Using the Maya Nut tree to increase tropical agroecosystem resilience to climate change in Central America and Mexico

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6 Νοε 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 10 μήνες)

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Using the Maya Nut tree
to increase tropical agroecosystem
resilience to climate change in
Central America and Mexico
Climate  projec.ons  for  La.n  America  by  the  Intergovernmental  Panel  on  
Climate  Change  point  to  an  intensifica.on  of  dry  condi.ons  as  a  consequence  
of  temperature  increases  of  around  0.6°  C,  as  well  as  to  severe  water  stresses  in  
Central  America  and  more  specifically  along  the  Pacific  side  of  the  con.nent  
(Magrin  
et  al
.,  2007).  It  is  expected  that  the  combined  impacts  of  climate  
change  and  demographic  pressure  will  result  in  further  resource  deteriora.on  
by  2025.
Brosimum  alicastrum
 or  Maya  Nut  is  a  forest  product  that  has  the  poten.al  to  
allay  the  nega.ve  impacts  of  climate  change.  This  wild-­‐harvested,  nutri.ous  
seed  is  an  excellent  drought-­‐  and  climate  change-­‐resistant  food  for  rural  
communi.es.  The  Maya  Nut  tree  increases  agroecosystem  resilience  to  climate  
change  by  ensuring  food  security  during  periods  of  drought  and  aOer  extreme  
wet  events  such  as  tropical  depressions  and  even  hurricanes.  Its  deep  and  
extensive  root  system  helps  retain  soil  during  natural  erosion  or  extreme  
clima.c  events.  Maya  Nut  trees  play  an  important  role  in  stabilizing  riverbanks  
and  maintaining  flows  from  natural  springs.  The  Maya  Nut  tree  can  be  used  to  
mi.gate  and  adapt  to  the  impacts  of  climate  change  and  is  also  a  good  carbon  
sink.
Keywords:  climate  change  adapta7on,  forest,  
Brosimum  alicastrum
,  food  security,  
women  empowerment
Pauline  Buffle
a
,  Erika  Vohman
b
a
 
Interna7onal  Union  for  Conserva7on  of  Nature  (IUCN)
b
The  Maya  Nut  Ins7tute
 
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FOREWORD FOR THE ELAN CASE STUDIES
The  Ecosystem  and  Livelihoods  Adapta.on  Network  (ELAN)  is  a  global  network  working  to  enhance  poor  and  
marginalized  people's  resilience  to  the  impacts  of  climate  change.  To  do  so,  ELAN  promotes  an  integrated  approach  to  
adapta.on,  defined  as  
adapta7on  planning  and  ac7on  that  adheres  both  to  human  rights-­‐based  principles  and  
principles  of  ecosystem  sustainability,  recognizing  their  co-­‐dependent  roles  in  successfully  managing  climate  variability  
and  long-­‐term  change
.  
ELAN  has  developed  a  series  of  case  studies  on  adapta.on  prac.ces  whose  design  and  implementa.on  approximate  
aspects  of  this  integrated  approach.  The  ELAN  case  studies  showcase  how  nature-­‐based  adapta.on  can  offer  benefits  
to  communi.es.  They  also  demonstrate  the  complexity  of  pursuing  a  truly  integrated  approach  to  climate  change  
adapta.on  and  highlight  elements  of  adapta.on  projects  that  lend  themselves  to  an  integrated  approach.  It  is  our  aim  
that  this  enhanced  understanding  of  an  integrated  approach  may  contribute  to  learning,  knowledge  exchange  and  
capacity  building,  and  in  par.cular  help  prac..oners  to  design  and  implement  future  adapta.on  projects  that  
enhance  poor  and  marginalized  popula.ons’  capacity  to  adapt.
The  research  process  consisted  of  examina.on  of  hundreds  of  projects  and  consulta.on  with  a  diverse  range  of  
project  managers.  The  selected  ELAN  case  studies  cons.tute  the  best  available  prac.ces  and  approaches  of  projects  
that  combine  nature-­‐based  solu.ons  with  community  benefits.  Case  studies  represent  a  broad  geographic  scope  and  
ecosystems.  They  are  drawn  from  Africa,  La.n  America  and  Asia.  
Ecosystem and rights-based integrated adaptation
Adapta.on  projects  based  on  an  integrated  approach  should  meet  the  following  criteria  in  the  project  design  and  
implementa.on:

Promo.on  of  livelihoods  resilience;

Disaster  risk  reduc.on  to  minimize  the  impacts  of  hazards,  par.cularly  on  the  most  vulnerable  households  
and  individuals;

Capacity  strengthening  of  local  civil  society  and  government  ins.tu.ons  so  that  they  can  more  effec.vely  
support  community,  household  and  individual  adapta.on  efforts;

Advocacy  and  social  mobilisa.on  to  address  the  underlying  causes  of  vulnerability  including  poor  governance,  
degraded  ecosystems,  inequitable  control  and  access  to  resources,  limited  access  to  basic  services,  
discrimina.on  and  other  social  injus.ces;

