LAZOS PARA LOS SUELOS AGUA Y SEMILLAS DE OAXACA, A.C. MEXICO

Apdo. Postal # 124 Tel/fax: 52 951 4 34 95 o 1 05 65

Centro Oaxaca E.mail: lasosac@yahoo.com

Oaxaca, C.P. 68000, Mexico RFC: LSA970221QH0

ANNUAL REPORT 1999

ABOUT LASOS.

LASOS mission: The mission of LASOS is to support local communities to achieve their aspirations to maintain themselves intact, protect their environment and conserve their basic resources recognizing the need for a synthesis of local knowledge and tradition and outside influences and expertise, and that each community will be most successful with their own form of group organization.

LASOS goals: LASOS main focus is to work directly with communities and small farmers groups to develop and carry out suitable projects of erosion control, soil improvement, water conservation and seed saving for sustainable livelihoods - food security, environment and natural resource conservation (land and species), reduction in poverty, improvement of health and building social capital and self-confidence.

LASOS program: The LASOS program offers two interrelated services: providing environmentally friendly technologies with advice on their use and income-generating opportunities, and facilitating participatory workshops and networking to increase the capacity of local groups and communities to plan and manage their resources and negotiate with government and others for funding.

The core program of LASOS is the dissemination of vetiver grass technology. In this regard LASOS started, and continues to take a lead role in, a state-wide program for erosion control, Program for Erosion Control and Restoration of the Soils of Oaxaca (PCERS), spearheaded by vetiver grass technology, in collaboration with communities, local authorities, government agencies, NGOs, and research centers. As well as conserving soils, vetiver grass has the potential to earn income for small farmers (campesinos), groups and communities. LASOS co-founded the PCERS as an avenue for spreading its proven technologies and lessons learnt, and for networking. More information on LASOS is given in the Annex.

1999 ACTIVITIES.

After two years of intense activity developing the LASOS community network and promoting the Program for Erosion Control and Restoration of the Soils of Oaxaca, 1999 was a year of consolidation and reflection.

One of the major challenges has been to find local sources of funds for soil conservation, particularly for small farmers and communities. Lobbying with the Ministry of the Environment leveraged about $18,000 direct to the farmers groups and communities in the LASOS network to set up new nurseries and plant demonstration barriers. Part of the funds were used for existing nurseries to sell the vetiver to neighboring communities thus providing income to the growers and a potentially expanding spread of the grass and income generation, if the Ministry, or others, continue to participate.

In the Sierra Mixe, two new nurseries set up in Thahuitoltepec, one with a member of LASOS (Photo 1) and the other with a local farmers group (Photo 2). The frequent changes of the community authorities has affected the management of the community nursery and diffusion of the vetiver through official channels. Nonetheless, interest continues and establishment of demonstrations and nurseries with farmers and groups will hopefully stimulate the interest of the authorities. In Chichicaxtepec, the communal nursery was extended and 500 meters of barriers planted on steep, cultivated slopes (Photo 3 and 4) with training in contour measuring (Photo 5). The plants were provided by the LASOS "mother" nursery in the Valles Centrales.

In the Sierra Sur, the first demonstration of gulley stablization was planted with approaching a kilometer of barriers (Photo 6a- c), including a comparative test with maguey cactus (Photo 7). This experience was written up by the local press which was instrumental in convincing the Ministry of the Environment to provide funding (Photo 8). The funding agreement was drawn up in the palenque (distillery) near the nursery (Photo 9. The first vetiver grass roof was constructed by this group in San Juan Sola (Photo 10). The group of mescal producers maintained their nursery but funds arrived too late for the planting this year as the area has an altitude of 1700 meters and suffers from frosts in the winter. (Mescal is the local distillation from cactus). A larger nursery and comparative tests of vetiver and maguey hedgerows will be set up early next year. A trial using vetiver to protect a small maguey nursery was planted (Photo 11).

