The Transmission of Traditional Ecological Knowledge Drivers within Mopan Maya Milpa Communities of Belize


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The Transmission of Traditional Ecological Knowledge Drivers within Mopan Maya Milpa Communities of Belize
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Saqui, Pio
University of Florida
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Gainesville, Fla.
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Doctorate ( Ph.D.)
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University of Florida
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Committee Chair:
Burns, Allan F
Committee Members:
Schmink, Marianne C
Emery, Kitty F
Brenner, Mark


Subjects / Keywords:
belize -- knowledge -- maya -- milpa -- mopan -- traditional
Anthropology -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Anthropology thesis, Ph.D.
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This study focused on determining the various elements of Mopan Maya traditional ecological knowledge that ensures its persistence. The unit of evaluation is the ‘Milpa agricultural system’, the practice and the traditional ecological knowledge that is explicitly associated with that with it. The Mopan Maya of Belize have been under threat of losing the traditional ecological knowledge and they struggle to forage a living within the every changing society of Belize. Milpa farming has the a key survival mechanism for the Mopan Maya. Other than that fact the Milpa agriculture produces food, the study shows that this notion is far more important. Within the Mopan Maya Community, the people are closed tied by the notion of ‘Kol’ and the notion of ‘Tzik’. These two concepts ties all the functions of the community culture and social structure. In fact these two concept forms the framework for the Mopan worldview. To date the data gathered by way of ethnographic study, in Toledo, Belize have shown that the Mopan Maya Traditional Ecological knowledge have four distinguishable elements that are as follows; a) philosophical aspect which highlights element of the ancient Maya cosmology, b; Aesthetic aspect which highlights the traditional spiritual respect and appreciation of the natural environment as express in oral history c; ecological aspects which is highlighted in the holistic ecological knowledge of the ecosystem as it currently sustains the Maya way of livelihood and d; socio-political structure that is enforce and garnered by the practice of making Milpa. This study concludes that being indigenous Mopan Maya requires the close contact and traditional knowledge of the ecosystem and the ways in which it interacts with daily life. The indigenous person that abandons their indigenous environments squanders a true self of indigenous identity.
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by Pio Saqui.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2012.
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2 201 2 Pio Saqui


3 To my son Keith James Saqui Garcia and my parents Pedro Saqui and Juana Saqui as well as all the Mopan Maya Children of Belize


4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The pursuit of this degree has been a very challenging one for me. I am forever indebted to my academic advisor Professor Allan Burns, who, without any prejudice took on the task of gui ding me. His help is far beyond any words that I would be able to say collectively. I must say that I will miss my conversations with him that validated and inspired this dissertation immensely Sadly, I will forever remember Dr. Hugh Popenoe, who was a gr eat friends as well as a powerful mentor in my life. Upon meeting him, I discovered I had attained my Associates Degree in Agriculture from a school he help ed to design in Belize. His visionary work ha s brought me full circle to this point. I am indeed sad dened that I will not be able to share with Dr. Popenoe the completion of this dissertation. The dedicated friendship and advice of Dr. Kitty Emery is immeasurable. There were many times that I felt hopeless, but her kind persistence and encouragement alwa ys gave me the desire to continue. I will remember this time of my life for all those superior advice she gave me so honestly. My desire to start a PhD program was sparked in 2002 after meeting Dr. Mariane Schmink. I am inspired by her work in conservation, which uniquely demanded the involvement of local communit ies That encouraged me to believe that the Maya people do have hope. I hope that this dissertation contributes, even just a little towards that goal. I want to especially thank that Dr. Mark Brenne r who so willingly agreed to join my academic committee. I can not think of anyone else who knows the Maya world as he does geologically. Although he joined my committee later his kindness and friendship


5 was overwhelming. I thank him for trusting me and being so supportive. I know that I will continue to learn from his kind advice My family has been more than supportive. My wife Juanita Garcia Saqui saw me through all this while she diligently worked on her o wn PhD research a lthough we were confused many times about who needed more support ; her love and support to me never ceased Even through this challenging time, we had o ur son Keith James Saqui, who spent the first two years of his life being dragged to s trange places. Now at two years old, he gladly goes to day care and allows us the time to do our work. I thank him so much. I cannot go on without thanking my parents Juana Saqui and Pedro Saqui, and family back in Belize. I thank them for the Mopan May a life they gave me. Although my mother suffers from a chronic illness, she is supportive and understanding of the fact that our work here is important. She misses her grandson, but she knows that she will have her time with him. For my family here in the USA Dr. Keith Miser and Dr. Ann Miser, the support and love they have provided for us will never be repaid. They provided financial, academic and moral support through out this process. They epitomize my idea of academics, who firmly believe that every hu man should have the opportunity for something better in their live s Both Drs. Misers have been strong advocate for me since we met on Thanksgiving Day, in 1993, at the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Reserve. Special gratitude is extended for the kind financial s upport of Phipps Conservatory, Botany in Action, Pittsburgh, P ennsylvania Over the last five years, I depended on their


6 unwavering support. Th eir work extends way beyond the gardens of Pittsburgh, to the rolling hills of the Toledo, Belize, among the Maya gardens. I th ank the University of Belize for their kind support. I know th at many times my situation seem ed hopeless but I was given support anyway. Thanks to Dr. Thippijetty Tiagarajan, Dr. Ismael Hoare, and the faculty and students of the Natural Resourc es Management program. You have all inspired me to keep moving forward. M ost importantly, I thank the people of Toledo who fed me, sheltered me, and entertained me in every way possible. They fed me with the best foods I will ever eat; from fishes so smal l to roasted p eccary legs, all flavored with their love and friendship for nature. They have showed me a part of my heritage that I would never have known otherwise. For that I thank them all. I want to also especially mention Nooch Winik Caanti and Nooch Winik Cal of Santa Cruz, Don Ack and Alcalde Sho, from Blue Creek, Nooch Winik Chuc, and his son Benedicto, and Tataa Chuck from San Jose. All these men and their families opened their lives to me freely. Their wisdom cannot be captured in this dissertatio n, but I thank them for being so willing to open the doors to access that knowledge. Finally I thank my friends especially, Faith Bolton Jenny Haddle Kari MacLaug h lin and Piyush Harsh for their kindness and love. Thank you for being there for us on those occasions and nights when we had no one else to call and you were there. The list of my friends that consistently pro vided sup port and kindness is too long to place here Please forgive me if I do not mention your name individually. All your support is grand!


7 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 9 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 10 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 11 CHAPTER 1 PROBLEM ST ATEMENT ................................ ................................ ........................ 13 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 13 Research Guiding Questions ................................ ................................ .................. 16 Question 1: ................................ ................................ ................................ 17 Question 2: ................................ ................................ ................................ 17 Question 3: ................................ ................................ ................................ 17 Question 4: ................................ ................................ ................................ 18 Study Location ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 18 History of the Mopan Maya ................................ ................................ ..................... 20 Significance of the Study ................................ ................................ ........................ 23 Milpa : Shifting Cultivation ................................ ................................ ........................ 27 Mopan Maya and Shifting Cultivation ................................ ................................ ..... 30 2 THE TRADITIONAL ECOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE OF MAYA MOPAN IN BELIZE ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 34 Ancient History of Maya Ecological Knowledge ................................ ...................... 34 Maya Farming Resiliance ................................ ................................ ................. 40 ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 43 History of Intensive Agriculture ................................ ................................ ......... 45 Maya Agriculture Today ................................ ................................ .......................... 46 Traditional knowledge ................................ ................................ ............................. 49 The Culture of Milpa and Traditional Knowledge ................................ .................... 52 Effects of Burning ................................ ................................ ............................. 53 Soil Changes from Burn ................................ ................................ ................... 56 The Notion of Tzik ................................ ................................ ............................ 59 3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY ................................ ................................ ............... 60 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 60 Indigenous Researcher ................................ ................................ ........................... 62 Description of the Research Participants ................................ ................................ 64 Research Design ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 66


8 Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 68 4 TZIK ECOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE ................................ ................................ ................ 71 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 71 Basic Results ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 72 TZIK ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 72 The vertical transmission of Traditional Ecological Knowledge ........................ 79 Ground mole trapping ................................ ................................ ....................... 79 Kol Maki ng The Early Stages ................................ ................................ ........... 85 The Making of Kol ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 89 Changing attitudes towards kol ................................ ................................ ........ 95 Shared Labor Strategies ................................ ................................ ................... 99 Sharing and exchanges as cultural markers in kol ................................ ................ 103 Site Sections for the Milpa ................................ ................................ .............. 108 The forest clearing ................................ ................................ .......................... 110 A Sense of time ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 112 Kol and community ties ................................ ................................ ......................... 116 Mode of Knowledge Transmission ................................ ................................ ........ 118 Horizontal Transmission of knowledge ................................ ........................... 120 Threats to traditional ecological knowledge ................................ .................... 123 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 125 5 CONCLUSIONS AN D RECOMMENDATIONS ................................ ..................... 127 Facing change ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 127 Study Conclusions ................................ ................................ .......................... 131 Question 1: ................................ ................................ ............................... 132 Question 2: ................................ ................................ ............................... 135 Question 3: ................................ ................................ ............................... 138 Question 4: ................................ ................................ ............................... 139 Recommendations ................................ ................................ ................................ 140 Recommendation 1 ................................ ................................ .................. 142 Recommendation 2 ................................ ................................ .................. 142 Recommendation 3 ................................ ................................ .................. 143 Recommendation 4 ................................ ................................ .................. 143 APPENDIX A SEMI STRUCTURED INTERVIEW QUESTION GUIDE ................................ ...... 145 B SURVEY QUESTIONS ................................ ................................ ......................... 147 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................. 154 BIOGRAPH ICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 164


9 LIST OF TABLES Table page 3 1 Gender of interviewee Name of the Village Crosstabulation ............................ 65 3 2 Research Methodological approach ................................ ................................ ... 67 4 1 Basic results of the number of participants in the study ................................ ...... 72 4 2 Name of the Village Young people are willing to give more respect if they speak Mopan Maya Cross tabulation ................................ ................................ 77 4 3 Age of interviewee I must get help from my elders with milpa Cross tabulation ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 82 4 4 Name of the Village All Mopan Maya must make milpa Cross tabulation ........ 83 4 5 Name of the Village Each Man must have milpa in order to gain respect in the community Cross tabulation ................................ ................................ ......... 85 4 6 Name of the Village It is important for us to get help from our elders Cross tabulation ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 89 4 7 milpa plots in Pueblo Viejo Village ................................ ................................ ............................ 91 4 8 Do you think the Mopan should have milpa ? Which town are you from Cross tabulation ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 96 4 9 Which town are you from*Do you hire other men to make your milpa ? Cross tabulation ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 96 4 10 Milpa is important to me? Village Cross tabulation ................................ ........... 97 4 11 Name of the Village I must help other farmers to make milpa Cross tabulation ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 100 4 12 Name of the Village We need firewood for cooking Cross tabulation ............. 114 4 13 Name of the Village Young people who make milpa leave the village Cross tabulation ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 117 4 14 Name of the Village I share new plants for milpa as gifts Cross tabulation .... 119 4 15 Name of the Village Mopan Mayas are leaving this community Cross tabulation ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 124 5 1 Research guiding questions ................................ ................................ ............. 132


10 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1 1 Study area within the Toledo District of Belize. ................................ ................... 19 1 2 Traditional Ecological Knowledge model of the Mopan Maya. ............................ 23 3 1 Traditional Ecological Knowledge transmission model ................................ ....... 61 4 1 A trapped ground mole ( Neurotric hini spp.) ................................ ........................ 80 4 2 Guarding of the Sun festival featuring the Deer Dance at Lubaantun Maya Site ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 104 4 3 The Maya milpa year calendar ................................ ................................ ......... 111 4 4 A burn that produced the desired q uality of ash ................................ ............... 115 4 5 Three generation of Milpa farmer ................................ ................................ ..... 119 4 6 New variety of Musa sp introduced in Pueblo Viejo ................................ .......... 121 5 1 A home garden with traditionally used spices ................................ ................... 130 5 2 Essential complex of traditional ecological knowledge ................................ ..... 137 5 3 The Mopan Maya model of traditional ecological knowledge transmission ...... 141


11 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy MOPAN MAYA SCIENCE: TRADITIONAL ECOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE AND ITS TRANSMISSION AMONG MOPAN MAYA MILPA COMMUNITIES OF BELIZE By Pio Saqui August 2012 Chair: Allan F. Burns Major: Anthropology This study explores the various elements of Mopan Maya traditional e cological milpa agricultural and the practice and traditional ecological knowledge that are explicitly associated with it. The Mopan Maya of Belize have been under threat of lo sing the ir traditional ecological knowledge and they struggle to forage a living within the ever changing society of Belize Milpa farming has been a key survival mechanism for the Mopan Maya. This study shows that milpa agriculture is far more important t han a simple source of food production It is one of the most important means by which both T raditional E cological K nowledge and the understanding of community social structure is transmitted through the generations. Within the Mopan Maya c ommunity, people are closed linked by the concepts of K ol and Tzik Kol is defined as the traditional milpa system that is practiced with use of the unique cultural elements of the Mopan Maya. Tzik is defined as the sociopolitical structure of the Mopan Maya community that is activated in the Kol practice. These two concepts connect to all the functions of the community culture and social structure. In fact these two concept s form the framework for the Mopan worldview. This study shows


12 that the making of milpa (kol) is dependent upon and ensures the persistence of both tzik which embodies and supports community social networks, and T raditional E cological K nowledge which embodies and supports the networ k of human culture and ecology. The data gathered in this ethnographic study of milpa agriculture and community in Toledo, Belize have shown that Mopan Maya t raditional e cological knowledge ha s four distinguishable elements : a) a holistic ecological knowle dge of the ecosystem as it currently sustains the Maya livelihood ; b ) a socio political structure that is enforce d and activated by the practice of making milpa ; c ) an a esthetic that highlights the traditional spiritual respect and appreciation of the natur al environment as express ed in Mopan Maya oral history ; and d ) a philosoph y that highlights element s of the ancient Maya cosmology This study focuses on the ecological knowledge and socio political structure, leaving studies of aesthetics and philosophy for later research. This study concludes that being indigenous Mopan Maya requires close contact with, and traditional knowledge of the ecosystem and the ways in which it interacts through milpa farming with daily life community and kinship It is this close connection with milpa farming or kol and tzik that ensures the transmission of TEK through the generations. The transmission of traditional ecological knowledge requires: a) the knowledge of the Mopan Maya Elders, b) the activation of tzik c) the making of kol, and d) the knowledge and use of the native language. These elements ensure that the whole complex of the Mopan Maya trad itional ecological knowledge is transmitted. The indigenous person that abandons their indigenous environments squanders a true self of indigenous identity.


