The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews

ConocoPhillips

2006 Winner

Maya Nut Programme

Maya Nut Programme

Protecting the Maya Nut in Central America

The Maya Nut programme is reaching critical mass in Guatemala and Nicaragua, the countries where I have worked the longest.  Over the past 4 years I have presented the programme to Ministries of Forestry, Natural Resources, and Agriculture in both countries.

In Nicaragua, the Ministry of Forestry has requested Maya Nut training in two new regions where rural communities are threatening the rainforest. Also, they have agreed to honour my request to list Maya Nut as a nationally protected species in a law to be passed by the end of 2006.

In Guatemala, the Ministry of Agriculture is conducting a national forest inventory to identify promising regions for the Maya Nut programme. Also, the Presidential Commission for Rural Development has declared Maya Nut a “National Treasure”. They plan to help the women’s Maya Nut co-operative in the Maya Biosphere Reserve market their products as part of a national strategy to increase appreciation of native Guatemalan products.

In El Salvador, my meeting in December 2005 with the Ministry of Natural Resources, led to the formation of a Maya Nut steering committee made up of NGOs, protected area managers, and private landowners. Their goal is to train and co-ordinate a team of women Maya Nut promoters and to re-forest vulnerable watersheds with Maya Nut. The Nicaraguan women producers will conduct the workshops in El Salvador.

In Honduras, our partners World Neighbours and the Rio Plátano Biosphere Reserve Project, will train 40 new communities in 2006. A group of women from Rio Plátano, whom I trained in May 2005, submitted a proposal to the United Nations Development Programme to form a producer co-operative.  Rio Plátano is the largest tract of rainforest in Central America and is under intense pressure from nearby communities. Maya Nut production potential in the region is immense and offers a sustainable solution to resource degradation and poverty in this area.

In Mexico, the first Maya Nut training workshops are being offered in forested regions of the departments of Michoacan and Veracruz. My partners have identified several companies interested in purchasing Maya Nut flour as soon as the women can produce adequate quantities of quality product.

Looking ahead, I plan to bring the programme to several extremely remote areas which have to date been too expensive to access. These areas are Bosawas, in the Atlantic Rainforest, Rio San Juan Biosphere Reserve, in Nicaragua, and Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, in Mexico. All three are remote and vulnerable regions of high biodiversity that display the disastrous combination of extreme poverty and food insecurity. These factors result in intense resource pressure and the inhabitants remaining, at present, ignorant of the value of Maya Nut.

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