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CEDESA, Making a World of Difference

By Betsy Bowman

The Center for Global Justice will visit the Centro de Desarrollo Agropecuario (CEDESA) in Dolores Hidalgo. CEDESA is a must-see for those who have not yet visited, and a must-see again for those who have visited in the past. It is constantly incorporating new appropriate technologies into their repertoire of ecological sustainable practices. They have taught the surrounding peasant communities not only beekeeping and organic agriculture, but also how to build and use dry toilets, recycle gray water, catch rainwater, build cisterns and compost. Many of these technologies focus on saving water.

Trip To CEDESA By Center for Global Justice. Sat, Feb 4, 9am. Center for Global Justice, Calzada de la Luz 42. 500 pesos. 150-0025

CEDESA sprang from the work of a priest sent from Rome in the early 1970s to offer Mass to isolated communities of indigenous people. Finding that the local people needed more than Mass, the priest taught literacy and preached the dignity of being human and the dignity of human work. He was soon joined by several of his women students who have remained with CEDESA over these many years teaching the local campesinos.

Thanks to Mexico’s agrarian reform which finally reached northeast Guanajuato in the 1970s, local campesinos have collectively owned land and have been able to survive by making cactus and apiary products marketed under the label Tierra Generosa (Generous Land) taught to them by the folks at CEDESA. The proceeds from the sale of these products and adopting the low-tech ecological practices taught by CEDESA have enabled them to resist pressures to send family members north or to sell land. They are carving out a future for themselves as independent producers as the forces of globalization and industrial farming bear down on them.

Many of these low-tech appropriate technologies focus on conserving water. Over the past year and a half, with the help of a team of researchers under UNAM Querétaro’s Dr. Adrian Ortega, they have constructed a huge model of the Independence Aquifer, which lies under most of the state of Guanajuato. Tests have shown that in pockets of our aquifer the water contains arsenic and fluoride. These heavy metals are not expelled, dissolved or made to disappear by traditional purification techniques such as filters. Only distilling the water will remove arsenic and fluoride. CEDESA and the UNAM researchers have designed a solar water distiller. Once the simple wood and glass structure is built, the sun does the work of evaporating the water, which is recaptured as it condenses and can then be used for drinking. Similar inventiveness is applied to organic techniques taught to campesinos for backyard vegetable gardens.

CEDESA is a unique phenomenon in Mexican rural life. It envisions a campesino university and a residential community in the future. In addition to the aquifer model, the Center for Global Justice visit will include demonstration sites for gray water recycling, rainwater catchment, dry toilets, organic agriculture, and beehives. Return will be by 5pm The cost includes entrance to CEDESA, tour, translation, lunch and transportation. Advance reservation for a place on the bus is required by calling the Center at 150-0025; by emailing ; or tickets can be bought at any Center event at La Biblioteca.

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