13 CHAPTER 1 PROBLEM STATEMENT Introduction This study focuses on the transmission of traditional e cological knowledge primarily between generations but also through other community networks, among four Mopan Maya communities in Belize that are engaged in milpa farming. Milpa farming is a traditional farming system used by the Mopan Maya in Belize as their primary mode of subsistence as it is today by Maya across Central America T raditional E cological K nowledge i s that body of knowledge built by groups of people through generations in close contact with nature, which en compass cultural as well as substantive and procedural ecological knowledge ( Balee 2006 ; Berkes, et al. 2000 ; Brosius, et al. 1986 ) I n this study I used milpa system as a proxy to evaluate the Mopan Maya traditional ecological knowledge system and its persistence through time within each of the four communit ies This study further examines why traditional ecological knowledge is preserved within Mopan Maya communities and how that knowledge system is being transmitted between generations among the Mopan Maya. The vertical and horizontal transmission of traditional ecological knowle dge will also be explored as they occur wit hin groups. The objective of this study is to contribute to the understanding of the practice of milpa agriculture as it is associated with community integration and traditional ecological knowledge transmission Ecologically, milpa is a highly diverse agriculture system that use s crops that are carefully integrated with local ecology ( Bernstein and Herdt 1977 ) Milpa also requires many traditional practices that rely on community culture which seems to enable ecological sustaina bility ( Atran, et al. 1999a ) Additionally, this study


14 also aims to analyze how important traditional ecological knowledge is for the Mopan Maya culture in Belize which is under threat within the current national socioeconomic conditions. The se objectives will be accessed through observations of the milpa farming methods and the cultural enactment s associated with the annual farming cycles of the Mopan Maya in the Toledo, Belize. Studies of th e Maya t raditional e cological knowl edge have focused on the use of local plants for healing ( Balick and Mendelsohn 1992 ; Bourbonnas Spear, et al. 2005 ) as food source ( Bernstein and Herdt 1977 ; Steinberg 1998a ; Zarger and Stepp 2004 ) and for sale or barter in local markets ( Caddy 2002 ; Levasseur and Olivier 2000 ; Wilk 1997 ) These studies clearly demonstrate that there is an immense wealth of traditional ecological knowledge about plants amo ng Mayans. Most plant use prevalent among the Maya is associated with their farming techniques indicating a strong connection between milpa farming and traditional ecological knowledge T here is also a strong connection between milpa farming and cultural a ctivities among the Maya people in Belize. The study presented here analyze s the linked role of cultural and ecological competency in allowing the younger generation to keep actively perpetuating the Mopan Maya c ulture. nteractions revolve around a milpa and those activities that are required for food production. However, the Mopan Maya engagements are guided by a well defined sociopolitical system that is marked by the concept of tzik. Literally translated from Mopan Maya language into English, the word Milpa also intersects with the cultural value of tzik that is the


15 organizing principle of Mopan Maya communities. In later chapters the intersection of these two conc epts are decried and analyzed in detail. When milpa traditional practices are examined within the four Mopan communities, it seems that there is an increased presence of traditional ecological knowledge and cultural enactments associated with milpa farmin g where the number of milpa plots seems higher This observation shows that milpa farming practices exist in tandem with the use of traditional ecological knowledge and the practice of rituals that are associated with milpa making What remains to be under stood is the significance of this association and how does the making of milpa directly contribute to the transmission and persistence of traditional ecological knowledge of the Mopan Maya? Finally, this study has important implications for the future stability of the Mopan Maya population of Belize. Belize has seen tremendous population growth over the last two decades, including intensified commerce and improved infrastructure ( Barry and Vernon 1995 ; de Frece and Poole 2008 ) As these economic and infrastructural changes take hold in rural areas, the Maya population is forced to adopt new livelihood strategies, including a change from subsistence based agriculture to mar ket based agriculture ( Chibnik 1980 ; Chom itz and Gray 1996 ) For some Mopan Maya especially the younger generation, this change is indicative of an entry into main stream commerce including tourism wage labor, or employment in the public sector ( Janvry and Sadoulet 2001 ; Wilk 1997 ) These social changes demand new kinds of knowledge that is replac ing traditional ecological knowledge. This study explores the implications for the loss of Belize an Mopan Maya traditional ecological knowledge through the abandonment of community and ecological connectedness in the future


16 Research Guiding Questions Milpa is typically defined as the yearly cyclical production of maize by indigenous communities ( Amiguet, et al. 2005 ; Gomez Pompa, et al. 1990 ; Gregory 1984 ) and as a traditional form of agriculture and economic activity that involves the plantation s of maize on small parcels of land at sites near residential areas among Maya communities ( Cruz 2003 ; de Frece and Poole 2008 ) However, this traditional definition does not do justice to the complexity of the milpa system. For the purpose of this study a more appropriate definition of milpa will includ e these consideration s : first milpa is a system of scientific knowledge embedded within traditional ecological knowledge ; second it is an interaction within the ecosystem that directly impacts the cultural structure of the community ; and t hird, it is a mu lti crop resource that includes maize but also involves a host of different nutritional and medicinal crops including non cultivated plants within a system that ensures ecosystem balance This study shows that the concept of milpa is a not seasonal activity but a continuous process throughout the year that requires the social engagement of all members of t he community. Milpa is a communal activity rather than an individual venture. The farming process itself starts with the establishment of a milpa c orn plot which it proceeds to convert into a diverse garden through many cultivation stages ( Atran, et al. 1993 ; Cruz 2003 ; Hostettler 1996 ) The effectiveness of the year long use and process of milpa is eviden ced by the harvest of a diversity of plants and crops with in kitchen garden s along milpa foot paths, with in the multi year fallow milpa plots, and within current milpa ( Amiguet, et al. 2005 ; Atran, et al. 1993 ; Brosius, et al. 1986 ) But, as this study will show, its effectiveness is also shown through the


17 stability of the community structure that is woven through the process of making milpa throughout the year. This assessment is guided by one overarching question : Is milpa a cultural strateg y utilized by the Mopan Maya to ensure the transmission and persistence of their traditional ecological knowledge ? This very broad question cannot be answered in a single research project, but several of its parts are approached in this study and are used as the guiding questions for th is study. The evaluation and responses to these questions garner insights to the milpa proces s as a cultural strategy that effectively supports the transmission of traditional ecological knowledge They also provide insight to changes within the cultural framework of the Mopan Maya that currently threaten use and transmission of traditional ecolog ical knowledge associated with milpa farming The guiding questions are. Question 1: Can the understanding of the traditional practice s associated with milpa farming provide insight to the transmission of traditional ecological knowledge of the Mopan Maya people between generations? Question 2: Can the analysis of milpa crop diversity demonstrate understanding of the local ecology and the community cultural sustainability? Question 3: Does the shift from milpa agricultural to intensive agriculture strategies reduce the number of milpa crop varieties and lead to the loss of traditional ecological knowledge ?


18 Question 4 : Does the Mopan Maya engage in cultural activities to maintain their culture and as a way to transmit traditional ecological knowledge ? These five questions were the derived to guide the original research. The first three are th ose questions for which data will be presented and evaluated in this dissertation Nonetheless discussion with this dissertation will touch on the remaining quest ion that will use to guide future studies. The complexity of the traditional ecological knowledge will require other studies that are beyond the scope of this study. Study Location The data for this study was collected in four Mopan Maya communities in Bel ize. Each community was selected based on Mopan Maya ethnic composition and the active practicing milpa agriculture of those Mopan Maya individuals Each community was visited to determine the number of households who were practicing milpa A simple tally of the number of existing milpa plots was done for each community. The four communities of Blue Creek, San Jose, Santa Cruz and Pueblo Viejo, were determined to be most active communities practicing milpa making. The village of Blue Creek was established somewhere between 1925 and 1930. It was initially called Rio Blanco, the name honors the crystal clear river that emerged from a nearby cave which ran through the village. According to the recollection of elders in this village, the name of the village was changed to Blue Creek in 1950. The village currently has a population of 250, with that number fluctuating at certain times of the year.


19 Figure 1 1. Study area within the Toledo District of Belize. Pueblo Viejo, is the Spanish name that is given to this community much later after it was established. Several Mopan Maya communities that have splintered and spread throughout the country of Belize will find some historical origin in this community. For that reason th e name aptly fits. According to a few members of the community, the earliest date that they can remember that this community is settled is around 1911. Today the population for this community is approximately 550, with that number fluctuating a various tim es of the year. In this community, the predominant language is Mopan Maya. San Jose village is the largest of the four communities in this study. The official year for the establishment of this community is recognized as 1954. Prior to that time


20 the area was only frequented by hunters. The community has grown since then and currently has a population of approximately 700. These numbers are changing rapidly and fluctuate during the year. This is a predominantly Mopan Maya Speaking community. Santa Cruz vil lage was a splinter of the Pueblo Viejo community. According to an The area was selected because of the water source and good land for agriculture. The community currentl y has a population of approximately 400. The community still practices milpa as the primary sources of livelihood. In 1999, tourism was introduced to the village. History of the Mopan Maya The presence of the Mopan Maya in Toledo district in Belize clea rly predates the Spanish 16 th century arrival (Leventhal, 1997) evident by many archeological sites that are replete throughout entire country of Belize. However since the dawn of British colonial era, the Mopan Maya have remained isolated in the jungles o f the Toledo districts for the most part. As a result of that long standing isolation from central government in the Toledo District, the Maya culture and identity persisted depending solely on their traditional knowledge ( Medina 1998 ) Howe ver, with the ensuing national developmental strategies, their cultural demise has become more imminent; and their relationship with the natural environment is quickly changing What remains is the strong will to continue making milpa Although the Mopan M highlands Guatemala, they speak a uniquely different language that is incomprehensible to the Mopan Maya. Their agriculture practices have some strong


21 similarities to that of the Mopan Maya. One of t he glaring difference in milpa production, milpa in close proximity to large water sources ( Carter 1969 ; Popenoe 1960 ) The Mopan Maya are predominantly a religious people and many are now majority of the Mopan Mayas were committed to the Roman Catholic faith. Since the s been a continuous departure from Catholicism to the more aggressive Protestant religions ( Steinberg 2002b ) Culturally the Mopan Maya have been able to maintain small villages in the Toledo district that are almost entirely Mopan. Invariably the traditional practic es are still deeply rooted among the elders of the communities. There is a strong persistence of traditional healing, in which the traditional healers use medicinal plants as well as invoke spiritual powers of the supernatural world. The Mopan Maya are ver y animistic in their worldview ( Gregory 1984 ) They are very conscious of the fact that their presence within the ecosystem is determined by spiritual powers for which they have no control. The strength of the Mopan Maya is the re enactment of their traditions. Many of these traditions, such as costumed dances, are historically practiced during the major holidays related to the Catholic Church. However, there is still a strong significance to th o se traditional practices that is directly connected to the various cycles of the annual milpa prac tices. These traditions also underlie the primary political structures of the which status is gained by expending wealth in the hosting of the festival ( Dewalt 1975 ; Hayden and Gargett 1990 ) These very huge responsibilities were accepted and


22 revered with pride to est ablish a position of honor and respect within the community. The festivals are passed around annually to different families. At the start of 1970s to present, many Mopan Maya families dispersed from the mother villages of Pueblo Viejo, San Antonio and San Jose. Some of these families formed new Mopan Maya communities an d others sought refuge in urban areas such as Punta Gorda and Belmopan The largest migrations of the Mopan Maya settled in the Stann Creek district, just north of the Toledo district, establ ishing the villages of Maya Mopan, Santa Rosa, San Roman, and Maya Center. that is highly influenced by the Catholic Church ( Crooks 1997 ) Almost all elementary schools within the entire Toledo and Stann Creek District were taught by Garifuna (an Amerindian African group) teachers. These teachers were often the only contact the Mopan Mayas had with the world external to their own societies. Nonetheless, as we move into the last decades, many Mopan Mayas are receiving education that is higher than the elementary grade. In fact there are a significant number of young people that have gone on beyond the secondary level of education to higher ed ucation. However it must be noted here that as the mandate for formal education takes a firm hold within these communities, the traditional ecological knowledge takes a significant toll. Children spend more time in the classroom and very little time with remaining keepers of the traditional ecological knowledge. Although the promise of a better livelihood from good education is welcomed, very often the young educated Mayas leave the communities only to return with little respect to cultural norms of the ir


23 society. Therefore it is important to understand what cultural strategies that the Mopan Maya uses as they transmit the traditional eco lo gi cal knowledge. Significance of the Study In s tudies of Maya culture, the Mesoamerican region ha s been characterized by the growing concerns of cultural loss and the loss of traditional ecological knowledge. There is a legitimate concern over the loss of traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous people worldwide as they come in contact with new information and techn ologies. Traditional ecological knowledge is lost along with the loss of languages, followed by the loss of cultural identity. In the case of the Mopan Maya, there is a real threat of the loss of traditional ecological knowledge, as the younger generation actively seeks alternative lifestyles that deviate from the more traditional Mayan ways. Those traditions are important and have served as the bedrock of the knowledge utilized thus far for their subsistence and sustainable environmental maintenance ( Montagnini 2006 ; Steinberg 1998a ) Figure 1 2. Traditional Ecological Knowledge model of the Mopan Maya.


