And one cold night, the frost came…
For the next three weeks, groups of rough, fit and dusty people roamed the city of Culiacan, the major city in the center of the largest and most productive agriculture region in Mexico. They were looking for any job they could get, with all the meanings that “any” can have in the center of the organized crime.
The faces of the producers of the food we eat were sad and hungry after their crops were lost to an unlucky weather. Don Jorge was one of them.
But the frost has little to do with his reality. Don Jorge has two acres that he cultivates in the conventional way. His land presents no interest for technology developers, so the yields he manages to get with increasing efforts using agrochemicals are insufficient to sustain his family.
The markets he can reach are abusive and full of intermediaries (coyotes) as his produce lacks the quality for the high-end markets. His health is not as good as it used to be; two major intoxication episodes have left their mark. The frost was the final straw that made him leave his family and migrate, illegally, to the United States.
My name is Adriana Luna Díaz. I’m 33 years old. I’m Mexican, a biologist and a mother. Since I was a kid I’ve known a lot of stories like this. I’ve seen poverty and I’ve witnessed throughout my life how it aggravates and sharpens.
I, myself, come from parents who suffered hunger in childhood and they never forgot it or the ones that were not as lucky as them, when they left poverty behind.
Since I can remember, I always wanted to study biology. Within this discipline I worked in academia and in private companies teaching, doing research, environmental engineering, community development and environmental remediation.
Some years ago I moved to Culicán, Sinaloa where I could see the great benefits that agriculture represents, but also the immense inequality that it generates. I learned that prosperous agriculture is not a synonym of wellbeing.
It was in that context that, joining the knowledge of my academic and professional history, with the analysis of the agricultural reality and an MBA, I developed the social business “Tierra de Monte.” This business seeks to solve the main problems that Don Jorge shares with most small-scale producers in my country.
At Tierra de Monte we develop restorative technology based on our understanding of microbial ecosystems, which we then deliver as bacterial-based supplies for agriculture. By using the products we develop and manufacture, we have been able to increase as much as 100% the yield of commercially relevant crops.
The bacteria work by reestablishing the functionality of the biochemical and biological networks, triggering vegetal development and natural capital regeneration and control diseases and plagues. The result is the increase in yield and quality of harvests, the reduction of mortality and morbidity of the plants and the development of a harmonious relationship between human beings and the ecosystems upon which they depend.
But that´s not enough to get to change the face of agriculture for the people we want to help.
We work under a system we call Redes que Transforman, which means Networks that Transform. This system allows us to generate balanced and fair relationships with the final users, giving back value to base of the pyramid by maintaining costs between 40% and 70% lower than the ones that are already in the market.
This system works by recruiting distributors as “allies” who get over 33% revenue from the sales. They are the commercial promoters, but they do much more than that: they keep track of the needs, aspirations and possibilities of the producers, information we use to develop new products, and that we share amongst the members of the Network.
At the same time, they work as bridges for technological transfer that leads to empowerment. Allies can also come in the shape of local cooperatives, which use the profits to improve the living and working conditions of their communities.
In the first year of Tierra de Monte, we´ve reached six States in Mexico, have received the Social Impact Award from the Banamex Foundation and reached the semifinals of Cleantech Challenge Mexico and Fabric of Change.
We are currently working in Chiapas on cacao and coffee, in Sinaloa on vegetables, wheat and maize, in Sonora on grapefruit and in Jalisco with watermelon, lime and chili. But there´s still a lot of work to be done.
Our objective in applying for this contest is to meet and connect with agripreneurs around the globe. With these contacts we are looking to expand our area of impact, and the prize could help a lot in getting organic certificates for our products so that producers can sell their harvest to more profitable markets.
What we want to do – and what we will do – is to improve the overall situation of the people. We will create job options to reduce illegal immigration. We will avoid poisoning from agrochemicals and democratize organic food by increasing the offer.
We will provide the conditions so producers that suffer from a frost can rebuild without walking away or underselling their work. In the long term we seek to contribute to prevent frosts, floods or droughts by making sustainable and climate smart agriculture go viral. We will do this by making it the cheaper, profitable and more productive way of feeding the world.
Don Jorge has been away for five years now, but we are looking for ways to work with his family so they can recover from that morning of February 2011. We want the little ones to have a safe and happy childhood, we want the older sisters to return from a difficult life in the city.
We want to make agriculture a dignified and attractive work option for the older brothers. We want this family to finally be able to afford to bring Don Jorge back home, and we don’t want him or any other members of his community to have to leave again.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Adriana Díaz (Mexico) – adriana[at]tierrademonte.com
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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