Report Back: Resilient for Whom? The Commercialization of Agriculture and Food Security in Guatemala

October 29, 2020 by School of Cities Staff

Milpa is a cornfield, but it is also so much more. The story of milpa and its role in Guatemalan agriculture spans topics of biodiversity, traditional foods, modernization, civil war, and commercial agriculture. Milpa is the cornerstone of food security for Guatemalan peasants and milpa agriculture contributes to the resiliency of the global food system. In this seminar, Professor Ryan Isakson, Department of Geography, University of Toronto, asks the question “resilience for whom?” in his analysis of Guatemala’s transition from subsistence-oriented milpa agriculture to the cultivation of fresh fruits and vegetables destined for North American and European markets. Professor Isakson explores how the shift from milpa agriculture to non-traditional agricultural exports (NTAE) has impacted food security in the country and re-shaped the vulnerability of agricultural producers to economic and environmental stressors, from cycles of debt to increasing NTAE crop failures due to their high water dependency.

If you get into the milpa, you’ll often see a lot more going on. In addition to growing maize, the maize stalks acts as a trellis for beans, the beans in turn adds nitrogen to the soil which help the maize to grow. You’ll see various types of squash growing on the ground, whose broad leaves keeps weeds from growing and retain moisture in the soil. In the milpas, you’ll see a tremendous amount of diversity, both infra-crop diversity and intra-crop diversity of the types of maize - Professor Ryan Isakson

The Building Resilience Initiative will be hosting regular webinars to further explore resilient supply chains, Mondays 4 - 5 PM, register here

Watch the recording of the webinar below