24 Figure 1 2 illustrates the nature of the traditional ecological knowledge of Mopan Maya. This knowledge is holistic, and very complex. The Mopan Maya people as a society keep practicing their way of living and therefore have maintained their close contact with the natural environment. Religion and ceremony also play an important role in validating those elements that are beyond the human control. The Mopan Maya often refer to Earth as of references speak to the belief of a supernatural or spiritual world. The notion that traditional ecological knowledge is embedded in the cultures of the Mopan Maya can be seen in the paradigm. A n optimistic paradigm is emerging that value s traditional ecological knowledge. The concept that traditional ecological knowledge is permeating the norm of western science is creating a wider discourse for new ways of knowing ( Barrera Bassols and Toledo 2005 ; Brosius, et al. 1986 ; Kottak 1999 ) Some social scientists are insisting that e, particularly traditional ecological knowledge is laden with important information that is paramount and timely for human existence today ( Berkes 1999 ; Meilleur 2002 ; Orlove 1980 ) Studies have indicated that ecosystems cannot function in perpetuity to support human livelihood without the careful ecological management by those relevant indigenous and local societies that understand those particular ecologies ( Balee 2006 ; Berkes 2004 ; David 2004 ; Lambert a nd Arnason 1986 ; Steinberg 1998a ) A second school of thought insist s on a new ecology that clearly recognizes the functions of human s as another important species within the ecological processes, thereby co nsidering those functions to be more biological rather than cultural ( Kottak 2004 ; Orlove 1980 ; Posey, et al. 1984 )


25 This study is critical for the documentation of the traditional practices of Mopan Maya communiti es. It provide s an opportunity to highlight the effective use of traditional practices in milpa making that coincide with cultural competence of the Mopan Maya in their use of traditional ecological knowledge The study provides evidence that the making of milpa is a strong mechanism within the Mopan Maya culture that contributes to the transmission of tra ditional ecological knowledge. In that process, the stability of tzik Milpa is more than the simple method of planting and harvesting crops, but rather it is a knowledge system that is a conduit to the knowledge transmission. Th e study is particularly valuable because it has been done by an indigenous Mopan Maya and therefore it document s aspe ct s of the Mopan Maya cultural practices that are associated with milpa agriculture and traditional ecological knowledge that have been overlooked by other studies because they appear trivial to the external observer. There are significant cultural concep t s that are used by the Mopan Maya milpa system which may prove useful in o the r agricultural communities of Belize. Traditional ecological knowledge can then be used to effectively transform the agricultural techniques that are both used and appropriate fo r the Mopan Maya as they integrate into the formal economy of Belize. By extension, th is study adds credibility and validation to the traditional ecological knowledge of the Mopan Maya that is associated with milpa making. Therefore it provides incremental opportunities for that knowledge to be transmitted to the future generations of the Mopan Maya as they negotiate the increasing cultural changes that are both natural and exogenous to their community.


26 The country of Belize is currently challenged with man y changes in land tenure D ecisions are being made by various agencies based on strong opinions regarding the socioeconomic status of the Mopan Maya, relegating them to the lower brackets of poverty. Associated government al policies are being adopted that seek to force the Mopan Maya into the Economic without regard for the already existing survival strategies of the Mopan Maya Very little attention is paid to the traditional ecological knowledge of the Mopan Maya and the permanent negative impact such laws can have on their long term basic livelihood survival. This study can inform the various government agencies that will be required to make legislati ons for the management of the Belizean people and their land s As the Mopan Maya migrate into non trad i tional geographic locations, various agencies will need to comprehend the survival system of the Mopan Maya i n order to be able to provide the necessary support. Additionally, t raditional ecological knowledge i s a pedagogical strategy for the Mopan Maya that is not discussed or recognized in the formal education system of Belize ( Crooks 1997 ) Traditiona l ecological knowledge is absent at al l levels of the education system ( Hervik and Kahn 2006 ) which is true in Belize This study can be used to inform a new mode of learning methods to academia that m ay allow the inclusion of traditional e embedded in the western knowledge system with a very formidable Christian foundation This study is part of a long term goal to inform those pedagogical strategies within the western education method that have ignored traditional ecological knowledge thus far.


27 There are many forms of learning within the Mopan Maya knowledge system that are adapted to their natural environments, and which may be replicable in other parts of Belize or larger landscapes. The Mopan Maya milpa farmers have conducted natural experiments over hundreds of generations to refine their traditional ecological knowledge and thus can contribute to scientific and a pplied research o n local environments and agriculture. Without a doubt the Mopan Maya worldview is physically constructed around the geographical location that they frequent in their daily lives, but they are most definitively aware that various ecological element s of their environment hold significant purpose. The Maya, furthermore embrace a more holistic paradigm of their natural environment, where several elements of the biodiversity have a direct connection to one another An excellent example that can illustrate this holistic paradigm is the trapping of a g round m ole ( Neurotrichini spp ) which requires an in depth understanding of the physical natural environment as well as a detailed knowledge of the natural history of this animal as discussed later in the dissertation Milpa : Shifting Cultivation Milpa which effectively describes the objective of th e n extensive, multi phase agriculture system that is dependent on shifting cultivation plots across the landscape, the use o f fire as a primary way to clear debris from agricultural plots and the production of multiple crops in a carefully managed cycle Shifting agriculture is a traditional system of farming employed by indigenous cultures all over the world, depending on vas t knowledge of soil, climatic cycles and


28 local biodiversity ( Barrette 1972 ) Several studies have revealed that indigenous people are well aware that certain crops species prefer certain soil types ( Johnson 1974 ) Mo re importantly they are aware that the timing for clearing (slashing and burning) must be synchronized with the arrival of the rainy periods to properly take advantage of soil nutrients, made available through burning ( Alegre, et al. 2005 ; Atran, et al. 1999b ; Horwich and Lyon 1993a ) These principles apply entirely to the procedural processes of making milpa among the Mopan Ma ya. T he use of fire has s ubstantial positive effects on the soil structure, fertility, and pH ( Giardina, et al. 2000 ) The use of fire in s hifting cultivation favors positive soil conditions Perhaps the evolution of fire use as corollary to milpa agri cultural clearing is not accidental among the Mopan Maya, given the array of positive benefits burning facilitates. Fire use in shifting cultivation is often denigrated as a limited technology of indigenous people and those of past civilization, rather tha n being considered an innovative soil management method Fire ha s been used for at least 3000 years within tropical regions of the Maya world, where it seems to have been closely linked to local climatic and geographical conditions which can vary from wetland humid ( often lowland) to arid ( often coastal or upland ) forest ( Diemont, et al. 2006 ) The humid forests are often very dense and can produce substantial amount s of above ground biomass ( Lambert and Arnason 1989 ) which make land clearing very difficult without the use of fire. After the initial phases of shifting cultivat ion, which includes slashing the forest cover from a desired plot site, the farmers will wait between two to four weeks before a burn is initiated ( Altieri, et al. 1987 ; Carter 1969 ; Conklin 1954 ; Gliessman, et al. 1982 ; Horwich and Lyo n 1993b ; Reina 1967 ) B urning may cause t he most d rastic changes


29 with in site nutrient status in the entire shifting cultivation cycle. For this reason, shifting cultivation and burning practices ha ve been extensively scrutinized for the ir immediate effects particularly on soil nutrients and micro fauna. The role that such events as burning play in the transmission of traditional ecologica l knowledge is also important to protecting sustainable forest ecology Traditional knowledge is the study of how people interact with all aspects of the natural environment ( Berkes 2004 ; Gonzales 2001 ) Traditional ecological knowledge is the only door into cultural realities of many indigenous people around the world. It provides a direct access to a way o f understand ing the past and informing the future of human relationships with the natural environment. However t raditional ecological knowledge cannot be easily repackaged wholesale and deployed in other agricultural contexts, even those with areas of simi lar geographical or social conditions. For such knowledge to function it requires the cultural involvement of each cultural group. Traditional Ecological Knowledge is a valuable resource and is being lost faster than we can gain knowledge of it ( Balick and Mendelsohn 1992 ; Berkes 2004 ) In many situations, traditional ecological knowledge has proven to be essen tial for the development of appropriate resource conservation management strategies among local or indigenous communities ( Agrawal 1999 ) T raditional ecological knowledge is perh aps the most comprehensive knowledge base that truly represents the unique ways people conceptualize and choose to use the plants in their local environments (Martin, 2004; Gonzales 2001 ). Understanding the way in which the Mopan Maya uses traditional ecol ogical knowledge holistically provides and more concrete understanding of the direct connection of a society and natural environment, beyond the ecology.


30 Mopan Maya and Shifting Cultivation The Mopan Maya people of Belize are re garded as the poorest or most underprivileged members of the Belizean society ( Carter 1969 ; Primack, et al. 1998 ; Steinberg 1998a ; Van Ausdal 2001 ; Wilk 1997 ) Studies of Maya socio economic activities suggest that their limited engagement in the national economy or abil ity to sustainably generate income can be correlated to milpa farming activities ( Lambert and Arnason 1986 ; Levasseur and Olivier 2000 ; Medina 1998 ; Steinberg 2002a ) Milpa farming strategies do not produce sig nificant commercial quantities of crop yields, thereby limiting any significant engagement by milpa farmers with the market economy. Some Mopan Maya can and do leave the traditional communities and milpa farming in favor of commercial activities that provi de financial gain. A testament to this fact is the migration of the many Mopan Maya out of the Toledo district and resettlement in area of Stann Creek and Cayo district ( Barry and Vernon 1995 ) In search of better financial opportunities many Mopan Maya became successful Citrus farmers, only to return to Milpa farming soon after. This fact suggests that t raditional Mopan Maya communities practice milpa farming for reasons other than direct financial returns that would better support their subsistence needs S ome Mopan Maya never leave their communities and dependent on traditional milpa agriculture suggest s a much deeper cultural significance of the relationship between the people and their agricultural system that goes beyond food production or economic success to the value of r etention of the Mopan Maya cultural traditions themselves Those cultural ly significant elements are sustained through practice and en actment of the traditions associated with milpa farming. There are some tradition al


31 practice s within the Maya value system that are kept alive and enacted only during the making and maintaining of milpa farms. According to Wilk 's (1997) study of the Belizean Kekchi, Gregory 's (1984) early study of the Mopan, and confirmed in this more recent study, societal interactions withi n Maya communities are enhanced during the preparation, planting and harvesting of milpa Additionally during the cycle of the milpa food exchanges and food preparation associated with festivals bolster community ties Many relationships are revitalized in the form of major tasks associated with milpa ha ve to be carried out ( Wilk 1997 ) It is also expected that e ach member of the community is required to assume some responsibility for the festivals that are associated with milpa making. Wilk (1997) indicates that for the most part, all community functions can be directly connected to the corn production and the diverse milpa cropping systems, but the details of those connections are not yet understood. Milpa is a diverse cropping system that provides food security for the Mopan Maya. Such cropping system holds a large traditional ecological knowledge that base also invoked for diverse crop varieties during the making of milpa The purpos e of using many crop species within milpa plot is not linked to increases production, but more as a response to unpredictable conditions that may arise. T he G overnment a griculture policy favors modern agricultural strategies and insist s on the principles of entrepreneurship and profit gain by encouraging mono cropping systems. Such methods disenfranchises the traditional agriculture value systems of the Mopan M aya making their food security more fragile ( Van Ausdal 2001 ) Many Maya seem to respond to such pressures of econom ic and social change by varying their milpa crop diversity,


32 leading to intensified mono cropping or adopting new crop varieties ( Chomitz and Gray 1996 ; Keys and McConnell 2005 ; Wyman, et al. 2007 ) This study evaluates the extent to which traditional Mopan Maya communities do the same. It is not clear how diversity of milpa crops contributes to community traditional ecological knowledge. It is not clear how important other crop varieties are other than the corn varieties, for each planting cycle This study explores these aspects as well. The Mo pan Maya are not immune to the growing pressure of development. Every step towards development by the national government seems produce various exogenous forces ( Medi na 1997 ) Those exogenous forces includ e the economic pressures of modernization that force the Mopan Maya to engage in a more profitable form of agriculture. Intensified agriculture for high yielding crop is strongly promoted among the Mopan Maya ( Caddy 2002 ; Chomitz and Gray 1996 ) .The Mopan Maya through the generations have collected several varieties of corn that is planted every year. In any one plot a farmer may plant up to five varieties ( Steinberg 1999 ) however as recent effort by the government of Belize to increase corn production, many Mopan Maya farmers are plan ting hybrid corn seed. Beyond the fact that this variety may be high yielding, the hybrid corn is susceptible to tropical pests without the extensive use of pesticides. Moreover the Mopan Maya do not understand that the seeds collected from hybridized corn will not produce in consequent planting. There are fewer people who are practicing m u lti cropping milpa systems. This loss of crop diversity parallels the loss of traditional ecological knowledge of plants that are essential for the food security of Mop an Maya There are fewer people acquiring t raditional e cological k nowledge today and those who have maintained traditional


33 ecological knowledge appear to use it less. Still, there are also many people who continue to return to traditional ecological knowle dge use in their daily lives and even make conscious efforts to pass that knowledge on to their children. This study will consider both loss and retention of traditional milpa systems and environmental knowledge.


