19 May 2020

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Today, we're very aware of climate change, deforestation and other environmental issues.  Here, Rev'd Bob Short (1967) tells us about working with local communities in the rainforests of Mexico, who had already identified signs of climate change due to the destruction of the forests, over 50 years ago. 

A white man standing in a group of Tzeltal Indian men & women waving at the camera.In June 1970, I packed my bags for the last time to leave Emma, and take my next step in life.  I also had to hang up my cricket boots as well, sadly a month before the Varsity match in which I should have been playing.  But my future life & work was beckoning, and I realised that sport would not be a major part of my life in the future. I had studied the 3 As—Agriculture, Archaeology and Anthropology—and was on my way to join Wycliffe Bible Translators as an Agricultural Missionary.

I was assigned to work with a group of Tzeltal Maya Indians in South-East Mexico, who were suffering devastating ecological destruction of their environment, due to hundreds of years of slash–and–burn farming.  We were to try & help them develop sustainable ways of working their land, and try to break the cycle of people leaving the region to move down to the Rainforest, which in turn was disappearing at an increasing rate as the same slash–and–burn process took its toll on the fragile rainforest soils. Even at that stage, the old men and women of the villages were talking about local climate change as the rainforest disappeared, with longer dry seasons & less predictable rains. 

My senior colleague, who later became my father–in–law, had, in 1969, set up a small Agricultural Centre from where we worked out to the local communities, and further afield to the rainforest area.  Hundreds of families helped us to develop a zero tillage system, allowing all the organic matter to rot down. With the help of a little NPK & green manures, they have been able to multiply their crops enormously, to become self-sufficient in maize, beans & pumpkins, and to conserve God’s creation.   

Today I am visiting the Centre again (above), which is still there and being run by the local Tzeltal Indians as a registered charity!  They still have excellent demonstrations of maize, beans, vegetables, small greenhouses, and two coffee groves, producing eco coffee cultivated under the shade of Leguminous trees which fix nitrogen, and provide tons of leaf mould.  They continue to reach out to communities as much as they can, trying to mitigate the effects of environmental destruction. 

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