Breaking Ground in Jonotla, Mexico


After having arrived in Jonotla only one week before, the Himalayan Institute Mexico (HIM) start up team has successfully acquired a plot of land on which to begin its Energy Farming project. The one acre plot is only a twenty minute walk from the center of town, on a wedge of land between two roads. It is accessible by foot, car and horse, and its position in the midst of farmland makes it an optimal location for demonstrating sustainable agriculture techniques and hosting workshops for the local community.

The three rooms in this workshop will serve as the HIM community center with offices, classroom for educational seminars, and storage facility. It is less than 100 yards from the demonstration plot.

The Energy Farming demonstration plot was pure jungle when the HIM acquired it; it hadn’t been cultivated in over 15 years, so great trees, vines, shrubs, and a number of coffee bushes gone wild dominated the property. This long period of rest is an excellent starting point for the organic Energy Farming work, since it indicates a rich, stable soil that has been protected from erosion and free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Workers cut a path through the jungle in order to measure the perimeter.

After receiving a walking tour of the land, a local farmer was hired to organize a team to help with the site preparation including removal and mulching of shrubs and weedy underbrush.

The land was prepared by a team of men using only hand tools. Even large tree branches were pruned with machetes.

In order to maintain the land’s natural integrity and to keep it protected, a 4 meter buffer zone of uncut forest was preserved around the perimeter of the land. Large trees, traditional medicinal plants, and some of the coffee bushes were left standing. The plant debris will serve to enrich the plot, with branches pruned from the trees becoming fenceposts and terracing supports, and leaves and shrubs serving as the foundation for the first compost piles.

After cutting down the brush, workers were instructed to leave the cuttings scattered across the land. This will prevent weeds from springing up and will act as a first layer of compost. Like all other cultivated land in the area, the farm is on a slope.

In the course of exploring and clearing the land with local farmers, HIM staff quickly began to collect information on the traditional uses for native plants and trees. The farmers expressed an interest in learning more specific techniques for sustainable cultivation, as well as the desire to exchange knowledge from the different herbal healing traditions of Mexico, India and the United States.

Señor Leonardo Vasquez describes how the root of a local plant is used to treat snake bites.


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