34 CHAPTER 2 THE TRADITIONAL ECOLOGICAL KNOW LEDGE OF MAYA MOPAN IN BELIZE Ancient History of Maya Ecological Knowledge The region of southern Mexico and the Central America n countries of Belize, Guatemala and the north of Honduras and El Salvador was populated by the Maya civilization and their ancestors from at least 12,000 years ago until the 1498 arrival of the European s ( Awe, et al. 2007 ; Bronson 1966 ; Lovell and Lutz 1994 ) Archaeological research in the area has shown that during that time the Maya develop ed a dynamic array of languages, farming practices, medicine, astronomy, engineering skills, marine navigation and long trade routes. Th e cultural florescence of the southern lowland area that includes modern Belize is traditionally dated to the Classic period between 250 800AD. A period of political and economic disruption sometimes called the Maya collapse was followed by a shift of cult ural center to the northern region of the Yucatan peninsula and the coastlines. It is important to note that the archaeological evidence does not indicate significant heath stress, depopulation or mortality during this time. The defined as a time of social restructuring, perhaps in response to the changing relationship of climate, human population, and agricultural systems. The Classic Maya c ivilization of the inland southern lowlands of Belize was already fading when the Europea ns made contact and the cultural centers had moved to the northern Yucatan and the coastlines However at contact the Belize region was still active with large populations of Maya in both dense cities settlements (at sites such as Lamanai, Tipu, and the c oastal centers) and scattered farmsteads across the landscape At the point of European contact, t he tropical forest dominated the landscape as an integral part of the tropical agroforestry/agricultural system of the Maya residents ( Faust 2001 ;


35 Gomez Pompa, et al. 1990 ) It is no teworthy that the Yucatan remained populated until the Spanish contact with significant forest regrowth starting after about 700 BP and tropical forest returning to dominate the Peten after 950 to 400 BP ( Dunning, et al. 1998 ; Toledo and Ctor 2005 ) Most of this region is tropical and enjoys lush vegetation that teem s with a large biodiversity of animals and plants that must be respected in their right. Over time, t he Maya peop le have developed a very profound understanding of their relationship with their natural environment and species as is evidenced by their ability to survive from their first presence through to modern day despite sometimes harsh conditions ( Gregory 1984 ) This relationship developed over mil lennia underlies the modern traditional ecological knowledge of the many modern Maya groups living throughout the region including the Mopan Maya of Belize. It is this ancient history of over 10,000 years of traditional knowledge, passed through generation s of Maya, that forms the foundation of the stable and sustainable Mopan Maya agricultural system. Human societies have managed various ecosystems worldwide for thousands of years. Remnants of those ancient civilizations have mesmerized biologist and social scientists alike as they try to understand the social factors that made those societies thrive Various methodologies have been developed to understand t he interactions of traditional cultures with natural and man made ecosystems ( Heider 1972 ) In depth analysis of human activities employed in food production, medicine, and management of natural resources and landscapes ha ve provided new insights to traditional knowledge ( Berkes 2004 ; Gonzales 2001 ) A common subject of study has been the use ( Carter 1969 ; Conklin 1954 ; Johnson 1974 )


36 reminiscent of modern milpa systems. This interest comes from the fact that this so often in excess of modern population in many areas today, through thousands of years of changing climates, landscapes, and politics. We know from paleoenvironmental and environmental archaeology research that the Maya practiced intensive agriculture, which included shifting cultivation, orchard agrofores try and polycropping, r aised terraces and wetland land channeled agriculture among other management techniques ( Gomez Pompa, et al. 1990 ; Gmez Pompa and Kaus 1999 ; Pyburn 1998 ) These methods of agriculture would have been effective means to produce food that would accommodate the high densit ies of populations that are recorded archaeologically for the region Archaeobot anical ( Lentz 1991 ; Pohl, et al. 1996 ) and ethnobotanical research together have shown that the ancient Maya grew a wide diversity of crops although the main staples were, as they are today, t he triad of corn, beans and squash ( Gmez Pompa and Kaus 1999 ) The Maya were able to create surplus food even in the face of increasing demands for food and materials through a continuous process of agricultural innovations that enabled them to change from extensive shifting cultivation agriculture to intensive agriculture over time ( Dunning, et al. 1998 ; Faust 2001 ) These agricultural me thods are discussed in more detail below. There is still great interest in determining the cause of one period of political and social upheaval termed the Maya collapse. The interest remains despite the upheaval. As such, it is an interesting example of the sustainability of the Maya agricultural systems to withstand and survive even the most traumatic of political and


37 social transitions without significant environmental or biodiversity destruction or loss of human life through starvation. The most well known but now discredited, hypothesis that has been proposed is that an ecological collapse brought about by overexploitation of the environment. This hypothesis suggested th at the methods of agriculture caused the destruction of the tropical forest. Tropical forest soils are generally not very fertile and often very thin, thus can be led into nutrient depletion by intensive agricultur e The forest material itself is the main source of nutrient recycling, by deposition of organic material. If agriculture got out of control and caused severe deforestation, then it is may also cause fauna l extinction as a result of habitat depletion Once the forest wa s destroyed and the landscap e denuded, immense amounts of organic material would have entered the water ways, which would have led to pollution. Additionally there would have been the ever present erosion and siltation of water bodies leading to major diseases affecting whatever huma n crops they may have been growing (Rice and Rice 1984). However, t here is mounting evidence that the Maya Collapse of the ninth century can not be attributed simplistically to environmental degradation, soil erosion, deforestation, and resulting famine. As early as 3500 BCE ancestors of the Maya were supplementing their diet with a diversity of agricultural produce including corn (Pohl et al., 1996). Recent paleolimnological research has shown that it was during this period, not the period of urban populati on growth that most deforestation occurred and primary siltation resulted ( Anselmetti, et al. 2007 ) After that period, Maya agricultural techniques became more intensive but appear not to have dramatically affected the sustainability of plants or animals ( Butzer 1996 ; Emery 2007 ; Ford and Emery 2008 ) Arch a eological


38 evidence show that the most human induced changes occurred in the Yucatan by about 3600 BP and continued to peak at Coba in the Maya late classic (Dunning, 1998). E valuations of ancient fore take into account the complexity, stability, and resiliance of the local environment. If given the appropriate length of time, coupled with the ability to reseed, a tropical forest will recover to s table state in a relatively short period of time. It is likely that the forest that was selected for human use would have been those with the most fertile soils and high species resiliance In fact, a sediment core sampled and tested, adjacent to one field system showed both maize and native species pollen dating to the Late Classic Period ( Brenner, et al. 2002 ; Leyden 1987 ; Pohl, et al. 1996 ) This would suggest that there was a healthy forest present alongside intensive agriculture. What have been more likely to lead to the Maya collapse would be the relatively permanent elements withi n the lowland environmental change. Brenner (1995) propose d that there were changes in ground water hydrology or climate change that may have significantly constrained Maya agriculture as well as influenced the course of Maya civilization. This thought has led to major research efforts on the topic of climate change and Maya prehistory ( Emery 2007 ; Haug, et al. 2003 ; Hodell, et al. 1995 ) The lowland Maya region, particularly the Northern Yucatan i s limited in readily available wat er resources. G reat seasonal variation in rainfall leads to long drought periods within the year. Prior to industrialized water management and irrigation, v ery detailed knowledge of weather patterns would have been necessary to be able to harness the spars e available moisture ( D unning and Beach 1994 ) Shallow soils were frequently leached during periods of heavy rains, which are associated with


39 hurricanes ( Vernon 1998 ) Water retention in the soil was further complicated by the geomorphic processes, with porous limestone as the bedrock, most water that was collected soon found its way into the undergr ound hydrologic system. Water resources only became accessible at various points in the landscape at the water table surface or through large collapsed sinkholes, known as c enotes. The ancient Maya actively control led water accessibility in various ways. O ne method was by constructing c hultun s ( Beach, et al. 2008 ; Vernon, et al. 1995 ) [ Another method was by geomorphic landscaping of city profiles to act as drainage basins collecting water in aguadas and other natural and modified water retention features ( Dahlin and Litzinger 1986 ; Vernon, et al. 1995 ) For agriculture the slope gradient and drainage caused by geologic structures were chief environmental factors that required the understanding of a mosaic of habitat. Uneven rainfall from year to year, especially further North in the Yucatan, had major con sequences of increased risk of crop losses. Today as in the past, famers are aware of the weather pattern and the risk it presents to crop s therefore every farming cycle has to be planned with risk strategies that are an important component of agriculture (Levi 1996). The North Yucatan i s dominated by swamp estuaries and seasonally inundated savanna. During the dry seasons, these regions are desiccated beyond the ability of supporting any form of agriculture. Therefore, prior to industrial agriculture, s av annas had very little agriculture potential because of salinity, inundation, severe drought and soil which was generally thin or completely absent (Beach 1998), without the active supplementing of soil nutrients. Portions of savannas and isolated freshwate r spring areas (petenes) may also have been mined for highly organic soils and


40 p eriphytons that would have been transported to enriched gardens and fields farther inland (Beach 1998). Periphytons are a form of algae that is common in seasonally inundated s avanna and that is rich in p hosphorus and n itrogen. Both of these nutrients are often in short supply in most soils of the Maya Lowland. Again, these examples emphasize that a ncient Maya agriculture was highly varied in nature, adapting to a changeable mo saic of environments and responding to shifting cultural pressures (Pyburn 1996). The ability of the Maya agricultural system to adapt even to drought conditions is evidence of its strength and resiliance Maya Farming Resiliance In spite of its long histo ry of human environment interactions there is no evidence of any major biological collapse produced by ancient Maya activities (Gomez Pompa and Kaus 1999), instead there are signs that they were able to sustain their biological diversity. Some believe that the nature we see around us today is a remnant of ecosystems shaped and created by humans in the past (Gomez Pompa, 1987). Ford has suggested in fact that the entire Maya lowlands are a managed ecosystem that she It seems tha t ancient agriculture throughout the Maya world centered on intensive garden, infield and outfield, and orchard cultivation within and near nucleated settlements (Killion et al. 1989). All of these methods are, however, fundamentally based on the shifting cultivation methods now called milpa since they required slash and burn field preparation, multi cropping, and shifting fallow fields. Shifting cultivation still stands out as the basic mode of food production throughout the millennia of Maya history During Precolumbian times, extensive slash and burn agriculture was practiced in many areas, although intensive terraces and raised (or drained) fields in wetlands were


41 also used. Shifting cultivation i s a much longer cycle of agriculture that can produce crop yields in as little as three months. Soils developed under long fallow cycles provide perfect growing conditions for food crops in the short term, and then other crops that may be harvested in the second or third years ( Atran, et al. 1999a ) This form of agriculture is also probably the most sensitive to the timing of rains and dry periods ( Bautista Zuniga, et al. 2005 ) Today the Maya generally start clearing their agricultural plots in the cooler dry months of the year, expecting to burn just before the start of the rainy season ( Bernstein and Herdt 1977 ) The rai ny season is essential after a milpa burn, in order to incorporate loose nutrient rich ash into the soil. If indeed there was a dramatic change in climatic conditions, shifting cultivation would be most vulnerable to such changes (Folan et al., 2000). But it is clear from the prior discussion that the system is also highly adaptive to such changes in climate, and is able to survive even multi year droughts. This is likely the result of the generational exchange of traditional ecological knowledge about the cultivation method and its application under various conditions in the local ecology. Gomez Pompa and Kaus (1999) are convinced that the shifting cultivation method of agriculture i s more beneficial to the Lowland Maya than any other forms of agriculture. They base their argument on the ir ethnographic observations of high biodiversity in disturbed habitat or fallow areas. After clearing and planting of basic grains other crop varieties are typically introduced ( Carr 2005 ) Squash is a shade ad a pted plant that can serve as ground cover ( Gillespie, et al. 1993 ) That service was greatly appreciated in the milpa fields where the soil would be temporarily exposed to direct sunlight. The squash would provide shade to keep the soil temperature cooler


