The Centro Maya project in Guatemala began its fourth full year of applied research activities in 1995. Located in the Peten region, the focus of Centro Maya research is the transition zone ecosystem south of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, the second largest contiguous tropical forest in the western hemisphere (1.5 million hectares). The project's efforts aim to improve the standard of living for current and future residents of the Peten while conserving the surrounding tropical forest and natural resources. Research addresses the regeneration of current farming systems and the development of future farming systems which link ancient Mayan agricultural wisdom to modern techniques of food production.
Centro Maya is a partnership that includes the Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnologia Agricolas (ICTA), the University of San Carlos, the Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza (CATIE), and Rodale Institute.
In 1994, the Centro Maya team established 45 additional small-scale research projects on Petenero farms, bringing the two-year total to 95 trials. A total of 61 communities are involved in this research, focusing primarily on intercropping corn with the soil-improving velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens), referred to locally as frijol abono. The purpose of frijol abono is to suppress weed growth and add nitrogen and organic matter to agricultural soils. Other applied research and development activities focused on screening other soil-improving legume varieties.
With support from USAID/Guatemala and the Moriah Fund, Centro Maya is also developing expertise in land use management planning (LUMP) in the Peten.
The overall goal of the LUMP initiative is to develop a working, replicable model for land use management in communities that border the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) and in other communities in the buffer zone between the MBR and the southern Peten. The model will be characterized by:
The process to develop the LUMP model began in 1994 with implementation of the Bethel Cooperative's forest management plan. This is the first such management plan in the history of Guatemala. The plan was developed in collaboration with Conservation International and Bethel community members.
Finally, the Centro Maya team periodically submits taped, five-minute interviews of participating farmers to the regional radio station for broadcast on the show, "Chat With the Farmer" (Platicando con el Agricultor).
Theresa Robles, Project Director
John Sabella, Ed.D., Program Associate