Kiva Service-Learning in Guatemala: Day 5

by Jack Lyons ’16 On our last day in Guatemala we visited Meso American Permaculture Institute (IMAP) in the southern part of Lake Atitlan. The focus on permaculture, a method of sustainable agriculture. Ronnie, one of the fo unders of IMAP talked about how Permaculture doesn’t exist in big industry agriculture because machines cannot deal with it. Big industry agriculture is typically monoculture because they usually deal with just one plant, and machines can use repetitive moves to harvest and grow the crops. Permacu lture includes many plants that all work together symbiotically, and machines cannot handle the complex work required, so human minds and hands are needed to grow the crops. We then learned about the different planting zones and their purposes. Zone one is for plants visited on a daily basis, including plants that are close to the kitchen, harvested all the time—salad greens, herbs and root vegetables.DSCN3578 In zone one there are 30 types of different plants in small area and is not in a straight line, the shape serves a purpose of being able to work without trouble, and also uses the least space for the most plants. The spacing is especially important in a country where the richest 2% of the population own 60% of the land. The majority of poor, indigenous people in Guatemala have very little access to land and so therefore must use every inch effectively. Zone two was the planted Milpa System, which uses the Mayan trilogy, corn, beans and squash. Corn, beans and Squash are all planted together because they all work together and serve purposes for one another. Zone 3 and 4 are “good forest,” which includes terraced farming to create a regenerative productive system. What stuck with me most is how we learned that Guatemala has no surplus of money. However people spend $2 a day on soda, and in a community of 16,000, that can be up to $32,000 spent on a foreign company per day. If that money were saved up and put into local businesses, a huge impact could be made on the local economy. We learned that if you put your money into local businesses it is just like terracing a hillside, you slow down the water/money but eventually it will reach the bottom/big business’s pocket. He said that putting money into local business might only slow the money down from going to big business, but it will also help local business in just the way water helps the plants as it goes down the hill in a terraced garden. I learned a lot about the ethics of money—eventually it will end up somewhere, but you can slow it down by putting it in places where people need it. DSCN3563In terms of this year’s Kiva Carnival, will all be putting our money into small businesses that will go into loans for others. However, the sad thing is that a percent of that money will most definitely go into a big business pocket at some point. Also, the way the zones are laid out in the permaculture system might be an inspiration for our carnival. If our Kiva Carnival was laid out in a certain way, maybe we can create more profits. If the lower cost business were put in one area, and the higher cost ones in another, or the food business grouped together, perhaps this could possibly change the outcome of profits in a beneficial way.  

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