42 and at the same time preventing the success of noxious weeds. Beans are also a very common secondary crop ( Steinberg 1998b ) The soil within th e lowland region is low in n itrogen as stated earlier therefore the introduction of nitrogen fixing crop variety like b eans would serve to alleviate that problem ( Atran, et al. 1999a ) Additionally, when the grain crops are harvested, the legumes will dominate the entire field, resulting in a more nutrient rich soil. This process will continue for about tw o to four years before t he consistent use of the plot is minimized or abandoned altogether. At that point the plot is left in long fallow, which can also mean that it includes continual harvesting of long lived plant s pecies. Some selected species introduced in the first years of production are purposefully planted to attract wildlife, some that can be hunted for game. Therefore the fallow period is often combined with hunting of game animals that are attracted by their preferred forage, generally at the early stages of succession (Faust, 1988). Much practice was also very common in the archaeological past ( Emery 2007 ) A very critical aspect of the fallow period is its ability to regenerate and be res eeded by nearby forests. Traditionally agricultural plots seldom exceed a hectare in size. Among the Tzimane people of Bolivia, Huenca (1998) documents that such sizes are determined based on the desire to keep regeneration plant species diversity to origi nal levels. A very critical phase of the land preparation is the management of fire itself ( Gliessman, et al. 1982 ) For the sake of maintaining diversity protection, minimizing the fire intensity will ensure that stumps and roots are not totally destroyed and can emerge with pioneering species. Firebreaks are routinely constructed around the border of the field to be burned ( Carter 1969 ; Lima 2002 ; Reina 1967 ) The trees


43 and brush are cut, so that the bulk of the biomass is away from the standing forest and heaped while creating a firebreak. Even when more than one plot is established within close proximity stands of high forest are preserved between agricultural plots. A plot maybe re cut the in the second and third year for grain productions, although this shows reduce d yields. The Maya, as many other indigenous peoples of the tropics and semi tropics, prefer to re c ut areas of secondary growth, because it is requires less physical labor ( Lam bert and Arnason 1986 ) After the fourth year of continuous use of the same area, a milpa plot will most likely be over run with plant species that more adapted to infertile soils, further reducing agriculture productions. The Maya will traditionally ret urn to a plot within 10 30 y ears with 20 y ears being the most common period of fallow, when overcrowding is not a problem ( Lambert and Arnason 1980 ) This is the time required in this region for substantial re growth of trees, accumulation of organic material from leaf litter, and reduction of weeds due to tree shade within an area under fallow. The process of shoots ( Szott, et al. 1999 ) Those tree roots functions hydraulic ally to bring up minerals from the subsoil, enriching the soil for later crops. In this process, the biodiversity of the local environment is ensured. The ancient Maya may have deliberately tried to replicate natural forest ecosystems, and constructed managed forests using native species. Gomez Pompa (1987) propose d that the Maya maintained specialized gardens, with species of trees that are known to grow in other regions of the Maya lowland. A ve ry telling example is the discovery of a cacao orchard at the bottom of a sink hole. Cacao was very important


44 to the Maya as a symbol of wealth and later a system of currency and this find indicates that the natural ecology of this plant was understood and replicated. Cacao is better suited for climate conditions that are moist and generally cooler. Finding these conditions would seem like the logical reasons for establishing a cacao orchard within a sinkhole ( Gomez Pompa, et al. 1990 ) Research by Anabel F ord has continued to specialized traditional ecological knowledge of the ancient and modern Maya ( Ford and Nigh 2009 ) The Maya may have had other reasons to maintain specialized gardens. Today, kitchen gardens, and doorway gardens play a vital role within the diet of rural people. Gomez Pompa et al (1987) surveyed one such ty pe of garden. These gardens are standing forest. It is quit e intriguing to note that with in o n e enclose d wall structure a botanical survey yielded 29 plants species that ar e all useful to the Maya people even today ( de Frece and Poole 2008 ) Today this practice is still alive with Maya communities in Mexico and Central America Anderson (2005) reported that in Chunhuhub, a door way garden indicated in excess of 243 species of plants that are kept for several reasons. Some served as vegetable that supplemented the diet, while others were used for medicinal purposes and still some species were used as food for livestock or wildlife. local game. The tree species that were present within this one enclosure are primarily fruit producing species. These fruits are not only used by humans, but they are also a


45 staple of d eer and p eccary diet. The r amon trees were also used as a source of food for famine for Maya people, but both d eer and p eccary also seek the fruits after they have fallen to the ground (Lambert and Arnason 1982). Secondly the Maya also accumulated knowledge of foods for famine times, some of which are wild, some planted, and some are protected volunteers in house yards and fields (Thompson, 1970). May a forest is itself an anthropogenic community of plants, formed by 3000 y ears of Maya slash and burn a griculture, as well as selection and protection of useful plant species History of Intensive Agriculture The Maya inhabited virtually all regions of the Lowland, this included regions that were not ideal for agriculture. A gricultural plants had to be f armed even in the poor soil conditions of the wetland regions. Jacob (1995) has presented evidence that the huge bajos around Nakbe may have once been peren nial wetlands which could have been used for intensive agricultural production ( Pohl, et al. 1996 ) The wetland region surrounding the Lamana i a rch a eological site in Belize provides similar evidence ( Leyden 1987 ) Pyburn (1999) reported extensive use of intensive agriculture around Chau Hix in the Northern lagoons system of Belize. Levi (1996) has noted that the ideal settlements were located adjacent to both productive wetlands. Scarborough (1993) has reported evidence of ditching of channels and construction throughout the Lowlands. Arch a eologists have suggested that in the Maya Lowland the water syste m defines the community. The use of terracing appeared later and has been documented most extensively by Turner (1983). The most elaborate, extensive, and integrated system of agricultural terracing known in the Maya Lowlands was centered on the city of Ca racol (Chase and Chase 1987), known as the Vaca Plateau areas in the Maya


46 Mountains. The use of this form of agriculture is related to the increase in population density, which would suggest that available fertile land may have been scant. Maya Agricultur e Today What is considered as traditional Maya agriculture now, demonstrates a long history of development of local environmental knowledge. Environmental knowledge itself is not readily traced in the arch a eological record but the prior discussions show c learly that the agricultural and forest management systems of the ancient Maya were successful, adaptable, and sustainable, and thus were the foundation of the development of Mopan Maya traditional ecological knowledge It is also clear that this ancient success continues today since in most places where traditional practices of Maya agriculture are allowed, the diversity is extensive and agriculture production is healthy ( Atran, et al. 1999a ; Bernstein and Herdt 1977 ; Brubacher, et al. 1989 ) One of the successes of the Maya people has been the continuation of the traditional milpa system in many areas. Wilk (1997) asserts that it reduces the risks to family food security when long distance markets for other products fluctuate. The home gardens and orchards also contribute to family nutrition and provide additional food security ( Anderson, et al. 2005 ) The problem for the Maya today is not in their method of agriculture, but rather in their li mitation of access to land and water resources. The shifting agricultural methods require extensive land and that is not always available in high population density areas. Overpopulation is a problem in many Lowland Maya regions and changes in land tenure farther complicate agricultural practices Milpa system seems to function best in regions where agricultural land is available and communal lands are still part of the land tenure system ( Steinberg 1999 ) The Maya culture continue s to depend on forest and


47 milpa farming and thus the future of the Maya will be closely linked to the future of their milpa s. Unfortunately much of the traditional ecological knowledge is still only minimally understood, and very little of it effectively transmitted to future generations. Oral tradition s preserve historical ecological lessons in encryptions of language, legends and religious practices. Many of the agricultural practices documented or explored in the a rch a eological record will be difficult peo ple themselves are seeking change, culturally, economically and politically. The notions of a modernized world are more appealing and the rewards are readily visible. Community members struggle with and are sold on the idea of making a better future for th eir children, often at the expense of passing on traditional knowledge about milpa farming. The global economy is looming forever over Maya societies of Mexico and Central America It would seem that the best way for the Maya to survive political and econ om ic change s is to ensure that their food production is kept local. If so the Maya will have to ensure access to land and continue to use traditional systems of agriculture. Fallow periods have to be maintained at the right length, and forest must be kept at climax level long enough to be able to reseed new forest. Ensuring that a forest is kept at climax also ensures that it will benefit the local fauna that provide a vital source of protein for local communities. F ive hundred years after European contact cause d depopulation, abandonment of traditional political and economic structures, and introduced new land and forest management techniques ; the Maya relationships with their lands have been redrawn and disconnected At the time of European contact there w ere an estimated two million


48 Mayas that inhabited the region that is known today as Guatemala, Southern Yucatan, and Belize which was only 40% of the total population of Central America Even at that time, it was evident that the en vironment that the Maya inhabited was highly manipulated and already in intensive agricultural use ( Bronson 1966 ; Turner 1974 ) W ell managed forest were highly productive and suppl ied food for the local wildlife as well as the Mayas themselves ( Faust 2001 ; Gomez Pompa, et al. 1990 ) As the era of colonization continued the Maya met with many ills, causing further reduction in population. In recent times, as late as the 1900s, many Maya were relocated by the Colonial powers T he lowland Mopan Maya were not immune to such disasters ( Wilk 1997 ) The Mopan Maya migrated to strange lands and environments as they sought safety and opportunites to live free ( Loucky and Moors 2000 ) Their culture and their relationship with the land is no longer as evident to them or their children as it was before European contact. What they have left of their past is only told in stories, fables, legends, and the language itself. Re creation of their past life has been hard, but is nonetheless carried out with amazing accuracy ( Zar ger and Stepp 2004 ) Evidence of this past is seen in the farming system. For many years biologists and western system ( Atran, et al. 1993 ) Until recently, this method was dubbed the primary reason for d estruction of the tropical forest within the region. As a result, extensive conservation and development efforts were crafted and implemented within the Maya world to help improve this system of farming ( Steinberg 1998a ) That effort still remains to be proven to be a sustainable method of development.


49 Maya people believe and know that they are part of the ecosystem. They know that they are caretakers of the natural environment. The practice of farming epitomizes and reaffirms this belief every year. One poignant example of the traditional knowledge of M aya people is the annual practice of milpa (slash and burn). Milpa farming acts as a start a milpa must be a member of his community and have proven ties to other member s of the community. There are obvious reasons for this, but also unspoken, unwriiten reasons that are clearly understood. Traditional knowledge Traditional knowledge is the only door to understanding cultural realities of many cultures around the world. It provides a way to understand the future of human relationships with the natural environment. Traditional knowledge is the study of how people interact with all aspects of the natural environment (Berkes 2004; Gonzales 2001). It is the result of generati ons of knowledge changing and evolving among a group of people. It is often neglected and sometimes abused. Valuing traditional knowledge is an essential step in recognizing and building upon the livelihood strategies of these indigenous populations. But indigenous knowledge, like other great ideas, cannot always be repackaged and deployed in other contexts, even those with similar ecological or social characteristics. nd Mopan Maya ethnic groups (Barry and Vernon 1995). Maya presence in the Toledo District clearly predates the 16th century Spanish arrival (Leventhal, 1997). As a result of long standing isolation from central state powers in the Toledo District, the Maya culture and identity persisted, depending solely on their traditional knowledge


50 (Caddy 2002). Their cultural demise, however, has accelerated and their relationship with the natural environment is quickly changing. The challenges that persist have impact s, varying from traditional development strategies by the central government to local community participation in tourism and conservation strategies (Lindberg, Furze, Staff, and Black, 1997). Development is an inherently flawed mechanism for intervening in the lives of populations in an attempt to improve their lives. (Comment: This is a bold statement and requires some justification). Traditional ecological knowledge is a valuable resource that is being lost faster than we can gain knowledge of it (Balick, 1990). In many situations, traditional ecological knowledge has proven to be essential for the development of appropriate resource conservation management strategies among local or indigenous communities (Berkes, 1991). Traditional ecological knowledge is perhaps the most comprehensive knowledge base that truly represents the unique ways people conceptualize and use resources in their local environments (Martin, 2004; Gonzales 2001). Traditional ecological knowledge is still utilized today among the Maya communities in Belize (Caddy 2002). This knowledge is constantly threatened by the ever increasing pressures of tourism and other dominant economic structures (Balick, 1996). Belize has seen tremendous growth over the last two decades, including rapid po pulation increase, intensified commerce and improved infrastructure (Barry and Vernon, 1995). As these structural and infrastructural changes extend into rural areas, the Maya population, like indigenous people in many parts of the world, are forced to ado pt new livelihood strategies (Case, Pauli and Soejarto, 2005), including a change from subsistence based to market based agriculture for some, and entry into commerce


51 (including tourism), wage labor, or employment in the public sector for others (Godoy et al, 2005). These changes demand new kinds of knowledge that replace traditional knowledge, particularly traditional ecological knowledge (Steinberg, 1998). In commercial agriculture, citrus, banana and rice production are favored over the traditional food crops, again replacing traditional with new forms of knowledge. Therefore, traditional ecological knowledge is never constant, it is not stagnant and it does not die with the people because they themselves (local people) are ensuring that it survives from one generation to another ( Altieri, et al. 1987 ; Berkes 2004 ; Heider 1972 ) Participation by indigenous people in markets, wage labor, and the public sector demands a homogenous formal education and strong skills in the national language (Newport, 2003). In Belize, the national language, and the language of instruction in school, is English. Immersion in this system erodes ski lls in native languages (2001). Mayan languages are no exception. This makes acquisition of traditional knowledge difficult because it is encoded in and imparted via the Mayan language. The effect of all these changes is that fewer people are acquiring tr aditional ecological knowledge today and that those who have maintained traditional ecological knowledge appear to use it less. Still, there are many people who continue to use traditional knowledge in their daily activities and continue to pass that knowl edge on to their children. The mechanism by which this knowledge is passed on depends on how much, or at what intervals traditopnal practices occur. The use of traditional ecological knowledge within Maya communities continues to exist, but to actively pas s on the knowledge for preservation is not easy. Without immediate study and documentation of the remaining traditional knowledge, the risk of


