About the El Pilar Forest Garden Network
The Forest Garden Network and ESP-Maya picnic at El Pilar. June, 2008
To learn about ancient agricultural traditions, the nonprofit organization Exploring Solutions Past ~ The Maya Forest Alliance began consulting with contemporary traditional Maya farmers. In the course of this collaboration, the farmers realized they could work together to educate not only researchers, but also the community at large. Accordingly, traditional farmers in the surrounding area of El Pilar, an ancient Maya city center that straddles the Belize-Guatemala border, joined together to spread the concept of forest gardening. Drawing on their ancestral knowledge of plants in the Maya forest, they are working together to teach and share their unique knowledge of plant use, soils, and ecology, and provide economic incentive for conserving the tropical forest.
Today the Network is comprised of forest gardeners in Belize and Guatemala. A core group in Belize meets regularly to work on community projects, collaborate, ask each other questions, as well as share techniques and heritage seeds.
- Preserve the cultural heritage of the Maya
- Keep alive traditional knowledge of plants and plant use
- Build appreciation for the agricultural skills of forest gardening
- Encourage practical conservation measures based on forest gardening
- Promote sustainable agricultural practices in the Maya Forest
- Explore the economic potential for sustainable Maya Forest products
- Maintain a database of plants of the forest gardens
- Inform the global community with an accessible and educational website
Forest gardener Ramon Zetina examines a bromiliad plant with ESP~Maya team member Megan Havrda
- Creating an active forest garden at the primary school in the village of Santa Familia to re-introduce forest gardening to children.
- Maintaining a forest garden at the ancient Maya site of El Pilar to contribute to the living environment and educate visitors on Maya life-ways.
- Offer forest garden tours to the public as an opportunity to see creative approaches to forest gardening, as well as the incredible beauty of the Maya forest.
- 2004: A group of aspiring environmentalists from Sacred Heart Junior College, nicknamed the Enlaces (Spanish for "links"), helped bridge the generation gap between older Maya farmers and a new generation of potential forest gardeners.
- 2005: Created nurseries to propagate useful plants with Help for Progress, a non-government organization in Belize.
- 2006: Supported children’s participation in the San Benito Botanic Garden with Ramon Zetina in Guatemala.
A group of forest gardeners and Enlaces members at the cedar nursery of master forest gardener Zacarias Quixchan.
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