town of San Andres Huayapam overlooks Oaxaca City from the foothills of the Sierra Norte mountains. The town’s original name means “on the big water,” but the springs that inspired the name have been drying up. The area now swings between drought and the kind of floods experienced in recent weeks. But one project here has developed a system to restore the ecological balance.
JUAN JOSE CONSEJO: What we try to do is combine scientific and traditional in a way that everyone gets a better condition.
YOUNG: Juan Jose Consejo is the director of Oaxaca’s Institute of Nature and Society. He’s working on what’s called the Pedregal permaculture farm and demonstration center. The project is experimenting with various combinations of modern and traditional technologies for retaining soil and recharging watersheds. Consejo shows off one erosion control system on the Pedregal site. Trenches running down this hillside channel heavy rainwater that would otherwise carve out gulches and gashes. The trenches contain chain link cages filled with rocks, which trap eroding soil. The topsoil is then collected and piled onto nearby hillside cornfields that have been stabilized with new terraces and hedgerows. The demonstration center also has two small dams, one built with reinforced concrete and one made using an old technique combining earth and large rocks. The dams catch overflowing creek water during the rainy season for irrigation during the dry season.
CONSEJO: The idea is to give a little help to nature to do what nature does in healthy conditions. That means, lets the water run down, forming ponds and steppes. Then, we have a system of terraces in order to protect the soil from erosion.
YOUNG: After the recent downpours, the dams and traps are filled to capacity. But the experimental plots seem to have weathered the season better than much of the surrounding landscape. Standing on a hillside, I can see the hills that have been reforested. Now, as I turn around and look at the opposite face of the canyon, gashes have been cut into the hillside by running water and these gashes converge into an entire area balded right down to the rock. Local farmer and traditional leader Pedro Santiago set up the Pedregal center five years ago.
YOUNG: Santiago says managing the many experimental projects here requires patience and ceaseless hard labor, but that signs of success are emerging. Forest ecologist Jose Rodriguez says more than two dozen towns have implemented stewardship programs similar to the work done at the Pedregal center and elsewhere in the region, but tailored to their own diverse local conditions.
YOUNG: The combination of old and new approaches being demonstrated here won’t completely solve the erosion crisis in this part of Mexico. But these small-scale efforts here in Oaxaca are showing that it is possible to restore degraded land and to protect Mexico’s hillsides against the devastating effects of rain that just doesn’t seem to stop. For The World, I’m Shannon Young, Oaxaca, Mexico.
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