Q’eqchi’ Maya women are important forest keepers

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Business-minded, indigenous Q’eqchi’ Maya women are important forest keepers and are contributing to community development in the Maya Golden Landscape.

The forests in southern Belize provide forest communities with fertile soils, food, shelter and clean water. In the Maya Golden Landscape, Q’eqchi’ Maya women make delicious corn tortillas and cook nutritious meals for their families over a fire hearth. The children attend school, the men visit their farms, and the women do laundry at the river bank – creating strong bonds with each other. The women collect firewood, herbs, fruits and vegetables for the next family meal.

In their spare time, indigenous Q’eqchi’ Maya women make unique handcrafts, cuxtal handbags, jippi jappa baskets, wood and slate carvings, pottery, jewellery and clothing with materials sustainably sourced from the forests. Realizing the opportunity to not only sell to fellow community members but also to international travellers, the sisters of the Coc family formed the Indian Creek Maya Arts Women’s Group.

Crafts of Maya Arts Women's Group - Ya'axché - EcoTourism Belize

Crafts of the Indian Creek Maya Arts Women’s Group. On the lower right are jippi jappa baskets. | Photo: Sayuri Tzul/Ya’axché

The women saw the opportunity to capitalize on a market niche by providing an authentic Maya culture experience through their traditional craft making, cooking and dancing. The women want visitors to celebrate the Maya traditions passed on for generations, such as making chocolate, tortillas and jippi jappa baskets, and experiencing a spiritual healing ceremony, cultural dancing and nature trails.

Most of the resources that the group’s business depends on – crafts, tours and traditional practices – come from the forest. However, climate change and deforestation are threatening the way of life for women and their families. To help protect forests, the Indian Creek Maya Arts Women’s Group joined Ya’axché’s training workshops on conservation, sustainable resource use practices, leadership, conflict resolution, product development, and business plan development.

Wood carvings by Maya Arts Women's Group - Ya'axché - EcoTourism Belize

Wood carvings and jippi jappa baskets made by the Indian Creek Maya Arts Women’s Group. | Photo: Sayuri Tzul/Ya’axché

They started operating as a small business partnering with EcoTourism Belize, Ya’axché’s sustainable financing initiative, to provide cultural tours. A day with the women’s group gives visitors a memorable, authentic and fun experience with the charismatic, knowledgeable and proud Qʼeqchiʼ Maya women. To diversify their income, the group offers catering services with exquisite traditional Maya cuisine.

These exceptional Qʼeqchiʼ Maya women are always seeking ways of improving their business and building their capacity. Indian Creek Maya Arts Women’s Group has self-financed the growth of the group including the construction of traditional thatch buildings. The Q’eqchi’ Maya women entrepreneurs are improving their livelihoods, supporting their children’s education, and inspiring others, especially young women in the community.

Traditional Cooking by Maya Arts Women's Group - Maximiliano Caal - Ya'axché

Caldo, a traditional Maya meal being prepared over the fire hearth. | Photo: Maximiliano Caal/Ya’axché

The Indian Creek Maya Arts Women’s Group strongly advocate for cultural preservation and forest protection while being a leading service provider in the tourism industry. The Maya Culture Visit is a must-do tour when visiting Belize, book a tour today. The collaboration between the Indian Creek Maya Arts Women’s Group, EcoTourism Belize and Ya’axché has been successful in supporting the livelihoods of communities and forest conservation in the 770,000 acre Maya Golden Landscape. 

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