Las Guajiras de Cuba

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I’m soon en route to Cuba, the alligator shaped island only miles south of the Florida Keyes, the tiny island that could – viva! and couldn’t – coño! The place where mangos are considered tantalizing fruits and good looking guys and gals. Where art flows like water, most people are university educated, child health indicators are …

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A Eulogy for Family Farmers on World Food Day

WFD 2014: Year of the Family Farmer

Tomorrow, October 16, 2014, is World Food Day. On the 69th World Food Day, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has chosen to celebrate The International Year of the Family Farming (IYFF). It’s a noble gesture on the FAO’s part – considering the historical and current efforts made by family …

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Maya-Mam Market Culture – Living Local in Guatemala

Sunday was market-day in Comitancillo with farmers from all over the region converging, and transforming the quiet streets to sell their goods. Here are a variety of regional chile peppers and dried fish.

They arrived at 4 o’clock in the morning. Outside my hotel window in the cobbled streets below, men and women arrived from the countryside, or from smaller towns and villages around Comitancillo, with their tables and poles and blue and black tarpaulins and their bulging sacks of whatever it was …

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Indigenous Farmers Confront Canada’s Goldcorp

Tomasa at her home in Comitancillo, Guatemala (Photo Credit - KJ Dakin)

Lines etch across Tomasa Perez Jimenez’s tawny features as her eyes study her floor. The cracked earth contrasts with the party pink of her traditional blouse. Her voice is quiet and steady as she discusses the mine that has been operating on her doorstep for more than a decade. “In …

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The Cocoa Connection in Rio San Juan, Nicaragua

(Photo Credit - KJ Dakin)

What I recently learned from las campesinas (women farmers) living in the lush rainforest region of the Rio San Juan department of southern Nicaragua tasted pretty sweet. Money doesn’t grow on trees, but chocolate sure does. The raw form of chocolate, anyways. In the Rio San Juan department, women and their husbands …

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Behind the Canadian Flag – Mining in Central America

Mother and daughter farmers with their children and grandchildren in Comitancillo, Guatemala.

Seven years ago, I broke the stitches that secured the Canadian flag to my bright blue backpack. It was a symbolic act. It was a traveller’s coming of age moment when I realized that I was no longer proud of my country’s political reputation abroad. When I was 19, I …

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Vertical Growing – DIY Pallet Garden Project

Step 2

Inspired by last week’s kitchen garden project with the school kids in Rubira, I’ve been motivated to continue experimenting with vertical growing projects in our garden in Kabale, so we see what works and pass along the technologies to youth, too. I’ve always been a fan of using waste materials …

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Permaculture vs. Gold Mining in Guatemala

Indigenous seed saving in Tuixcajchis (Photo by KJ Dakin)

In the arid mountain village of Tuixcajchis, Aurelia Jimenez Zacories is always growing something on her small but productive tract of land. She spends her days coaxing vegetables and the staples of corn, wheat and potatoes from the soil, raising livestock, building organic soil, planting trees and saving her seeds …

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Humble Lessons from Landslides & Everything Permaculture is Not

The earth moves in miraculous, frustrating ways.

Last week I wrote about African proverbs, garden wisdom and the power of patience and confidence against what we can’t predict in life, including the rain and sun and whatever other element Mother Nature casts our way (or doesn’t). Oddly enough, all of the above manifested with extremity since I …

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On the Road, In the Air, Across the Ocean Again – Uganda, Round Two

Tofino, BC, Canada

Well, Americas – it’s been a wildly wonderful couple of months. From Uganda to Edmonton, Canada to Comitancillo, Guatemala to Nicaragua – back to Edmonton, up to the frozen valley of Peace River, Edmonton and all things Edmonton, again, over to Canada’s warmer coastline to the west, Victoria to Tofino …

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Women Who Dig – Runner-Up in Briarpatch’s Creative Writing Contest

Woman from Comitancillo (Photo by KJ Dakin)

Before we talk, we eat. Aurelia has laid out lunch on the long skinny table. She’s prepared dishes that give homage to maíz, corn – the food that defines Mayan-Mam cultural heritage of the Comitancillo highlands of northwestern Guatemala. There’s sopa de res y maíz, beef and corn soup, and heavy …

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Local Author to Focus on Women Farmers

Comitancillo, Guatemala (Photo by KJ Dakin)

While resting in the frozen hills of the Peace Country a couple of weeks back, I was happy to digest my travel and research experiences and share more about my story with local reporter, Kristjanna Grimmelt. Here’s a link to a story Kristjanna wrote and published in the Peace River …

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Her Worth, Her Work on International Women’s Day

Women digging, Uganda.

She may not seem significant to you because she’s holding the hand-hoe, feeding the pigs, or hauling broken laundry basket filled with carrots still clinging to the soil. But her work is the definition of work in the truest sense. She puts her intellectual, physical, emotional and according to some …

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River to River – Research in the Rio San Juan, Nicaragua

The sky in the water and the water in the sky along the Rio de Sabalos, Rio San Juan.

The dueña (owner) of the small boat handed me the crudely carved paddle. It was heavy in my hands, painted a cheerful shade of bright blue. I burst out laughing, and looked over to my travel companion, Keely. “You know how to steer?” I asked her with a surprised grin. …

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Photos from the Field – Comitancillo, Guatemala

It was my first time collaborating with a photojournalist to capture stories. Here is the wildly talented and wildly wonderful, KJ Dakin and a few curious children standing by.

You don’t wait for chicken buses in Guatemala. You get pushed onto them, literally, and within seconds become one with a noisy chugging engine, far too many bodies pressed together on seats, and ranchara music assaulting your ears for the entire (tiresome) journey. Alas… And then you wake up and …

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Women Who Dig – Research in Central America

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Tomorrow evening I’ll descend on Guatemala City. I’m already anticipating the scattered, erratic twinkling of city lights, countered by the pockets of dark as I fall down, down onto the continent I’ve known and fallen in love with over the past ten years – though it isn’t my motherland. It’s …

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I Dreamed Of [Second Encounters with Permaculture] in Cuba

La Maravillosa, Cuba

This year’s International Permaculture Convergence (IPC) provided a chance to gather with people around the world to discuss good work and inspiring projects relating to permaculture. A dear friend, Halena Seiferling and I had spent time in Cuba participating in a permaculture internship in 2011 and 2012, and so the …

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For the Love of the Beehive

Respect.

Bees are pretty inspiring little creatures. Let’s all take a moment to agree on that. In the last couple of years I have become instinctively curious about, and inspired by the humble little bumblebee. Now I could sit here with my mug of honey-enriched tea and discuss the impressive capabilities …

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Got ‘Underdeveloped’ Milk? – Part II

Milk - 32 flavours and then some.

I’m growing fat and nourished on unprocessed milk these days whilst living in Uganda.  I don’t have much of a choice, at least, not like I do in Canada when I go to the grocery store, and see shelves stacked with yellow, purple, blue and red plastic-capped jugs of milk, representing homogenized, 1%, …

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