52 total loss is imminent (Balick, 1990). Coupled with that is the ever increasing pressure to homogenize culture as it modernizes and tries to adapt to an increasingly technological age (Attran, 1983). Research should include analysis of the sophisticated understanding of ecosystems that indigenous management practices sustain. The Culture of Milpa and Traditional Kno wledge phase cycle of agriculture that is dependent on the use of fire to remove debris from agricultural plots and enrich them with nutrients. Substantial effects of fire on soil structure, fertilit y, and pH changes are associated with shifting cultivation. The use of fire for agricultural clearing is not accidental, given the positive benefits. Fire use in shifting cultivation is often attributed to the limited technology of modern indigenous peopl e and those of past civilizations, rather than an innovative and effective way of soil management. According to Harold the objective of this practice in shifting cultivation. Recent studies show that fire has a bigger impact on soils and can be the determining factor of a good crop yield. Fire has been used for at least 3000 years within the tropical regions of the Maya w orld, where it seems to have been closely synchronized with local climate and geographic conditions, which can vary from wetlands todry forests (Diemont, et al. 2006). The more humid forests are often dense and produce substantial amounts of above ground b iomass (Lambert and Arnason 1989), which make clearing very difficult without the use of fire. After the initial phase of shifting cultivation, which includes slashing of the forest from a desired plot site, the farmer waits two to four weeks before a burn is initiated (Altieri, et al. 1987; Carter 1969; Conklin 1954; Gliessman, et al. 1982;


53 Horwich and Lyon 1993; Reina 1967). It has been said that the burning phase may cause the most detrimental changes in the entire shifting cultivation cycle with respect to site nutrient status. For this reason, shifting cultivation burning has been extensively scrutinized for the immediate effects particularly to soil nutrients and microfauna. Burning in the practice of shifting cultivation is necessary to create short t erm nutrient rich soil conditions for crops and for control of pests, including weeds and insects. There are many dynamics at work from the point of slashing to the point of burning, which may include the release of volatile gases including nitrogen (Giard ina, et al. 2000; Styger, et al. 2006 ; Toky and Ramakrishnan 1983). Effective management of fire is very important during a burn. Detailed studies of post burn fields indicate that the burn can have varying effects on soil nutrient concentrations (Juo an d Manu 1996), soil structure (Styger, et al. 2006 ) and soil microbial activity (Gliessman, et al. 1982). There seems to be awareness of soil nutrient changes as a result of burning milpa among the Lowland Maya of Guatemala and Belize (Carter 1969; Diemont et al. 2006; Lambert and Arnason 1980; Reina 1967). It is clear that land converted from forest to burned plots for sustained production relies on detailed knowledge of the fluxes and losses of nutrients incurred during and after the burning of slashed b iomass. The Lowland Maya appear to have understood the soil changes that occurred during a burn and were able to harness the nutrients released after milpa burns (Dunning and Beach 1994). Effects of Burning The immediate effect of burning is the conversi on of slashed vegetation into nutrient rich ash from the fire consumed biomass. Carter (1969) and Reina (1967) reported that slashed biomass can be 1 to 3 feet thick before a burn. Although there is no record of deliberate spreading of slashed biomass to m ake even layer, farmers


54 occasionally will lop off branches and place them in areas with thinner slash, to ensure a more consistent burn and distribution of ash, though this is rarely done (Wilken 1987). Trees with larger trunk diameters are felled after sl ashing is finished, and at that time more branches may be lopped off and spread to ensure a good burn. The trunks of large trees are typically left untouched and are not expected to burn entirely (Atran, et al. 1993). During the slash process, much of the combustible wood is retained for future use as firewood in the home. According to Buschbacher et al. (1988) and Kauffman (1995), there is more nutrient concentrated in fine plant material, such as leaves and twigs, than in large portions of the tree. Such leaves and twigs are readily converted to plant available nutrients during a milpa burn. In most cases, however, the fine plant materials are only a small portion of the total above ground biomass. This component is also the portion of the plants that dry quickest and forms a layer that is vulnerable to intense heat. If a slashed area is left to dry too long, the fine plant material is at risk of being totally lost to intense fire during a burn. That is, large quantities of ash can be lost, therefore the t iming of a burn must be perfect. When the intensity of the burn is too high it is likely that there will be strong turbulence, and there may be both loss of fine ash material and loss of nutrients to volatilization (Brady, 1996). Such loss is beyond the fa rmers control and could only have been managed by the timing of the burn. Excessive heat can cause great soil nutrient disturbance and may result in a sterile farming plot. Although one might expect the goal of burning in shifting cultivation to be creati on of ash for short term soil nutrient availability, the shifting cultivator often takes great precautions to prevent all biomass from being converted to ash (Dunning and Beach


55 1994; Giardina, et al. 2000). Ash may also vary in nutrient content and quantit y. The ash deposited on the soil after burning may not always contain the right kind of nutrients required for cropping. Additionally, ash is structurally unstable material and will not stick to the soil, especially soon after a burn, which exposes it to e rosion by water run off and wind. Ash must be incorporated into the soil immediately to harness the full nutrient potential (Raison et al., 1985). In order to achieve this, milperos time the burn to maximize the chances that a light rain will occur after t he burn. Many Maya ethnographies report that burns are conducted on days with specific weather conditions, i.e. in late afternoon when wind is low (Re Cruz 1996; Redfield and Rojas 1962; Wilk 1997). The phases of the moon are also monitored to better predi ct onset of the first rains (Carter, 1969). To get full use of the ash, it is important to ensure that it is integrated into the soil immediately. A farmer must first choose the right soil type to fully harness the nutrients in the ash (Reina 1967). Among the Maya of Guatemala, Mexico and Belize, site selection is critical and requires an understanding of soil types (Wilk 1997). Most soils are known to the Maya and are classified by color and in some cases by structure. Color, however, is the criterion mos t widely used to indentify soils (Gonzales 2001; Redfield and Rojas 1962). The Yucatec Maya of northern Yucatan distinguish between Re Cruz 1996; Redfield and Rojas 19 62). They are aware that the darker soils (ek luum) are more fertile than soils of redder or lighter color (Kan Luum). Also, they know that soil with redder color has more clay content and becomes very hard after a burn, making it harder for ash material t o be incorporated into the soil.


56 Tropical soils are notoriously low in nitrogen and most loss of nitrogen occurs because of volatilization and convective losses during a burn. A good burn causes the loss of 90% of the nitrogen within the above ground biom ass, as well as up to 30% of the carbon (Raison et al., 1985). Such values represent great N and C losses derived from aboveground biomass that could be potentially accessible for plant use. Cations such as calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg) and potassium (K) re main high in ash, which can be attributed to them having a lower level of volatilization at high temperatures than N and C. Soil Changes from Burn Soils in tropical regions are typically shallow, with rich clay content. The top layer of the soils througho ut the Central America and Yucatan region, holds most of the soil nutrients. The greatest amount of P is generally found in the organic matter layer of the soil. During a burn, this layer of soil can be lost. Typically, farmers grow concerned if too intensity was too high and excessive nutrients may have been lost. When most of the field surface area shows such signs, farmers may opt to forfeit the crop cycle and see k other means of survival (Anderson, et al. 2005; Carr 2005). Considering the implications of abandoning a badly burned field, we can appreciate that such action is dependent on a clear understanding of soil characteristics and functions, and that soil mus t be protected. Soil heating is controlled by a variety of factors, which include fuel quantity, fuel quality (type of original biomass cover), moisture and distribution of biomass on the soil surface (Martin, 1990; Walker et al., 1986). Most shifting cult ivation cycles are initiated in drier months of the year. In drier regions, biomass may not require prolonged periods to reach optimal dryness preceding


57 a burn. Slashed biomass also tends to be thinner in drier regions and at higher elevations. Therefore a burn can be done much sooner after slashing, compared to moister regions. In moister regions of the lowlands of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, vegetation tends to be denser and will yield a much larger amount of biomass after slashing. The drying period of the slashed area must be timed carefully to ensure that burn is not too in tense and risks sterilizing the soil (Reina 1967; Wilken 1987). Carter (1969) and Reina determining the right day to start burning slash. In some cases, the first light rain is u sed as a sign that a burn should take place. There may be more to this practice than just fear that the biomass may never burn if heavy rains begin. According to Khanna (1994), moisture that is present in the soil at the time of burning can cause dramatic increase in temperatures. Heating the soil for longer than 10 minutes at 70 C can effectively sterilize topsoil of fungi, protozoa and bacteria, with the effect amplified if there is a 15% moisture soil content (Garcia Oliva et al 1999). As Paul and Clark (1996) highlight, soil microbial communities are essential for organic matter decomposition and mineralization of nutrients for plant uptake. Intense and prolonged burning can have severe impacts on microbial biomass and soil microbes, interfering withthe ir ability to carry out their functions (Serrasolas and Khanna, 1995). Topography and microclimate conditions can also play significant roles at various stages of a burn. Generally, if milpa plots are on the windward side of a slope, there will be more dir ect effects on fire intensity and speed of a burn. Carter documents that the


58 spread of the fire will determine the duration of the entire burn (Martin, 1990), and s horter and less intense burns yield the right quality of ash, and prevent the soil conditions from being altered excessively. Some volatile soil nutrients like sulfur (S), N and C may be lost, but will likely be replaced in the form of newly formed ash. Wilken (1987) suggest that a benefit for slash and burn agriculture is that it aids in changing soil pH to a more neutral state, allowing plant growth. Some studies also argue that heating effects on soil pH change are not very consistent. Giardina et al. (2000) point out that elevated soil pH can be attributed to consumption of organic acids during a burn. Again, it is important that the intensity of a burn not be too high. One of with heat, to Like many indigenous communities worldwide, the Mopan Maya are a close knit, endogamous community. Milpa is still used today among the Maya people not only as a means to secure food for everyday survival, but as amechanism to cement community interaction. Community is a concept that has evaded definition. Tonnies (1975) defines a community a group of people or society who come together, stay together and engage i n joint action. One can envision a society in which members think collectively and seek reciprocity to maintain social cohension. The premise is that a community is seen as small and homogenous, without internal conflicts, and is assumed to act as a democr atic and consensual unit (Leach et al. 1997), which is clearly misleading. The Mopan Maya community is no different from any other western society that experiences internal conflict.


59 In a study with Nepalese and Indian women, Agrawal and Gibson (1999) sho w that communities are very heterogeneous in their ways of managing natural resources. The construction of a mythic community, such as that suggested by Tonnies (1975), fails to recognize important differences among community members, often resulting in th e effective disenfranchisement of the weaker members. According to Wilkinson (1998) community has several components, which include a shared territory, common life, collective actions, mutual identity and social interactions. The Notion of Tzik The struct ure of the community comes from the interaction or relationship among community has a range of different actors who have influence over and manage natural resources. The var ious actors will undoubtedly be socially differentiated in a number of ways, including gender, religion, social status, and in economic and political terms. The true picture of community emerges in the local society when a bond of common interest exists wi thin the community itself and draws people together so they are enabled to express common sentiments through joint action. The embodiment of this concept is has a prom inent place in the establishment of milpa Although food production is the primary reason for the making of milpa the more subtle objective of establishing and Maya e ngagement with other Maya and with the natural environment. Although the Maya people may be faced with tremendous exogenous forces of change, the notion of Tzik is unchanged and persistent.


60 CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY Introduction The aim of this stud y is to contribute to the analysis of the transmission of traditional ecological knowledge of the Mopan Maya from one generation to the next. The Mopan Maya of the Toledo district are one of the last remaining cultural groups that still actively practice the milpa system. There is a strong association between the Mopan Maya cultural traditions and those practices associated with the production of milpa ( Gregory 1984 ; Wilk 1997 ) There have been various documentations of the constant threats of exogenous forces to the traditional ecological knowledge base system of the Mopan Maya, including political and religious threats ( Steinberg 1998a ; Van Ausdal 2001 ; Wilk 1999 ) economic threats ( Chibnik 1980 ; Cruz 2003 ) and ecological threats due to new farming methods ( De Clerck and Negreros Castillo 2000 ; Ekeleme, et al. 2004 ) The focus o f this study is to explore those strategies that are actively pursued and enacted by the Mopan Maya milpa practitioners as they negotiate the transmission of their knowledge to the younger generation. I n order to arrive at an understanding of the various aspects of traditional ecological knowledge transmission, an assumption is made that there are multiple modes by which traditional ecological knowledge transmitted Within the groups of this study various individuals process traditional knowle dge that is used as the need arises. These kinds of need based in the communities are often the keepers of th i s unique knowledge tha t can take the form of traditional healing, spiritual healing, live stock husbandry, plant propagation, or hunting and fishing techniques. There is s the more


61 frequently engaged activit ies These types of knowledge are the more mechanical and pertain to the operations of daily living, su ch as the preparation of common food, planting of the primary crops and building homes and other basic structure s These types of knowledge are readily passed on among friends and family members, with less care about who may have access to and use of it The primary assumption made is that for these multi layers of knowledg e to b e transmitted the keepers of that knowledge must use that knowledge in the appropriate situations. The activation and use of traditional ecological knowledge can be transmitted ver tically or horizontally. In such cases the use of such knowledge at any given time is observer to receive that knowledge ( Thomas Hunt, et al. 2003 ) Figure 3 1 illust rates how such a knowledge flow may occur between generations. This model presumes that there is a direct path of transmission of knowledge from one generation to another through enactment of traditional behaviors as well as the indirect observable behaviors between generations. Figure 3 1. Traditional Ecological Knowledge transmission model


