Mayan farming in modern Mexico
Fifteen miles away from Cancun, the most popular destination for British and Irish tourists, is Ethos, a rather strange sounding name for a farm. What’s stranger still is the way a resort chain – Sunset World – has developed what could be a significant Mexican tourist attraction.
It isn’t an attraction yet, just a farm producing fruit, vegtables and flowers that goes into the companies properties. But shortly it will offer its guests the opportunity to tour Ethos. Its located in the Mayan jungle in northern Quintana Roo, an area not a natural location for farming. But then this isn’t an ordinary farm. Its eco-friendly. To the cynical amongst you its easy to say that these days every one claims to be. So what?
The difference here is that Sunset has adopted tradition Mayan farming methods. And where are you likely to see those so close to a major tourist destination like Cancun? The fact that Mayan methods are eco-friendly is a bonus. As with many nations, the treatment of native peoples is an issue in Mexico. But in this area, the development of Ethos is providing job opportunities for Mayans in an area where they live. And doing something that uses traditional Mayan ways.
Eventually it is hoped that it will cover about 2,470 acres. At the moment, it is less than 1,000 but already producing exotic plants (69,000 already) for the resort’s public areas, fruit for its restaurants and honey which is used in the manufacture of soap, skin care products as well as the obvious.
Firstly the ground has had soil brought in and then the crops have been treated in the traditional way. So for each plant an animal has been introduced.
Because the animal is there to deal with the bugs and the pests that will be attracted to the plants as they grow. It might be a worm or a beetle, a spider or something larger but this approach removes the need for any artifical pesticides. Nor would the company ever consider anythinmg artificial. To water the plants, a pipe system has been developed which pumps water using not modern electrical power but a combination of wind and solar power. The result is that it is carbon neutral and links modern energy saving techniques with traditional Mayan irrigation. In the first year the result was 400 tons of fruit for the restaurant tables of the resorts.
Already one of Sunset´s resorts, Hacienda Tres Rios, which is built in a 326 area nature park, has been recognised for its efforts and has been a recipient of one of the World Travel Awards.
If Ethos expands as Orlando Arroyo, the chairman of the company, plans there will be less Mayan migration to the cities, he will have a fresh, organic source of fruit, vegetables, flowers and skin care products for his resorts and all of it is sustainable, keeps traditional Mayan farming methods alive and provides an attraction to visitors.
It is unusual to get a combination of all of this which suggests that the idea of win – win may exist in tourism to the surprise of many of us aging cynics!