Let's get to work...
How can we educate ourselves for action? In action itself. The gift of promoting actions and small sustainable changes - to achieve actions and big changes in the long term - translates into a fabric of effective human encounters through dialogue and observation. Jalil Aragón, a socio-environmental promoter and one of the people responsible for the Cuenca Sana-Comunidad Sana project, and Agustín Madrigal, director of Salvemos el Río Laja, are driving these actions.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health and Assistance indicate that in Mexico three out of every ten children are diabetic. Both poverty and ignorance, as well as climate variability, are resulting in young people with harmful diets. This affects their physical and cognitive development. It weakens their immune system and increases their vulnerability to infection and disease.
Remedying this situation requires commitment and action. Cuenca Sana-Comunidad Sana has gathered the testimonies of 250 families of Juan Xidó Cabras, Agustín González, Cañada de las Flores, Doña Juana, Sosnabar and Puerto de Nieto (Guanajuatito, Santas Marías and Puerto de Nieto). The diagnosis of the population's health reflected that 50 percent of those interviewed are aware of cases of diabetes and high blood pressure. However, less than a majority are familiar with gastritis, asthma, cancer, arthritis, high cholesterol and colitis.
Since last July, the promoters of this project have been going from house to house with the intention of familiarizing the population with topics such as preventive healthy eating and the promotion of eco-techniques, as well as the construction and production of gardens and nurseries. They also talked about the importance of nature-based tourism that encourages the conservation, regeneration and reforestation of the ejidos with a focus on adaptation to climate change.
The questionnaires - addressed to families where the mothers are usually housewives or in charge of the little shop in the community and most of them work in the fields, while the fathers are mostly masons, farmers, gardeners or maintenance workers and other employees - revealed that 99 percent of the cases are interested in participating in this health project through healthy eating and habitat restoration. Above all, they recognized the importance of children and youth participating in the school programs designed by Cuenca Sana-Comunidad Sana.
What do these families consume? Mostly beans, rice, soups, lentils, eggs, potatoes, salsa, tortillas, nopales and vegetables (cucumber, lettuce, tomato). Most try to add red meat, chicken or fish to their diet at least once a week. Also most drink fruit water with sugar with meals and milk twice a day. At least once a week they drink soda. A minority do not drink soda. Few eat fruit. Approximately 50% mentioned consumption of atoles, oatmeal, coffee and natural water. Among their indispensable expenses is the purchase of jug water. In some communities one hears: "They already told us that the well water is contaminated."
The general public feels affected by climate change and although they do not express it in this terminology, they express it with very close events: "It has not rained much or it is no longer raining the same." They stopped sowing the corn because of the lack of rain. In addition, the fields "are abandoned," They recognized that they lack "information and encouragement" to know how to get out of this situation. "Every year there was production, now there isn't. Every other year there was production. The land is no longer strong. The lemon has given itself little... The medlar tree that was once abundant now has few flowers. "The fruits no longer grow much. The lack of water and the plague of grasshoppers, squirrels and sheep eat the beans.
People don't work in the cornfields because "many go to work outside the city or migrate." Some prefer to sell the land rather than work the cornfield because it is very difficult. Pests arrive, there is no knowledge of how to produce and the lack of organization and credibility prevents them from continuing. They prefer to sell.
The seasons are changing. The flora and fauna are decreasing. "The vegetation is dying out, the streams are drying up, and so are the springs. The huizaches are also drying up because they have mistletoe. It is better to throw away the trees to make fences and corrals for the animals."
"I used to go to the hill and eat from it. Now there's nothing left... not even cactus. More heat, less water and fewer trees. The birds that helped with the control of the grasshopper are mostly gone. Now the grasshopper eats the corn. The pelicans of the Allende Dam are gone too.
Faced with this desolate panorama, the importance of a project like Cuenca Sana-Comunidad Sana falls by its own weight. The training of promoters to carry out this initial diagnosis is accompanied by a preventive feeding manual where the population is informed about how to prepare food, cooking times, use of utensils, natural supplements and the benefits of consuming natural foods without industrial processing, among other things. Also, a food diary and seedbed for seeds of the food they consume has been delivered. In this food diary the children write down what they eat for two weeks. From this, practices are derived to sow the seeds of the vegetables and fruits they have already consumed.
This leads to the creation of backyard gardens. The redesign of family economies is proposed, which includes the production of vegetables, as well as nursery and fruit growing. In this way, there is a dialogue about the importance of working the milpas in an integral and efficient manner. Hence the need to offer workshops on the conservation and restoration of cornfields, rainwater harvesting and water-saving practices. Most have a pit, solar heater and recycle gray water from the bathroom and kitchen for their plants. The waste goes to the animals or to the compost. Some collect rainwater in barns. Few mention the possibility of having dry toilets by doing their business in the bush.
Since one of the main threats to health comes from water from wells with high levels of arsenic and fluoride, the Cuenca Sana-Comunidad Sana project includes the organization of committees for the construction of rainwater harvesting systems.
Finally, the last stage will require greater participation from the communities. Specialists will be invited to develop the fruit farming and nursery projects. The communities will be able to produce for internal and external consumption. This stage will also address the issues of climate variability, overgrazing, illegal extraction of leaf litter, deforestation, illegal extraction of sand from streams and rivers, affecting not only the landscape but also ecosystems, economic activities and local agriculture. There will be dialogues, exchanges between the different communities to design similar and effective projects that can be reproduced in other locations. And thus, multiply efforts until the land is healed, the community is healed, the watershed is healed.