62 Indigenous Researcher For all intents and purposes, I am by definition a native Mopan Maya. Although genetically and culturally to some extent I fit the profil e of Mopan Maya, I have not lived my entire life only within this cultural group. In fact I have lived away from the Mopan Maya communities for more than 80% of my entire life. I was born in San Antonio Village of the Toledo, district, (a community not a p art of this study), and grew up in the Garifuna community of Dangriga Town. I have sporadically participated in some activities that are related to milpa making, only as a helper. I have never made milpa the traditional way independently, nor have I partic ipated in the making of milpa intimately in the time of this study. My family migrated from the village of San Antonio Toledo, in 1974, to live in the village of Maya Center, Stann Creek district. Although the families that migrated to this Maya Center vi llage, including my family, practiced milpa production, they were lured into citrus farming with the promise that it would be more profitable venture. At the time of this study, a majority of the farmers in Maya Center village dually practice Citrus farmin g and milpa farming. The Mopan Maya are those people that predominantly inhabited the lowland regions of the Eastern Peten in Guatemala and Southern Belize ( Awe, et al. 2007 ) The Mopan Maya speak a distinct Mopan language that is mutually inte lligible with the Yucatec, Itza and La c andon Maya ( England 2003 ) The Mopan language is my native language and I did not speak any other language until I was nine years old when were introduced to English and English Creole The gift of being able to speak the M opan Maya language allowed me to appreciate most of the cultural constructs of the Mopan Maya people and accept ed their behavior as proper with very limited prejudice


63 The fact that I am Mopan Maya steer my interest in t his study that is entirely focused on the Mopa n Maya As long as I can remember, my family has been committed members of the local Roman Catholic Church. As such a large portion of my own values were formed as I was being raised as a Roman Catholic Historically the Roman Catholic Church in Belize is the only Christian religion within the region that seems to have managed to co exist with the ancient Maya religions and practices. Many of the traditional ceremonial events that I have witnessed as a child are often closely associated with religious celeb rations of the Roman Catholic Church. Being a native Mopan Maya doing research among the Mopani Maya has i t s challenges. One of the major challenges that I faced was the risk of overlooking very significantly relevant aspects of the Mopan Maya cultural pra ctices that appear irrelevant or mundane to me as an insider. Being aware of this issue, I consciously made extra efforts throughout the study to allow myself the necessary cultural distance from my subject of study. This was accomplished by marshaling the assistance of students from the University of Belize as observers of my data collecting processes. In a few instances, the students were allowed to gather data and to conduct interviews to ensure objectivity. However, the benefits of studying my own people outweigh the challenges. There were many conversations that only could have happened because of my intimate knowledge of the culture. There were fewer tendencies for the respondents to feel inferior or threatened, and felt comfortable in describing the concepts the wanted to convey. In some cases where I repeated what I understood, the readily corrected me without hesitation. The idea that a native Mayan can study the culture immediately


64 validates the significance of the various aspects of the cultur e. In fact special c are is take n on the part of the participants to ensure that whatever was shared with me as researcher was authentic and genuine. Additionally, there were many very important and sensitive data that was shared with me, that will not be i ncluded in this dissertation, upon the request to the participants. I was welcomed in villages and extended immeasurable hospitality. In the summer of 2008 in particular, foreigners were not welcomed into the Mopan Maya communities of the western Toledo d istrict, because the threat of Oil Exploration to the Maya homelands Fortunately as a Mopan Maya, I was welcomed and allowed to continue conducting my fieldwork uninterrupted Albeit during this time of data gathering, stronger emotions were expressed by the participants regarding their defense of the local forests. Description of the Research Participants Recognizing that the research participants will be interviewed, a protocol from the University of Florida Internal Review Bo ard (UFIRB) was attained. The IRB approval number is UFIRB # 2005 U 0404. The protocol was read to each participant before the initial interview, and translated into the appropriate language when necessary. Each participant was given the opportunity to dec line participation, and we informed that they can stop at any time during the interviews. A signed informed was secured in cases where the participants were able to do. In situations where the participant was not able to sign, especially in the case of eld ers, another member of the family were asked to sign on behalf of the participant. Four communities were selected based on their location, size and proximity to other non Mayan communities. In this case the villages of Blue Creek, Pueblo Viejo,


65 Santa Cr uz and San Jose were selected as the most remote villages that are predominantly dominated by the Mopan Maya The Mopan Maya are traditional farmers that use the milpa system of agriculture. Due to the remoteness of these communities there is presumable le ss disruption in the farming practices. Initially e ach communit y w as approached ( Murray, et al. 1994 ) to confirm the level of engagement for each community in milpa farming. Considering that milpa far ming is a male dominated cultural activity, the study focused predominantly on the male members of the communities. It was also determined that according to the cultural structures of the community, the male served as the head of the household. In that cas e, the researc h conducted in all four communities was done at the household level. Thus, the smallest unit of analysis was the head of the family household. By that fact, the study is dominated by the perspective of men, even though a few women were interview as heads of household. In total 118 participants took part in this study, with 88 males and 30 females. Table 3 1. Gender of interviewee Name of the V illage Crosstabulation Pueblo Viejo Santa Cruz Blue Creek San Jose Gender of interviewee Male 28 15 21 24 88 Female 5 15 4 6 30 Total 33 30 25 30 118 Those participants were the primary target for surveys and in depth interviews. Additionally, the community members were screened to include only those actively engaged in milpa production I n this case, the elders or the oldest member of the family was first approached T hen the immediate male children of the elders were interviewed, in most cases sol iciting the advice of the elders. T he younger participants or the third


66 generation of the family was selected for interview only if they were above 18 years of age and were practicing milpa farmer s The ideal condition for each case was a household unit that had at least three generations living together This allow ed for comparison of responses between multiple generations Each family was visited first to complete the surveys and a longer amount of time was spent interacting with the family in order to conduct any in depth interview. In some cases, the family allowed for longer stays that boded well for conduct ing the participant observations strategies The observant participation often had many parts, those included following the elders to the milpa si te to make further observations of similarities and differences between the elders and the younger milpa farmers Research Design This is a case study that describes the various strategies that account for the persistence of traditional ecological knowledg e associated with the milpa system of agriculture Th is study used the ethnographic method primarily to engage the farmers ( Gold 1997 ; Savage 2006 ) The methodological approach that was required to pursue the research was diverse. As part of the ethnography method p articipant observation was used primarily to explore the nature of those social and cultural phenomena that are associated with milpa makin g. In this case many of the interviews were unstructured. As the data was coded and analyzed, the emergent salient themes were then converted into a questionnaire based survey instrument. The questionnaire based surveys were used in assessments of traditio nal knowledge held by different generations in association with milpa s, milpa making activities, and cultural activities surrounding milpa making activities. The participants d etermined the length and content


67 of the interviews based on their direct interac tion with milpa making. These strategies are summarized in Table 3 2 Table 3 2 Research Methodological approach # Methodological Approaches Method Description 1 Participant Observation This strategy was used for direct observation by the primary researcher in the field. The purpose was to determine the actual practice of activities associated with milpa production. 2 In depth interviews The in depth interview was directed towards participants who were willing to provide more information of on salient themes that arouse during the observations. 3 Questionnaire based survey All four communities were engaged with formal surveys. The survey was only directed to head of households, or the oldest adult that was present at that time. This was directed toward cultural knowledge competence and demographic information Milpa plots w ere used as a proxy for testing traditional ecological knowledge associated with milpa making among the participants. Individual milpa plots owned by the participants were used as a source for plant knowledge. An inventory of 16 plot s was created of all plant species that were cultivated or uncultivated by the participant Each person was asked to indicate plants that they recognize d providing the name or


68 their uses if there was any. They were specifically asked to provide as much informa tion of the plants that was being grown This was also done in various phases of the milpa fallow to understand the retention and growth of both cultivated and uncultivated plants over time A shorter list of crops was used to conduct in depth interviews to determine why those plants were more important for that particular period. The product of this exercise determin ed how each of the more significant plants are actually chosen and used within household. The category of Significant Plant includes those pl ants that a) have names, b) are cultivated, c) have names but occur naturally and d) have no names but occur naturally Only t hose plants that were harvested for household use or other particular use were included in the study Persons who owned milpa were plots that exist from previous years. Typically the male head of household claims ownership of the milpa plots, but it is not uncommon for sons to have their own plots Each person who ha d a milpa w as also interviewed about their participation in their y were interviewed regarding their milpa crop diversity to explore the sources of those plants This component determine d various themes that indicate strat egies that ensured the persistence of traditional ecological knowledge transmission In this instance a digital voice recorder was used to document the interviews. If the need arose the recording was played back to the participant at a later date. Data An alysis The Data that was gathered during the ethnographic study were arranged by dates according to the community. The interviews were recording using a digital voice


69 recorder. The tapes were transcribed to text. Each interview text was then evaluated for the incidents of references to unique concepts related to milpa farming. Each incidents was recorded and tallied to arrive at the salient themes the are regarded as important to the milpa process. Similarly, whenever possible video footage was collected. These video clips were also evaluated for unusual references to the concepts related to milpa In most cases these concepts were then pursued in a follow up interview. The product of both the text and video analysis was used to develop the structured quest ionnaire. The structured questionnaire was extended to a bigger population within each concepts are related to milpa and 2) to collect any other related concepts that may ha ve been ignored during the first phase. The population for the entire study was very small. Data was described using Statistical Package for Social Scientist version 18. Most of the survey data was analyzed using a 2 X 2 cross tabulation. This was adequate to illustrate the differences in number counts between each question items. No other statistical test of significance The in depth interviews were analyzed for significant or unusual concepts that related to milpa maki ng or plant species. Recording s made from those interviews that had elders as primary participants were evaluated and coded so that they could be placed in a questionnaire for validation. The responses from both interviews and questionnaire validation were collected to determine the more important concepts that


70 are related to milpa making. The results of these findings are described in chapter 4 of this study.


71 CHAPTER 4 TZIK KNOWLEDGE Introduction This chapter focuses on the way s that the Mopan Maya people interviewed in this study enact, transmit, and adapt t raditional e cological k nowledge in their everyday lives. kn owledge as legitimate. It is also under siege from the increasing impact of wages and market economies that erode traditional systems of shared labor and shared survival strategies. It is also under siege from migration pressures that reduce communities in size and strength of the Mayan communities. Traditional Ecological knowledge is learned through vertical transmission from one generation to another and it is also learned and reinforced through horizontal transmission among people of the same age group. In this chapter ethnographic and survey data are used to show how vertical and horizontal transmission of traditional ecological knowledge functions in Mopan Maya villages. Key to understanding transmission is K milpa agriculture and tzik or respect. These two concepts work in tandem to mold the social structures of the Mopan Maya culture and survival systems. Traditional Ecological knowledge is more than names for things found in the Mopan environment. Within the worldview of the M opan Maya, i t is important to think of Traditional Ecological Knowledge as a system of philosophy, ecology, emotion, and aesthetics. Understanding Mopan traditional ecological knowledge requires the understanding of the various behaviors associated with this knowledge system including the practical skills associated with that expertise. Together, this system has


72 been especially adaptive throughout the history of the Mopan Maya communiti es in Belize I n this chapter traditional ecological knowledge is shown to be the solution that Mopan people are using to mitigate the risks and dangers that are confronting their villages today. Basic Results Table 4 1. Basic results of the number of part icipants in the study Activity Number of participants Total actual particip ants Participant observation 10 in each community 29 In depth interview 10 in each community 25 Structured Survey 35 in each community 118 Plots inventor 5 in each community 16 TZIK The concept of tzik or respect is a central feature of the transmission of knowledge, values, and strategies that are all part of Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Mopan communities. The loss of traditional ecological knowledge is exacerbated because the younger generation of Mopan Maya is becoming disinterested in learning and maintaining their cultural tradition as they confront the overwhelming exogenous force of globalization that continue s to etch it s way into these remote societies. It seems that t here are a few Mopan Maya young people who are competently aware of the importance of milpa farming, and the importance of the associated activities that establishes the socio political elements of the society. During interviews with in all four villages v


73 generation in their community. Respect is more complex than just the one word may suggest, for the Mopan M aya this is tzik Research has long shown that t he meanings of a group of words will have different interpretations to any number of individuals within a community. Placed into a cultural overwhelmingly different social meaning to an entire cultural structure. Finegan (2004) which languages structure meanings. Communication can be an arrangement of words or just one word (Finegan 2004). The linguistic meanings of the se words are often conversations to establish precise communications. However i n some cultures, t here are other roles or rules that are represented by the use of just one word that makes or breaks that culture. For example the embeddedness of the wor d tzik in the Mopan Maya g. ( 1996 ) discussed the Mopan Maya word tzik I will use my research briefly discuss the importance of the concept as it is understood among my study group and attempt to connect its vital use within Maya society. As it is stated tzik will only have meaning if the people who use it are able to keep its linguistic meaning. Perhaps for that reason it is not unco mmon for a grown up to feel compelled to remind another person of tzik almost always as a parting advice if nothing else. I have come to understand this word to mean more than just the generic and social


74 The word tzik is introduced to children at a very young age. Although t zik is used within the community (Danziger 2001). From my observation of interpersonal interactions during my research it is clear that w hen a young person is introduced to an adult relative (or sometimes just a good family friend) who is older, that person is ordered to g ive respect ( tzik ) This may seem trivial, but in the act of paying respect, the adult explains the kinship relationship to the younger person. The younger person will say Ca in tzik ehct However, there is more to the the speaker is acknowledging that he/she understand s the relationship, and will hence forth remain within that network. This tzik is important for that person late r in life. Tzik also establishes social status. Once a person knows his/her place within the tzik of that society, then that person has obligations that come with each social status of tzik For example in the Mopan Maya communities of this study, a un is responsible for an translates to big brother and translates to little brother. Although that relationship is typical of consanguine relations, the same fictitious kinships Cousins in this case are not distinguished from immediate siblings of ego. So can mean older brother, cousin, nephew, or other males who are relatively older than the speaker or another person being referred to. The same principle applie s to Tataa which literally age of the ego. Therefore Tataa can be used to refer to an uncle or to a grandfather.