 

In the Costa, two new community nurseries were set up with plant plants from the LASOS nursery in nearby El Aguacate, Pochutla (Photos 12). In El Aguacate itself, 500 meters of demonstration hedgerows were planted on a steep, cultivated slope and the nursery extended (Photo 13) . Vetiver grass was used to thatch a large palapa which will be used for meetings and workshops (Photo 14). The traditional roofing material, palm, is becoming expensive and the palma royal which provides the best thatch, is becoming scarce so there appears to be potential for vetiver in this use. We provided vetiver plants and technical assistance for a nursery with the ecology group in Pto. Escondido. During the year, this nursery was expanded from a 1000 to 10,000 clumps. This group has good relations with local authorities and has included vetiver grass in its plans for environmental protection in the town which is an important tourist resort suffering from cronic collapse of roads in the rainy season (Photo 15) and silting of lagoons and beaches. Plans are afoot to protect a road with vetiver and stabilize sandy cliffs above one of the tourist beaches.

 

The LASOS vetiver "mother" nursery in Huayapam, Valleys Centrales continues to provided an essential source of plants for new communities and an excellent demonstration of hedgerows. A number of individuals and groups visited the site, including government officials and technicians. We provided plants and training to an NGO from Morelos State which visited the site (Photo 16). A second, small nursery was also planted in Huayapam.

At the Oaxaca State level, we continued our participation in the Program for Erosion Control and Restoration of the Soils of Oaxaca (PCERS). During the coming three years (1999-2001) the PCERS is decentralizing activities to the regions and is sharing the coordination between three lines of work — extension, research and promotion. We took on the extension line which is responsible for extending the grassroots/community network, providing or helping local groups organise technical assistance amongst themselves, and for integrating the work of the three lines at the regional level. We helped set up three new PCERS sponsored nurseries with farmers groups and grassroots NGOs to become demonstration/diffusion centers, two on the coast and one in the Valles Centrales (Photo 17). In addition we facilitated a meeting of PCERS grassroots groups to set the grassroots agenda for the Program. Experience with vetiver grass and plans for the future were discussed together with the needs for training, information, research and funding. An important aspect of LASOS work is promoting vetiver; for example, in August we had a meeting with the community land authority in Pochutla in the Coast Region (Photo 18).

 

At the Central American Regional level, we were invited to participate in a three day workshop in El Salvador on the experience of vetiver grass for protection and stabilization of infrastructure on behalf of LASOS and the PCERS (Photo 19). The work, sponsored by the World Bank and with participants from Central American countries, aimed to promote vetiver as a bioengineer option for reconstruction following the hurricane Mitch in Central America.

 

Perspective 2000.

During 2000 we intend to:

Annex.

LASOS organisation and people: LASOS is a registered civil society (NGO) based in Oaxaca, southern Mexico. A group of 7 men and women are members of LASOS - from indigenous cultures, the Mexican mixed-race culture and from the European culture - who pool their particular experience and expertise which includes small farming (campesino) and agricultural engineering, erosion control and natural soil improvement, seed conservation, participatory diagnostics and planning, community leadership, group organization and dynamics (local cultures and the North), organizational development, local and international networking. Much of the work by LASOS members is carried out amongst themselves on the basis of reciprocal in-kind contributions, at zero or low cash cost.

Why Oaxaca? Oaxaca State in southern Mexico is the 4th largest state in Mexico which is the 10th largest country in the world in area . Oaxaca State is first in Mexico for cultural and biological diversity and is home to 14 distinct indigenous peoples (30% of Mexico). Oaxaca is the size of Portugal and almost twice the size of Costa Rica. It contains 80% of the vegetation types in Mexico, from semi-desert to tropical rain forest with much original forest in tact, and has more plant species than Europe.

Why soils. Oaxaca has long suffered soil erosion but erosion is now advancing at an alarming rate. Oaxaca has been identified by the World Resources Institute as being one of the places on the Earth of gave concern for its soil erosion and rate of desertification .

Why the program? Fertile soil, adequate water and appropriate seeds are the basis of sustainable agriculture, and are fundamental to the well-being and food security of rural communities. Secure and confident rural communities are essential to protecting the rich cultural and biological diversity existing in Oaxaca, which is part of our global heritage. Rural communities are struggling with the problems of erosion of soil and its decreasing fertility, water scarcity and the disappearance of native seeds adapted to the local environment, all of which are being aggravated by the introduction of inappropriate hi-tech farming methods; this is provoking high rates of migration, impoverishment, breakdown of rural communities and loss of species. Local forms of organization and traditional knowledge combined with modern expertise and networking can create a powerful impact on conservation which is appropriate to individual local environments.

How? LASOS believes and has shown that: