Mexican Farmers and Scientists Share a Mission: Saving a Wetland
The traditional farmers, known as chinamperos, and scientists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, also known by its Spanish acronym UNAM, are seeking to encourage sustainable and pesticide-free ancient farming to restore areas degraded by rampant development, pollution, and over-exploitation of groundwater. Though they haven’t always seen eye to eye over the years, the farmers and scientists agree that a healthier ecosystem will not only ensure continued food production but also the survival of the remarkable salamander called the axolotl, which is on the brink of extinction.
So far, the project involves some 30 farmers, including Eslava, who rely on ancient agricultural methods that include extracting a mix of rich soil and decaying vegetation from the marshy lakebed to grow crops. Among other things, they are digging narrow canals adjacent to chinampas to act as a refuge for the critically endangered axolotl and other threatened species. Rustic filters made from aquatic plants are placed in the canals to absorb contaminants and increase water transparency.