The benefits of diversified agricultural systems among Maya Mopan farmers in southern Belize Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/hm50tw208

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  • Maya Mopan farmers in southern Belize face socio-economic hardships, persisting environmental constraints, and an unfavorable political climate that has prevented land tenure stability on reservation lands. This thesis describes the agricultural practices of a group of Mopan farmers and examines farm-site diversification and its relationship to ecological knowledge, out-migration, agricultural markets, and indigenous political systems. I also examine how modernization, religious conversions, and the Mopan's introduction into a capitalist economy have led to a decline in cultural practices and the augmentation of non-traditional behaviors among the younger generations. Data were obtained during my fieldwork in the Cayo and Toledo Districts of southern Belize from June-November, 2002. I conducted informal interviews with farmers and NGOs, engaged in participant observation techniques, documented 17 diversified Mayan farms, and formulated a self-administered questionnaire that was given to 38 students in the San Jose Village School. Additional data was acquired through voluntary work in farmers' fields and from available anthropological and agricultural literature. The results of this study indicate that Mopan farmers have diversified their farming systems by adopting new crop varieties, developing more sustainable agricultural techniques, increasing the production of cash crops, and adjusting their traditional labor systems. These findings are significant because they demonstrate ways in which farming communities throughout the tropics can improve their environments and economies amidst the influences of modernization, unsustainable development, and discriminatory government policies.
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