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Feb 15, 2016

Mayan Gardening Publication Launched By Renowned Archeologist

Doctor Anabel Ford is an archeologist, who having discovered El Pilar in the west, has put in at least two decades of research arguing that the Maya’s milpa cycle is one of the same with the forest. She maintains that the practice of the Mayas in cultivating ‘forest gardens’, involved sequencing an area from a closed canopy forest to an open field. When it was cleared, it gave way to annual crops that would become an orchard garden that would then evolve into a closed canopy forest in a circuit that repeated itself.  Her theory is contained in a publication launched today: Maya Forest Garden, which is co-authored by Ron Nigh, an ethnographer. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Renowned Archaeologist Dr. Anabel Ford, recognized for discovering the ancient Maya city of El Pilar, has been working closely with Maya forest gardeners in the Cayo District since the mid-eighties.  Her studies and research over the past three decades have yielded a publication titled, Maya Forest Garden: Archaeology Under the Canopy.  The book pays homage to the spirit of Belize’s horticulturists.

 

Anabel Ford

Dr. Anabel Ford, Director, El Pilar Program

“This is for me such an important moment.  I wanted to honor the traditional Maya and show how their system works from the past and can work to the future.  So I want to explore solutions past and this Master Forest Gardeners are an integral part of a collaboration that I have done in my research to show that the ancient Maya settlement shows that the milpa cycle and the forest were at one.”

 

Alfonso Tzul, a resident of San Ignacio, has been involved with the making of Dr. Ford’s latest creation.  As an agronomist, his wealth of knowledge proves invaluable to the overall effort.

 

Alfonso Tzul

Alfonso Tzul, Forest Gardener

“My greatest role in this project is to share my experience as a farmer, as a professional one for that matter.  I worked thirty years for the Government of Belize, I acquired a lot of experience and today I am still a practicing farmer to some extent.  So anybody willing to share or to know something about agriculture they come to me and I do so.  So this is what I shared with Anabel Ford and so my contribution is a voluntary contribution of my knowledge so that others can benefit the way I have benefited.”

 

Interpreting the traditional views of the ancient Maya through careful study of common human aspects of this highly developed society and shedding light on sustainable farming practices have been at the center of Dr. Ford’s work with the El Pilar Program.

 

Dr. Anabel Ford

“This project has archaeology and ethnography.  It’s co-authored by Ron Nigh and Ron is an ethnographer.  He had been working in Chiapas, in the Yucatan, looking at traditional farming and showing how the smallholder was building biodiversity, conserving soil, managing water and feeding families.  And I had been looking at my landscape and thinking, it’s a very strong pattern and it’s always in these certain areas and not in other areas.  For example, it’s not in swamps.  Why would you plant in swamps?  But it’s always in the uplands, in rocky areas where we don’t farmer, and he said, “well, I think that what I’m doing is exactly what you’re seeing.”  And so we started collaborating in the publication of the book but both of us had archaeology and the actual Maya in mind when we wrote it and we wanted to honor the sophisticated – it’s called primitive/slash and burn – I call it sophisticated, skillful and actually restoring and renewing.  So they’re building biodiversities and at the same time their feeding families.  You can’t beat it, we need it now and these people are dying and we don’t want them to die without passing the information, it’s very important and I think that’s the start of this book.”

 

Maya Forest Garden was formally launched this morning at the Image Factory in Belize City. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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