Ya’axché Farmers’ Expo 2021

Ya’axché celebrates the outstanding achievements and initiatives of MGL farmers in climate-smart agriculture. 

Ya’axché Farmers’ Expo is Ya’axché’s annual event that celebrates the climate-smart agricultural practices farmers implement in the Maya Golden Landscape (MGL). In 2010, the Expo started as a “Race against Fire”, an event that invited community members of the MGL to participate in a bicycle race to spread awareness on the importance of an integrated fire management approach. The event then furthered its reach to other climate-smart agricultural practices and evolved into the Ya’axché Farmers’ Expo to spread awareness on beekeeping, agroforestry and inga alley cropping. 

For this 2021, we are recognizing the hard work and dedication of three farmers on beekeeping, agroforestry, Inga alley cropping and added a new category,  acknowledging an organized group. On Friday, June 25, 2021, under the theme: Empowering Communities, Conserving Biodiversity, Connecting the World, Ya’axché’s farmers of the Year 2021 awardees were granted recognition. 

Ya’axché Farmers’ Expo 2021 Award ceremony at Golden Stream Corridor Preserve| Photo: Sayuri Tzul/Ya’axché

The award winners were celebrated at the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, simultaneously launching a virtual tour on our social media, highlighting their subsistence farming practices as they move into having in place an integrated farming system. The farmers also received farming equipment tokens as part of their awards. These included shovels, spades, bow rakes, planting trays, backpack sprayer, machetes with sharpening files, hammer, hand saw, shears, stainless buckets, rubber boots and other farming items to continue expanding their farms. 

Nancy Belinda Perez is a beekeeper from Trio village and her dedication placed her as our Beekeeper of the Year. Nancy and her twin sister are involved in Ya’axché’s beekeeping training program and are working together to care for their bees, harvest honey and advocate for forest protection in their community. They recognize that forests provide bees with clean freshwater sources, shade and food. Nancy has been doing beekeeping since 2018 and currently has two bee boxes of which she hopes to grow her apiary by establishing her own forested areas for her bees. Nancy is inspiring other youth in their community to practice climate-smart agriculture, such as beekeeping.

Nancy Belinda Perez, Ya’axché’s Beekeeper of the Year 2021.
Nancy harvesting honey at Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve
Bottling sweet honey for sale

Vicente Makin is the Inga Alley Cropping Farmer of the Year. Vicente is from Indian Creek village and has recently established his farm and right away realized he needed to restore his soils. Vicente attended several climate-smart training Ya’axché facilitated, of which his interest on Inga alley cropping grew. Today, he has implemented Inga alley cropping plots and Inga plants among his cacao and fruit trees, to help restore and maintain his farm soil fertility. Healthy soils produce organic food which keeps him and his family healthy. Vicente encourages other farmers to start planting inga, especially in new farming areas. 

Vicente Makin, Ya’axché’s Inga Alley Cropping of the Year 2021.
Inga Farmer award
Organic bananas at Vicente Family Farm

Martin Ack, from San Miguel village is the new, emerging Agroforestry Farmer of the Year. Martin’s family farm shifted from a traditional farming using slash and burn and chemicals to a slash and mulch and uses biofertilizers to produce organic produce. In his farm you can find a variety of fruits, vegetables and ground food such as yams, pineapples, cashew, coconuts, cacao, inga edulis, plum, peppers, ginger, oranges, pumpkins and much more. With the support of his family, Martin goes beyond his cacao plots by adding ecotours and chocolate bars products. Martin has been implementing climate-smart agriculture independently and Ya’axché applauds his initiative by supporting his family farm with extension visits to his cacao plots, for him to continue expanding. Martin’s mission is to inspire others through his farm to take sustainable actions to protect the environment.

Martin Ack, Ya’axché’s Agroforestry Farmer of the Year 2021.
Martin harvesting cacao pods at his farm
Chocolate making and his family cacao products

Ya’axché’s Organized Group of the Year comes from the forest community of San Jose, the Green Creek Farmers’ Cooperative (GCFC). In the early 1980’s, farmers and community members from San Jose village came together to form the Green Creek Farmers’ Cooperative with the purpose of establishing a sustainable management approach on the use of their resources. In 2019, Green Creek farmers established a collaborative partnership with Ya’axché to implement a project to foster their community’s sustainable natural resources management. Some of the training and activities conducted were GPS reading, biofertilizers and agroforestry training, land demarcation into three zones: annual crops zone, cacao-based agroforestry zone and conservation zone. The project also helped to improve the road to their farms and also built a bridge for the community. GCFC leads their community sustainable development and are inspiring other communities in the MGL to establish sustainable stewardship of their resources. 

Green Creek Farmers’ Cooperative from San Jose village, Ya’axché’s Organized Group of the Year 2021.
Green Creek Farmers receiving the group award
Peanuts harvest at San Jose
community

The work of these farmers are critical to successfully implement an integrated land-use management in the Maya Golden Landscape. Ya’axché is proud to present a platform to share the MGL farmers experiences and achievement even in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic. It is with great pleasure that we congratulate our Ya’axché’s Farmers of the Year 2021 and a warm thank you is extended to the Inter-American Foundation for supporting Ya’axché Farmers’ Expo 2021. 

San Jose farmers going home after a long day with wet cacao seeds for sale.

Ya’axché Farmers’ Expo hopes to inspire and encourage farmers to grow and expand their farming in sustainable agriculture across the Maya Golden Landscape and the country of Belize.

Photos by Sayuri Tzul/Ya’axché

Green Creek Farmers’ Cooperative group photo by Ya’axché

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