Sustainable  management,  conserva.on,  protec.on  and  restora.on  of  ecosystems  and  biodiversity  in  order  to  
maintain  the  mul.ple  benefits  provided  by  the  ecosystems’  goods  and  services.
What can we learn from the ELAN case studies?
An  important  lesson  learned  from  the  research  process  is  that  projects  that  fully  embody  an  integrated  approach  to  
adapta.on  are  few  and  far  between.  Indeed,  despite  extensive  research,  case  studies  that  met  
all
 the  above-­‐
men.oned  criteria  for  an  integrated  approach  and  adhered  to  both  human  rights-­‐based  principles  and  principles  of  
ecosystem  sustainability  could  not  be  found.  Why  not?  
First,  the  complexity  of  ecosystem  goods  and  services  and  their  links  to  climate  change  were  oOen  ill-­‐considered  
during  project  design  and  implementa.on.  OOen  a  community-­‐based  adapta.on  project  may  simply  entail  
community-­‐based  natural  resource  management  –  which  is  not  the  same  as  adop.ng  a  truly  ecosystem  management  
approach.  In  other  cases  the  proposed  measures  had  no  real  founda.on  in  climate  change.  Finally,  most  projects  
focused  on  restoring  or  conserving  ecosystems  under  a  
sta7c
 climate,  rather  than  on  finding  ways  of  preserving  
ecosystems  to  help  people  adapt  in  the  context  of  a  
changing
 climate,  posing  the  project’s  long-­‐term  sustainability  at  
risk.  
Second,  ensuring  that  adapta.on  policy  and  prac.ce  promote  human  rights-­‐based  principles  was  oOen  not  
straighaorward.  Although  most  projects  were  designed  to  increase  community  resilience  to  climate  risks  and  deliver  
addi.onal  benefits  to  local  livelihoods  through  nature-­‐based  solu.ons,  only  a  few  addressed  the  underlying  causes  of  
vulnerability  and  pursued  true  empowerment  of  vulnerable  groups.  In  other  cases,  projects  intending  to  promote  a  
rights-­‐based  approach  supported  the  rights  of  some  community  members  but  not  others.  For  example,  while  the  
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importance  of  involving  women  in  adapta.on  ini.a.ves  was  oOen  underscored,  efforts  to  address  the  special  needs  of  
other  vulnerable  groups  (such  as  the  elderly,  the  disabled,  or  children)  were  not  always  prominent  components  of  the  
projects,  par.cularly  during  the  implementa.on  phase.  
Third,  the  ELAN  case  studies  demonstrate  the  complexity  of  pursuing  a  truly  integrated  approach  to  climate  change  
adapta.on.  While  there  are  many  projects  that  priori.zed  the  promo.on  of  human  rights  through  community-­‐based  
adapta.on  prac.ces,  environmental  sustainability  was  not  always  equally  guaranteed.  At  the  same  .me,  an  
ecosystem-­‐based  adapta.on  project  may  not  always  seek  to  ensure  that  the  rights  of  the  poorest  and  most  vulnerable  
members  of  society  are  protected.
These  and  other  lessons  learned  make  an  important  contribu.on  to  genera.ng  and  exchanging  knowledge  on  
integrated  adapta.on  approaches.  In  addi.on,  the  case  studies  help  to  underscore  the  challenge  and  importance  of  
integra.ng  the  full  range  of  rights-­‐based  and  ecosystem-­‐based  responses  to  climate  change.  An  enhanced  
understanding  of  the  complex  interplay  between  these  principles  –  informed  in  part  by  these  case  studies  –  can  help  
move  us  towards  the  goal  of  protec.ng  the  ecosystems  that  play  a  vital  role  in  ensuring  that  poor  and  marginalized  
popula.ons  can  manage  and  adapt  to  climate  variability  and  change.
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INTRODUCTION
Climate  projec.ons  for  La.n  America  by  the  Intergovernmental  Panel  on  Climate  Change  generally  predict  an  
intensifica.on  of  dry  condi.ons  as  a  consequence  of  increases  in  temperature,  expected  to  range  from  +
0.4°C  to  
+1.8°C
 (Magrin  
et  al
.,  2007).    In  Mexico,  climate  modelling  scenarios  es.mate  that  rainfall  in  Yucatán  will  diminish  by  5  
to  10%  by  2050  (SEMARNAT  and  INE,  2009).  Predic.ons  for  2025  point  to  severe  water  stress  in  Central  America,  
par.cularly  on  the  Pacific  side  of  the  con.nent.  This  will  be  accompanied  by  resource  deteriora.on  resul.ng  from  
combined  impacts  of  climate  change  and  demographic  pressure  (Perez  
et  al
.,  2007).
Adap.ng  to  climate  change  in  Central  America  will  require  measures  to  protect  and  restore  the  func.ons  of  forests  for  
the  valuable  ecosystem  services  they  provide,  most  notably  regula.on  of  the  water  cycle.  Destruc.on  of  forest  
ecosystems  will  exacerbate  water  resource  degrada.on  and  vulnerability  of  rural  people  and  communi.es  that  
depend  on  them.  Women  will  bear  the  majority  of  the  burden  of  reduced  access  to  water  and  food.  Similar  
conclusions  can  be  drawn  for  other  water-­‐dependent  sectors  including  biodiversity  and  landscapes  (Perez  
et  al
.,  
2007).
Along  with  increased  risk  of  droughts,  it  is  also  expected  that  extreme  rain  events  will  increase  in  intensity  and  
frequency,  especially  in  the  Mexican  State  of  Chiapas.  Nearly  30%  of  the  fresh  water  in  the  region  originates  in  the  
Lacandon  Rainforest.  The  area  stores  water  which  contribute  to  regula.ng  floods  and  climate  varia.ons.  The  forest  
generates  nutrients  that  condi.on  the  fer.lity  of  the  low  plains  of  its  rivers  (SEMARNAT  and  INE,  2009).  Similar  
climate  predic.ons  are  foreseen  for  Guatemala,  with  increases  in  temperature  and  droughts  expected  (MARN,  2001).
Project context
Brosimum  alicastrum
 or  the  Maya  Nut  tree,  is  also  called  Ujuxte,  Masica,  Ojite,  Ramón,  Ojoche,  Capomo,  Mojote,  
Breadnut  and  many  others  (i
n  M
exico  alone  this  plant  has  46  different  names).  The  species  is  a  large  tropical  forest  
tree  in  the  fig  family  that  can  grow  up  to  45  m.  It  is  na.ve  to  tropical  dry  to  humid  forests  below  1,500  m  throughout  
the  neotropics,  including  South  and  Central  America,  Mexico  and  the  Caribbean.  While  once  abundant,  today  it  is  
highly  threatened  and  even  ex.nct  in  parts  of  its  range  as  a  result  of  extensive  cuong  for  firewood  and  clearing  for  
maize  plan.ng.    
Brosimum  alicastrum
 grows  in  temperatures  of  between  18-­‐32  C°  and  with  precipita.on  levels  of  between  
600-­‐4,000  mm/year  (Orwa  
et  al
.,  2009).  Mexico  states  that  
B.  alicastrum
 is  one  of  five  tree  species  whose  proper.es  
make  it  able  to  adapt  to  predicted  climate  changes  in  tropical  forests  (SEMARNAT  and  INE,  2009).  
The  
Brosimum  alicastrum
 seed  is  a  wild-­‐harvested  forest  product.  This  nutri.ous  seed,  which  can  be  dried  and  stored  
for  more  than  five  years,  is  an  excellent  drought-­‐  and  climate  change-­‐resistant  food  for  rural  communi.es.  En.re  
villages  have  survived  by  ea.ng  the  Maya  Nut  during  war,  drought  and  locust  swarms.  During  the  Contra  war  in  
Nicaragua  and  the  wars  in  Mexico  and  Guatemala  people  were  able  to  harvest  Maya  Nut  from  the  forest  to  eat  when  
it  was  not  safe  to  plant  or  harvest  their  crops.  However,  in  many  areas  it  is  no  longer  consumed  regularly  and  today  it  
makes  up  less  than  .05%  of  local  diets  (New  Ag.,  2008).  
The  Maya  Nut  tree  increases  agroecosystem  resilience  to  climate  change  by  ensuring  food  security  during  periods  of  
drought  and  aOer  extreme  events  such  as  hurricanes.  Its  deep  and  extensive  root  system  helps  retain  soil  during  
natural  erosion  or  extreme  events  and  enable  the  tree  to  access  deeper  ground  water.  The  Maya  Nut  tree  plays  an  
important  role  in  stabilizing  riverbanks  and  maintaining  flows  from  natural  springs.    
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Objectives
The  Maya  Nut  Ins.tute*  (MNI)  seeks  to  promote  community-­‐based  conserva.on  of  
Brosimum  alicastrum
 by  teaching  
rural  and  indigenous  women  about  the  benefits  of  the  Nut  and  its  nutri.onal  assets.  This  project  was  driven  by  the  
realiza.on  that  several  Central  American  countries  have  high  rates  of  malnutri.on,  despite  the  presence  of  Maya  Nut  
trees  and  ease  of  harvest  and  processing.  
This  situa.on  is  in  part  
due  to  the  low  presence  of  tryptophan  (an  essen.al  
amino  acid  in  the  human  diet)  in  maize  and  beans,  whereas  
Brosimum  alicastrum
 is  rich  in  tryptophan.
The  Maya  Nut  Ins.tute  focuses  on  women’s  poten.al  to  contribute  to  reducing  social,  environmental  and  financial  
vulnerability.  Adding  value  by  drying,  roas.ng  and  grinding  the  Nut  to  make  ice-­‐cream,  bread  or  other  products  
diminishes  social  vulnerability  by  empowering  women  as  income  generators  and  also  improves  the  nutri.on  of  
women  and  their  families.  Its  massive  root  system  increases  the  tree  resilience  to  hurricanes  and  helps  adapt  to  
climate  change
 
by  avoiding  soil  losses  during  heavy  storms  and  protec.ng  riverbanks  from  erosion.  The  tree  is  also  
resistant  to  droughts,  one  of  the  predicted  impacts  of  climate  change  in  the  region.  
Promo.ng  the  economic  and  food  value  of  the  Maya  Nut  helps  to  reduce  deforesta.on  for  the  plan.ng  of  other  crops.  
This  in  turn  decreases  the  volume  of  carbon  emissions,  thereby  helping  to  improve  environmental  quality.  In  addi.on,  
it  helps  to  reduce  dependence  on  foreign  aid  and  provides  employment  for  women.
The  Maya  Nut  Ins.tute  works  to  raise  awareness  about  the  Maya  Nut  tree  in  El  Salvador,  Honduras,  Nicaragua,  
Guatemala,  Costa  Rica,  Belize,  Mexico,  Jamaica,  Cuba,  Peru,  Colombia  and  Hai..  The  organiza.on  offers  training  on  
the  uses  of  the  Maya  Nut  for  food  and  income  and  supports  local  produc.ve  and  commercial  micro-­‐enterprises.
 
Stakeholders
Women
 are  the  primary  beneficiaries  of  Maya  Nut  Ins.tute  programmes  because  improved  condi.ons  for  women  
result  in  improved  condi.ons  for  the  en.re  family.  Women  par.cipate  in  and  eventually  lead  the  design,  
implementa.on  and  expansion  of  the  programme.  This  builds  their  self-­‐esteem  and  gives  them  confidence  that  they  
can  solve  family  and  community  problems  without  outside  help.  
The  Maya  Nut  Ins.tute  partners  with  local  and  na.onal  
government  ins-tu-ons  
as  much  as  possible.  Other  partners

 
include  
NGOs
,  
community  associa-ons
,  
coopera-ves
,  
universi-es
,  
local  schools  
and  
private  enterprises
.  More  than  
150  stakeholders  are  par.cipa.ng  in  the  Maya  Nut  programme  throughout  the  region.  
Stakeholders  include  na.onal  government  ministries  of  agriculture,  educa.on  and  health  in  the  countries  where  the  
MNI  works.  The  Ins.tute  also  trains  local  NGOs  and  community  groups  to  conduct  Maya  Nut  training  programmes  in  
communi.es,  thereby  expanding  the  reach  of  the  programme  and  providing  communi.es  with  another  tool  to  achieve  
posi.ve  social,  environmental  and  economic  impacts.  
*The  Maya  Nut  Institute  (formerly  the  Equilibrium  Fund)  is  an  international  NGO  working  to  rescue  lost  indigenous  knowledge  about  the  
Maya  Nut  in  Central  America  and  Mexico  to  help  adapt  to  future  climate  change  impacts,  conserve  rainforests,  reduce  poverty  and  improve  
food  security.  The  organization  won  the  Darwin  Initiative  Award  in  2010,  the  St.  Andrews  Prize  for  the  Environment  in  2006  and  the  NGO-­‐
Mobile  award  in  Mexico  in  2007.  Alimentos  Nutri-­‐Naturales,  S.A.,  the  Guatemalan  Maya  Nut  producers  won  The  Equator  Prize  in  2007.  
‘Healthy  Kids,  Healthy  Forests’  received  a  grant  from  the  Development  Marketplace  2009,  Xinanced  by  the  Global  Environment  Facility,  the  
Danish  Government  and  the  World  Bank.    

