My name is Jallah Rouse, I am a Biology major at Johnson C. Smith University, and I recently had the extreme pleasure of attending a SEEDS field trip to the Mexican state of Chiapas. Not only did I learn a lot from the experience, but I was also motivated by the organization and determination of the local people. A group of indigenous people from a city in Northern Chiapas were able to band together and create their own sustainable coffee growing business. I believe this to be very impressive because they consider the future of their environment at the risk of not creating as much product yield as farmers that use pesticides and herbicides. This was not unique to Simojovel; we visited another farmer named Don Adrian in the Central Valley of Chiapas also uses sustainable agriculture and their are countless others in what is the poorest state in Mexico. I found this interesting because despite them doing a great deal for the environment, they still manage to get no appreciation or breaks from the government or other industries. The people of Simojovel do not obtain as much money as they should when they ship internationally, and are forced to use expensive measures to make their products meet the high standards of other countries. Similarly, although the farmer Don Adrian produces organic milk, the government does not support him by buying the local dairy to provide to the poor children of Chiapas in a program that is similar to Head Start, where students obtain free breakfast before school. However, the Mexican government imports their milk products in powder form from New Zealand. I find this disturbing and self defeating for the Mexican government.
Aside from learning about sustainable agriculture in the area, I was also able to immerse myself in an entirely different culture. I am from Poughkeepsie, New York, a relatively diverse city in New York. However, I was blown away by how different my culture is from the people of Chiapas. There is plenty to discuss from my notes, but I will only mention how amazed I was by everyone’s concern for the environment. It was living ecology, always acknowledged and never ignored, for the people realize that their lives are in cycle with the world that is around them.
So many stories that I plan to elaborate on through blogging, presentations at my school, and just by telling people that I know and work around. I want everyone to know about my experiences, because SEEDS has truly made me see the world a little better and is taking me closer to achieving my passion in life, which ultimately involves ecology. Traveling to another country made my aspirations a little more possible. I want to be like the people of Chiapas who always consider their environment, and I want to learn more ways to respect the environment. Furthermore, I want to teach others to respect the environment, the fate of our world depends on it.
Contributed by Jallah Rouse, Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, NC