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Agave Farmers - Mexico

In the Ixmiquilpan region of central Mexico, an indigenous group called the Hnahnu have successfully commercialised Agave. In this area, 150 km north of Mexico City, emigration to the United States is estimated to be as high as 70%. Yet over the past 14 years, more than 60 families have retuned to the community. This is due to the success of the Agave Project. It has revitalised the area by commercialising the Agave-producing Maguey plant, which has been central to agriculture here for thousands of years.

  • {Agave growers in Mexico}

    2000 was the first year of the project, in which the community produced 5.6 tons of Agave. In 2013 they produced over 4,000 tons. Each year it keeps growing at a rate of 250%. Commercialised by the Nekutli Group and organised as a Unión de Cooperativas, there are currently 285 people from four integrated groups working on the project. Every year that number increases. Work is generally organised in family groups. Members receive a consistent salary that allows for a good standard of living. Each of the four groups in the Cooperativa has a leader who co-ordinates collection of produce and payment. Each leader has a program of requirements and Nekutli visits twice a month and reviews the program for the following two weeks. Each co-op is equal – they earn the same money, based on quantity of Agave produced.

    Senõr Manuel and the Nekutli Group began developing the project back in 1998, realising that there was a market for organic Agave as an alternative to High Fructose Corn Syrup. They took samples to the Jesuit University in Guadalajara in 1999 and after receiving positive results, they began constructing the processing plants in Hidalgo in 2000. The organic fair trade element and the high quality of the flavour were important factors in its success, but the primary intention for Senõr Manuel was the social component: allowing people to receive education, preserve their culture, slow down emigration and allow for families to live together.

    The group has a system of collective insurance in case anyone in the family is sick, meaning they can provide support with schooling: uniforms, books and stationary, thus ensuring that the quality of the education in the area continually improves. A further aim is creating new opportunities and new products, the result of which is new jobs. The first objective in the community was to turn the profits from Agave into gains for local infrastructure. Modern roofs and kitchens were added to the very basic dwellings which people had previously lived in. This greatly improved the standard of living. The next objective was healthcare, which arrived in the form of a new hospital in one of the community’s main towns, San Andreas De Boxta. Following this they began to invest in education, recently supporting the local school in constructing a special computer room.

    The Agave Project has come to be seen as a great alternative to the sadness and uncertainty of emigration: the opportunity to live a good life, to be involved in useful productive work, with options for a bright future.

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