For  a  complete  list  of  partners,  please  visit  
www.MayaNutInstitute.org
 
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ADAPTATION STRATEGIES
Strategy 1: Empowering women and children to increase their capacity to
adapt to extreme events
Training and awareness raising
Experience  has  shown  that  once  people  become  aware  of  the  food  and  market  value  of  the  Maya  Nut,  they  develop  
an  interest  in  conserving  exis.ng  trees  and  plan.ng  more.  Since  2001  the  Maya  Nut  Ins.tute  has  directly  and  
indirectly  raised  awareness  of  more  than  200,000  rural  people  about  the  value  of  the  Maya  Nut.  Some  68%  of  these  
people  had  never  eaten  Maya  Nut  before  and  57%  had  never  even  heard  of  it  (Vohman,  
pers.  comm
.).
The  Maya  Nut  has  great  poten.al  to  improve  the  resilience  of  agroecosystems,  especially  in  the  Caribbean.  For  
example,  Jamaica  s.ll  has  large  and  healthy  popula.on  of  Maya  Nuts  and  the  Jamaican  Department  of  Forestry  
learned  about  the  uses  and  poten.al  of  the  Maya  Nut  from  the  MNI  in  2009.  Similarly,  in  2007,  the  MNI  was  able  to  
train  staff  from  the  Ministry  of  Agriculture  in  Cuba,  several  NGOs  and  individuals  on  ways  to  expand  their  Maya  Nut  
resources  and  capitalize  on  them.  
Women
The  Maya  Nut  Ins.tute  (MNI)  focuses  on  women  as  the  caretakers  of  the  family  and  their  environment.  The  Ins.tute  
teaches  a  one-­‐day  class  for  rural  and  indigenous  women  living  near  Maya  Nut  forests.  Workshops  include  informa.on  
on  nutri.on,  recipes,  sustainable  harves.ng,  processing  and  propaga.on.  By  increasing  awareness  of  the  value  of  this  
mul.-­‐purpose  tree  to  rural  families,  the  Ins.tute  is  able  to  encourage  conserva.on  and  reforesta.on.
During  the  training  session,  the  nutri.onal  components  and  benefits  of  the  Maya  Nut  are  explained,  along  with  the  
different  ways  of  processing  the  Nut.  Finally,  different  recipes  are  tested  to  ensure  adop.on  of  the  Nut  by  the  women.  
Children
In  2009  MNI  started  a  new  programme  called  ‘Healthy  Kids,  Healthy  Forests’,  a  Maya  Nut  school  lunch  programme  
with  the  goal  of  educa.ng  rural  children  about  the  food  and  ecosystem  benefits  of  the  Maya  Nut  and  improving  
children’s  health  and  nutri.on.  Presently  more  than  15,000  children  receive  Maya  Nut  school  lunches  at  least  twice  a  
week  in  Nicaragua,  Guatemala,  El  Salvador  and  Mexico.  This  programme  serves  a  dual  purpose.  First,  an  informed  
youth  is  an  important  star.ng  point  to  ensure  long-­‐term  sustainability  of  new  prac.ces.  Second,  school  lunch  
programmes  represent  one  of  the  largest  and  most  consistent  markets  in  Central  America,  and  the  marke.ng  of  Maya  
Nut  products  is  the  driver  of  many  programme  impacts,  par.cularly  reduc.on  of  poverty  and  reforesta.on.
Strategy 2: Increase ecosystem resilience to improve food security for
children and livelihood opportunities for women
a. Maya Nut harvesting and ecosystem resilience
The  deep  and  extensive  root  system  of  the  Maya  Nut  tree  can  access  bedrock  water,  enabling  the  trees  to  remain  
green  and  leafy,  even  during  the  long  dry  season  when  other  species  lose  their  leaves.  One  study  of  
Brosimum  
alicastrum
 focused  on  its  resistance  to  droughts  in  the  Yucatan  Peninsula.  One  of  the  conclusions  of  the  research  was  
that  “[the]  ability  to  take  up  water  stored  in  the  upper  few  meters  of  the  limestone  bedrock  during  the  pronounced  
dry  season  is  likely  the  key  feature  allowing  
Brosimum  alicastrum
 to  thrive  under  non-­‐irrigated  condi.ons  in  the  
shallow,  rocky  soils  of  northern  Yucatan”.  Further,  the  report  stated  that  “[the]  results  suggest  that  locally  adapted  
na.ve  tree  species  capable  of  efficiently  extrac.ng  water  from  bedrock  strata  may  be  the  only  perennial  crops  
suitable  for  rainfed  cul.va.on  in  shallow  rocky  soils  under  seasonally  dry  tropical  climates”  (Querejeta  
et  al
.,  2006).  
People  have  begun  to  grow  Maya  Nut  trees  in  those  areas  where  wild  trees  have  been  felled  or  eradicated.  The  Maya  
Nut  tree  begins  producing  nuts  as  early  as  4  to  5  years  aOer  plan.ng,  and  reaches  peak  produc.on  at  around  50  to  85  
years  (Vohman,  
pers.  comm
.).  Trees  are  produc.ve  for  more  than  100  years.  One  adult  Maya  Nut  tree  can  produce  up  
to  300  kg  of  nutri.ous  seeds  per  year.  A  family  with  just  10  mature  trees  can  improve  its  food  supply,  health  and  
income.  
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The  Maya  Nut  Ins.tute,  with  funding  from  the  UK  Darwin  Ini.a.ve,  has  begun  developing  par.cipatory  sustainable  
harvest  guidelines  for  the  Maya  Nut  in  order  to  ensure  resource  sustainability  and  to  minimize  impacts  of  harves.ng  
on  regenera.on  and  biodiversity.  These  guidelines  will  be  designed  and  implemented  by  the  harvesters  themselves,  
based  on  data  they  collect  over  the  next  three  years.  This  will  improve  harvesters’  understanding  and  interest  of  
sustainable  management  protocols  for  Maya  Nut  and  will  permit  them  to  be~er  manage  their  forests  for  food,  
income,  biodiversity  and  ecosystem  services.  The  par.cipatory  nature  of  these  management  plans  will  improve  
economic  viability  for  women’s  Maya  Nut  businesses  because  they  won’t  be  required  to  hire  outside  consultants  to  
design  the  plans  or  collect  the  data.  
Maya  Nut-­‐based  agroforestry  has  other  climate  change  benefits  when  compared  to  conven.onal  annual  cropping  
systems  used  in  Central  America  and  Mexico.  Unlike  conven.onal  annual  cropping  systems  which  require  
agrochemicals  to  ensure  good  harvests,  Maya  Nut  requires  no  agrochemical  inputs.  Furthermore,  over  .me,  leaf  li~er  
from  Maya  Nut  trees  improves  soil  fer.lity.  Maya  Nut
 
forests  produce  more  calories  per  unit  area  than  annual  crops  
(Vohman,  
pers.  comm.
).
b. Food security and livelihood benefits
Uses and benefits of the Maya Nut tree
Although  a  topic  of  controversy  between  historians  and  archaeologists,  it  is  widely  believed  that  the  seeds  of  the  
Maya  Nut  were  once  a  staple  food  of  the  Pre-­‐Columbian  Mayan  people,  and  also  used  to  a~ract  game  species  
(Flannery,  1982).  Its  leaves,  pulp  and  seeds  con.nue  to  be  central  to  the  diet  of  many  forest  birds  and  animals  (New  
Ag.,  2008).  The  Maya  Nut  is  extremely  versa.le  and  can  be  eaten  fresh  (boiled  fresh  seeds)  or  dried,  roasted  and  
ground.  
The  fresh  Maya  Nut  seeds  can  be  boiled  and  ground  into  dough  similar  to  maize,  which  is  then  oOen  used  for  soups,  
tamales,  tor.llas,  burgers  and  puree.  Dry  seeds  can  be  roasted  and  ground  for  use  in  drinks,  deserts,  stews  and  baked  
goods.  Boiled,  the  Nut  tastes  like  mashed  potato;  roasted,  it  tastes  like  chocolate  or  coffee.
Maya  Nut  is  rich  in  fibre,  calcium,  potassium,  iron,  zinc,  protein,  B-­‐vitamins  and  an.oxidants,  plus  has  a  low  glycaemic  
index.  It  is  nutri.onally  comparable  to  amaranth,  quinoa  and  soy  (Anon.,  2007),  and  has  the  poten.al  to  resolve  
problems  of  food  insecurity  and  malnutri.on.  
The  Maya  Nut  tree  also  offers  assets  other  than  food.  Wood  is  used  for  construc.on,  furniture  or  fuel.  Latex  is  said  to  
have  therapeu.c  effects  when  mixed  with  water  (New  Ag.,  2008)  and  can  be  used  for  chewing  gum.  The  latex  and  the  
leaves  of  the  Central  American  variety  can  be  drunk  as  an  infusion  to  treat  asthma,  bronchi.s  and  coughs  (Bioplanet,  
online).  In  short,  every  single  part  of  the  tree  can  be  used  and  consumed  either  by  animals  or  human  beings.  
Combining small businesses and good nutrition
The  Maya  Nut  Ins.tute  focuses  on  women’s  empowerment.  23  small  businesses  have  been  developed  following  
training  courses  for  women  conducted  by  the  Ins.tute.  The  ‘Healthy  Kids,  Healthy  Forests’  programme  is  a  good  
example  of  how  rural  women  can  use  Maya  Nut  to  solve  recurrent  problems.  It  was  developed  with  one  of  the  Maya  
Nut  producer  groups  in  Guatemala,  Alimentos  Nutri-­‐Naturales,  with  mul.ple  goals  of  crea.ng  a  local  market,  
improving  business  viability,  reducing  chronic  malnutri.on  and  mo.va.ng  reforesta.on  with  Maya  Nut  in  rural  
communi.es.  The  programme  has  been  wildly  successful,  yet  extremely  difficult  to  fund,  though  it  only  costs  between  
20-­‐25  USD/child/year.  As  a  result  of  ‘Healthy  Kids,  Healthy  Forests’,  the  Guatemalan  Ministry  of  environment  has  
financed  plan.ng  1,500,000  Maya  Nut  trees  and  the  Ministry  of  Educa.on  now  requires  Maya  Nut  lunches  to  be  
served  at  least  twice  per  week  during  the  school  year.  These  seedlings  will  one  day  provide  over  4  million  kilos  of  food  
per  year  for  the  communi.es,  represen.ng  a  long-­‐term  solu.on  to  problems  of  malnutri.on  and  food  insecurity  in  the  
region,  in  addi.on  to  the  environmental  services  they  provide.
RESULTS AND LESSONS LEARNED
The  results  of  the  Maya  Nut  Ins.tute  work  since  2001  include:
15,000  rural
 women  from  900  communi.es  have  received  training  about  Maya  Nut.  Of  the  graduates,  
 534  have  
formed  23  microenterprises  
to  produce  and  sell  Maya  Nut  products  (ice  cream,  cookies,  bread,  drinks,  cake  and  
cereal).  Some  
5,000  community  members  now  earn  an  income
 from  harves.ng  Maya  Nut  from  wild  forests.    
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1,800,000  new  Maya  Nut  trees  were  planted  
by  the  communi.es  and  other  stakeholders  where  the  Ins.tute  has  
been  working  to  generate  interest  in  the  Maya  Nut.    
MNI  is  facilita.ng  the  crea.on  of  a  women’s  Marke.ng  Organiza.on  to  consolidate,  cer.fy  and  manage  exports,  to  
eliminate  the  need  for  middlemen  and  outside  cer.fiers  and  ensure  that  the  majority  of  benefits  accrue  directly  to  the  
producers.
This  project  has  contributed  towards  livelihood  improvements  in  different  sectors.  Food  security  has  increased  as  
women  producing  Maya  Nut  products  for  family  consump.on  have  another  op.on  to  feed  their  families.  
67%  of  women  trained  by  the  Maya  Nut  Ins.tute  have  never  par.cipated  in  any  sort  of  training  programme  before.  
The  focus  on  women  for  Maya  Nut  produc.on  and  marke.ng  improves  the  women  producers’  status  in  the  family  and  
sets  an  important  example  for  children.  Changes  in  self-­‐esteem  and  independence  are  impressive.  Women  are  
learning  to  open  bank  accounts,  write  cheques  and  use  ATM  machines.  Some  are  learning  to  use  the  internet  while  
others  are  going  back  to  school  to  learn  to  read  and  write.  Several  of  the  producers’  groups  are  wri.ng  proposals  to  
raise  funds  to  grow  their  businesses  and  incorporate  other  projects  into  their  community  work  including  fuel-­‐saving  
stoves,  solar  cookers,  chicken  farming  and  vegetable  gardening.  Moreover,  the  Ins.tute  observes  that  as  women’s  
self-­‐esteem  and  confidence  improves,  they  are  more  likely  to  adopt  public  health  and  other  interven.ons  which  
impact  their  children’s  health  and  educa.on.
Monitoring and evaluation
The  Maya  Nut  Ins.tute  monitors  changes  in  awareness  of  the  value  of  the  Maya  Nut  tree  before  and  aOer  community  
workshops.  Number  of  trees  planted  and  women’s  income  are  also  monitored.  Changes  in  nutri.onal  status  and  
anthropomorphic  indicators  are  also  monitored.    
CRITICAL SUCCESS AND RISK FACTORS
The  success  of  the  Maya  Nut  programme  lies  in  its  focus  on  women.  Women  are  more  concerned  with  family  food  
security  and  are  much  be~er  at  managing  local  sales  (which  increases  local  consump.on  of  Maya  Nut)  while  men  tend  
to  focus  on  cash  genera.on  by  selling  Maya  Nut  with  an  eye  on  export.
Risks  associated  with  the  programme  stem  primarily  from  the  Maya  Nut's  threatened  status  and  from  issues  related  
to  land  tenure,  which  could  affect  communi.es’  access  to  Maya  Nut.  Logging  of  the  Maya  Nut  is  one  of  the  biggest  
threats  and,  disappoin.ngly,  the  Maya  Nut  tree  remains  on  the  Rainforest  Alliance  and  Forest  Stewardship  Council  
lists  of  permi~ed  .mber  species,  even  though  it  is  a  keystone  species  for  biodiversity.    
Maya  Nut  trees  can  be  difficult  to  re-­‐establish  on  sites  where  they  have  been  eradicated.  This  is  due  primarily  to  
sensi.vity  to  drought  and  preda.on  by  rats,  cows,  pigs,  iguanas,  deer,  voles,  horses  and  other  animals  in  its  first  year  
of  establishment.  Addi.onally,  because  they  need  to  develop  a  deep  taproot  to  access  bedrock  water,  trees  produced  
in  bags  in  nurseries  some.mes  have  difficulty  becoming  established  because  taproot  development  is  compromised  by  
nursery  bags  and  transplan.ng.  Probably  the  biggest  challenge  to  reforesta.on  is  the  high  palatability  of  
Brosimum  
alicastrum
 leaves  to  livestock.  Fencing  is  required  to  prevent  ca~le,  goats,  mules,  sheep  and  other  grazers  from  killing  
the  young  seedlings.  Fencing  is  expensive  and  therefore  not  easy  for  most  rural  families  to  obtain.    
CONCLUSION
543  women  who  have  received  training  from  the  Maya  Nut  Ins.tute  have  started  Maya  Nut-­‐based  businesses,  
building  on  what  they  have  learned.  Some  of  these  businesses  are  producing  Maya  Nut  goods  for  local  and  regional  
sale.  Alimentos  Nutri-­‐Naturales  in  Guatemala  and  Flor  de  Ojoche,  Nicaragua  are    expor.ng  to  the  US,  Japan,  El  
Salvador,  and  Hai..    
The  success  of  the  ‘Healthy  Kids,  Healthy  Forest’  programme  also  mo.vated  the  Guatemalan  Ministry  of  Educa.on  to  
mandate  serving  Maya  Nut  at  least  twice  per  week  in  schools  and  to  ban  all  cookies  from  schools  with  the  sole  
excep.on  of  Maya  Nut  cookies!
The  Maya  Nut  Ins.tute  is  currently  in  the  process  of  expanding  the  Maya  Nut  programme  to  Cuba,  Colombia,  Bolivia,  
Peru,  Ecuador  and  Brazil,  where  Maya  Nut  is  na.ve  but  underu.lized  as  a  food  and  source  of  income.  The  area  in  
which  the  Maya  Nut  grows  has  been  severely  reduced  by  logging,  overgrazing  and  conversion  of  forest  to  sugar  and  
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annual  crops.  It  is  hoped  that  preliminary  sensi.za.on  programmes  aimed  at  the  Ministries  of  Agriculture  and  the  
Environment  will  help  them  expand  and  capitalize  on  their  Maya  Nut  resources.  
In  Hai.,  the  Dominican  Republic,  and  Puerto  Rico,  the  Maya  Nut  is  presumed  to  be  ex.nct  but  plans  are  underway  by  
the  Maya  Nut  Ins.tute  in  partnership  with  several  local  NGOs  and  community  groups  to  restore  it  to  the  islands.  
50,000  seedlings  have  recently  been  established  in  Hai.,  where  thhe  Maya  Nut  Ins.tute  is  implemen.ng  a  Maya  Nut  
reforesta.on  project  in  associa.on  with  a  mangrove  reforesta.on  project  in  northern  Hai.,  in  the  hope  that  this  
species  will  play  a  cri.cal  role  in  reducing  saliniza.on  of  the  water  table  near  coasts  by  increasing  freshwater  flows  
from  bedrock  and  aquifers.
!
!
!
!
!"#$%$&'()*)
+,-'.,/##0$)1023&2&,#4)5'&6#78$
)
!
"#$%&$'(!)**+!,'&!-,+($',%$./&!)/*)%/01!+/1$%$/'2/!3*!34/!
$-),231!*5!2%$-,3/!24,'(/!67!)+*-*3$'(!1*#'&!/2*1713/-!
-,',(/-/'3!8$34$'!,'!$'3/(+,3/&!,))+*,24!3*!,&,)3,3$*'!
)*%$27!,'&!)+,23$2/9
!
!
8889/%,',&,)39'/3
!
$'5*:/%,',&,)39'/3
!
!
References
Anon  (2007).  
Ramón  seed
 (Brosimum  alicastrum  Sw.)  
and  ramón  seed-­‐derived  ingredients  for  use  in  traditional  
foods  generally  recognized  as  safe  (GRAS)  self-­‐af<irmation  report
.  Available  at:  
http://mayanutinstitute.org/pdf/
Brosimum_Final_GRAS_11-­‐30.pdf
Bioplanet,  online.  
http://www.bioplanet.mx/www/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=57:ramon-­‐
clave-­‐aa003&catid=13:catalogo&Itemid=91
Flannery,  K.V.  (Ed.).  (1982).  
Maya  subsistence:  studies  in  memory  of  Dennis  E.  Puleston
.  Academic  Press,  New  York.  
368  pp.
Magrin,  G.,  Gay  García,  C.,  Cruz  Choque,  D.,  Giménez,  J.C.,  Moreno,  A.R.,  Nagy,  G.J.,  Nobre,  C.  and  Villamizar,  A.  
(2007).  
Latin  America.  Climate  Change  2007:  Impacts,  Adaptation  and  Vulnerability
.  Contribution  of  Working  
Group  II  to  the  Fourth  Assessment  Report  of  the  Intergovernmental  Panel  on  Climate  Change.  Parry,  M.L.,  
Canziani,  O.F.,  Palutikof,  J.P.,  van  der  Linden,  P.J.  and  Hanson,  C.E.  (Eds.).  Cambridge  University  Press,  Cambridge,  
UK.    pp.  581-­‐615.  Available  at:  
http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-­‐report/ar4/wg2/ar4-­‐wg2-­‐chapter13.pdf
 
MARN  (2001).  Guatemala:  
Primero  Communicación  Nacional  sobre  Cambio  Climático
.  Ministerio  de  Ambiente  y  
Recursos  Naturales,  Guatemala  de  la  Asunción,  diciembre  2001.  Accessed  14  September  2011  at  :  
http://
unfccc.int/resource/docs/natc/guanc1.pdf
New  Ag.  (2008).  
Maya  Nut:  a  forgotten  treasure
.  Published  online  by  The  New  Agriculturalist,  accessed  13  
September  2011  at:  
http://www.new-­‐ag.info/focus/focusItem.php?a=424
Orwa,  C.,  Mutua,  A.,  Kindt,  R.,  Jamnadass,  R.  and  Simons,  A.  (2009).  
Agroforestree  Database:  a  tree  reference  and  
selection  guide  version  4.0
.  Accessed  14  September  2011  at  
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/resources/
databases/agroforestree
 
Pérez  C.,  Locatelli  B.,  Vignola  R.,  and  Imbach  P.  (2007).  Integrar  los  bosques  tropicales  en  las  políticas  de  
adaptación  al  cambio  climático.  
Ambientico
 165:  19-­‐21.  
Querejeta,  J.,  Estrada-­‐Medina,  H.,  Allen,  M.,  Jimenez-­‐Osornio,  J.  and  Ruenes,  R.  (2006).  Utilization  of  bedrock  
water  by  Brosimum  alicastrum  trees  growing  on  shallow  soil  atop  limestone  in  a  dry  tropical  climate.  
Plant  Soil
 
287:187–197.
SEMARNAT  and  INE  (2009).  
México:  Cuarta  Comunicación  Nacional  ante  la  Convención  Marco  de  las  Naciones  
Unidas  sobre  el  Cambio  Climático
.  Secretaría  de  Medio  Ambiente  y  Recursos  Naturales,  y  Instituto  Nacional  de  
Ecología.  Primera  edición:  noviembre  de  2009.  Accessed  14  September  2011  at:    
http://unfccc.int/resource/
docs/natc/mexnc4s.pdf
Recommended reading
Janick,  J.  and  Paull,  R.E.  (Eds.)  (2007).    
The  encyclopedia  of  fruit  and  nuts
.  CAB  International  Publishing.  U.K.  954  
pp.