75 This system allows the Mopan Maya to take tzik t o a higher level that includes supernatural powers T he Mopan Maya are somewhat animistic in their religious belie f system (Gregory 1984a). The Maya believe that all natural phenomena were under the control of, or inhabited by one or another supernatural being or force ( Dewalt 1975 ) During an interview with a participant from Blue Creek, he told that supernatural being s or force s exist in forests and are often thought to be species specific, representing the species as such. Losing tzik or not having tzik to these beings or forces which present themselves in v arious forms, can result in harmful ramifications for the individual or community. In a similar manner, a problem animal is very often referred to as tzik (animal without respect). This means that killing this animal would be justified It is also known that a person who has fallen out of tzik can be described as equivalent of an animal or stray dog which has been clearly cursed. Finally, the number of people networked within the society gets bigger or reduced depending on who has tzik or who does not. My research shows that m any times when conflict within the community arises, the person who has been bestowed with the highest level of tzik that is usually acknowledge by everyone is asked to be a mediator. Furthermore t hat person is als o the one who negotiates important arrangements such as marriages. This makes sense to the society, since the entire marriage arrangement of any two people is centered on tzik If a person is in formal tzik or has formal tzik arrangement to another, such a s kinship relation or fictive kinship, they cannot engage in marr i age Two people who have not exchanged and maintained Tzik can get married. When Tzik has never been established with a person, that person is considered a stranger or not related and may ge t married into a family. This notion highlight the


76 significance of tzik ; being a stranger or not kinship related does not me one is disrespected. At the wedding day (Traditional Wedding) the male person getting married into the family is obligated to gath er all living relatives at the home of the bride to be. Each family member, at that time, will exchange tzik establishing all possible combinations of relationships or tzik Th e ceremony I refer to here, which I have minimized to a wedding, is traditional ly called Tzah Tzik This elaborate The native language of the Mopan Maya is a vital medium for the transmission of traditional ecological knowledge a nd for the activation of tzik During the study, it was noted that it is becoming more common for younger folks to adopt English or Spanish kinship terms to establish relations within a community or to make reference to kin. What is different about th e new terms and the semantic of tzik is that the new terms do not have the same cultural meaning of the kinship labels being used into the old cultural system. This means that a generic kinship label such as brother, does not command the respect and responsibil ity cultural ties as someone who may be referred to more specifically as Additionally the social interactions among community members are less formal and appear more volatile. As reflected in Table 4 2 there is strong agreement among the partici pants that young people are inclined to follow the more traditional model of tzik (respect). The village of Pueblo Viejo seems to be a bit more vulnerable at this time with 2 4 in agreement to this item


7 7 Table 4 2 Name of the Village Young people are willing to give more respect if they speak Mopan Maya Cross tabulation Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree Name of the Village Pueblo Viejo 1 3 5 21 3 33 Santa Cruz 0 2 8 17 3 30 Blue Creek 2 0 1 16 6 25 San Jose 0 4 4 12 10 30 Total 3 9 18 66 22 118 Th e concept of tzik also lays the foundation for the relation a Maya person has with his or her environment. This notion is clearly manifested in my study of the ir farming practices. In my research the participant reported that at the preparation of milpa a farmer must pay respect or give t zik to the guardians of the forest and all the other living things that it holds. Among the Mopan Maya of this study, c eremonies are held for the land clearing, burning, planting and harvest of the fields (Carter 1969) and particularly for the planting of corn, the primary crop The giving of tzik can be done in many ways, which includes the solicitation of help or services from a religious specialist. Today among the Mopan Maya communities I studied, the traditional religious specialists are called ilmah meaning an enlightened one who can be a h ealer, medicine men or the keeper of some special knowledge Within the Mopan belief system, the ilmah is one who is enlightened and has special abilities that enable them to communicate with supernatural beings. In any case, they are people who clearly ho ld the rights and privileges to the knowledge of special prayers and rituals. The rituals themselves may seem as nothing more than another Christian ritual, with the use of candles, effigies and symbols of Christian origins that are adorn ed with incense and other artifacts that represent the daily life of the Maya people (Gregory


78 1984). However, t he ceremony of giving t zik is done so that a farmer is reminded that he himself is temporary in the entire scope of the world in which he will enga ge. The knowledge of tzik t zik establishes his or her understanding of the network of support and help they can muster in the preparation of milpa at all stages. Close relativ es and fictive kin are the primary members of the tzik network that can be called upon given that tzik is recognized by both parties. The reenactment of tzik is also the mode by which the knowledge is passed on to the younger generation. The younger members of the society are often engaged in designated responsibilities during this process, as prescribed by the elders Often this is the time at which young men transition into manhood and may earn the respect and honor of carrying out their own ceremonies for their own milpa In participant observation, I found out that d uring the the ceremonies, several other aspect s of traditional knowledge are reenacted beyond those specific to the milpa activity b eing celebrated These reenactments entail storytelling, food preparation, craft building and traditional games. Story telling in often imbued with recounts of the hunter out witting a certain animal or the encounter of dangerous wildlife, such as snakes a nd large mammals. Incorporated in these stories are detailed information of the natural history of animals and plants that are not directly related to milpa In the same token, lots of discussions happen regarding recent events in the community that are re garded as unusual. However, the under tone of each story or enactment is replete with the invocation of tzik All the knowledge that is passed on during these long hours of


79 orations is indeed vital information and knowledge that will become useful during t he management and care of the entire milpa cycle. The vertical transmission of T raditional E cological K nowledge Currently in the Mopan Maya villages of this study, there is a clear transmission of knowledge that passes from one generation to the next. This can be described as ( Bernstein 1999 ) This follows a pattern of transmission that goes from within the same household or kinship related community members. As I have observed within my study, traditional knowledge of daily living engagements are freely passed on actively, some of specialized types of knowledge, such as that knowledge base relat ed to healing, medicinal plant and spiritual healing knowledge are reserved for a few chosen members of the family or fictive kin. For the Mopan Maya to be able to transmit traditional ecological know ledge it appears that it is important to practice the m ilpa farming system Ground mole trapping At very young age, children are t a ught to be observant of many subtle but significant details of the natural processes within the environment. In this example a child about nine years old skillfully gathers the ma terial s that are required for the construction of a trap that is intended to catch the ground mole. T he material required include d a dense wood pole about one inch and half in diameter that serve d as the spring for the trap The tree species that was chosen was a small barba jolote ( P ithecellobium arboretum ) that has a very dense wood with good flexibility. Next, a few ( T richospermum grewiifolium ). The strip was strategically peeled off as it was being collected so that it


80 would be soft. The tree itself was left standing with only a small strip removed that is four feet by 3 inches in dimension. The bark was further split into four strips which were roughly twisted to make small ropes. Next the stem from a small heliconia plant ( Heliconia spissa ) was collected. This is a succulent plant that the Mopan Maya know to be a food source for the ground mole. Figure 4 1. A trapped ground mole ( Neurotrichini spp ) The nature of the ground mole i s to make small mounds along the path of is burrow. The se mounds were analyzed in detail to test for freshness of the soil which would indicate where the mole is. B y observing the freshness of the leaves and twigs that we re mixed in with the churned up soi l the child quickly determined where the mole was. The child then preceded to clear away some of the foliage that was on the burrow. Then a hole wa s punctured in the b u rrow Once the burrow is punctured, the climate condition changes inside alarms the mole which then returns to repair the damage in the burrow. Before that happened, the child placed a snare inside the burrow wall. A stalk was anchored into the floor of the burrow with one end of the newly made


81 rope attached to it. The rope was then passed th ough the length of the heliconia stem to mimic a fake root This portion of the trap serve d as the trigger. The distance between the snare and the trigger was measured to be or the distance between the thumb and the little figure, when a fist is made. Then the pole wa s anchored into the ground about one foot and a half or more deep. The depth for the pole depends on the soil structure and condition. On rainy days, like that day, the pole was anchored almost two feet deep. The pole wa s then bent all the way down to attach the sn a r e and trigger to it. The snare wa s carefully covered with soil inside the walls of the burrow The principle at work here is that the mole will sense the atmospheric changes inside the burrow and will return to repair it. On the way the mole will shred any root or twig that obstructs its path. Therefore it is important to hide the snare carefully inside the walls. The mole is also an opportunistic feeder and it will feed on any food that it happens upon. Therefo re, finding the heliconia stem inside the burrow is a chance for it to feed. As the moles see s and eat s the food that is in the way i t cuts the rope that was placed inside, causing the trigger to snap, snaring the ground mole just below the neck. The poi nt being highlighted by this event is that a child of nine years old must have an understanding of the various ecological principles that are related to the life of the ground mole. Based on the fact that the ground mole is common within milpa plots, it is likely that all this knowledge was learned while the child was engaged in activities related to milpa None of th at learning would have been possible if the child did not have the opportunity to be with elders in the natural environment. This observation highlights the extent of the details that is passed on in traditional ecological knowledge.


82 Milpa or kol farming system i s a concept that acts as a social structuring mechanism for the community In the Mopan Maya language, the word kol is used to farming or farming practice K ol as described by participants that are currently engage in milpa making, can also be appropriately regarded as a social marker that conveys cultural identity and social placement for an individual within the community. It is in the making and maintaining of kol that a member of the community finds their place socially Each household must have a kol and must have made one while following the traditions that have been passed on from one generation to the other. However, it must be noted that kol does not only mean the clearing of forest and the simple planting of corn, but rather it speaks to the knowledge of the farmers b oth ecological and cultural. T hat farmer must have access to the relevant knowledge base about kol that is often held by the elders within the community In other words, if a Mopan farmer wishes to make a kol alone and refuse s the help of other members of the community that farmer loses access to traditional ecological knowledge If the occasion arises where that person wishes to get help, t he y will likely be ignored by the elders Furthermore the majority of the knowledge that is shared during the making of kol is dependent on the wil l in gn ess of the holders of that knowledge to p ass it on Elders insist on using tzik and are adamant about keeping that social construct active Tabl e 4 3 Age of interviewee I must get help from my elders with milpa Cross tabulation Strongly Disagree Disagree Nuetral Agree Strongly Agree Age of interviewee 18 28 1 0 4 18 12 35 29 39 0 1 3 20 12 36 40 50 1 3 2 10 7 23 >51 0 1 3 15 5 24 Total 2 5 12 63 36 118


83 As reflected in Table 4 1, only one person of the entire age group that is between 18 and 28 years thought that he did not need the help of elders in the making of kol Even as the age group increases, Table 4 1 still reflect s a strong sense of need to involve the elders in the making of kol Young people may feel that they have the physical strength to make kol but often the need for the knowledge that is associated with that activity will make them return to seek the aid of the elders. That an individual has kol speaks to the fact that such an individual has a clear understanding and appreciation of the cultural values that are preva lent within the community. In the interviews conducted, all participants at some point indicated that a Mopan Maya has to make kol Young Mopan men do start to practice making kol alongside their father or an older close relative at a very young age By th e time the young male reaches an acceptable age to get married normally about the age of 17 he must have demonstrated a strong competence for making kol A survey question specifically asks this question and all response s w ere positive Table 4 4 Name of the Village All Mopan Maya must make milpa Cross tabulation Neutral Agree Strongly Agree Name of the Village Pueblo Viejo 0 18 15 33 Santa Cruz 4 22 4 30 Blue Creek 0 2 23 25 San Jose 1 13 16 30 Total 5 55 58 118 As reflected in Table 4 2, in all 4 communities, the participants acknowledged that making kol is very important to them. The village of Pueblo Viejo is the most remote of the four communities that were studied. All 33 respondent s agreed that kol is


84 important. In the village of Santa Cruz, there seems to be a consistent commitment to making kol which is similarly reflected in San Jose village It must be noted here that the community of Blue Creek which produces upland rice ( oriza sativa ) as their primary crop using the milpa farming strategy has a different recent history with kol than that of the other villages Much of the traditional practice of s hared labor follow ing the community network is kept, similar to when kol is made. In Belize Market ing This cause d major economic loss to the local farmers and many had to leave to find wage labor to subsidize the household economy. In response, the farmers insisted on making kol kol With such strong demonstratio n of the commitment to the making of kol it is obvious that there is a deeply rooted cultural value among the Mopan Maya associate d designated to such activities Although the end product of kol is to produce food, the systems that are at play in that proc ess is equally important. K ol i s an activity that entirely occupies the daily lives of the Mopan May a and influence s the ir philosophy. Therefore i t is important to consider all the traditional activities that are associate d directly with the process of making of kol The activities within this process are important, for the y allow the Mopan Maya m e n and wom e n to establish and assure their place within the society and how they will be perceived by their community (see Table 4 3) In this way it is s imil ar to t he next most significant notion, tzik which is held in high


85 regard invoked to determine the shared labor network that the farmer will use and marks the cultural place where an individual is engaged. Table 4 5 Name of the Village Each Man must have milpa in order to gain respect in the community Cross tabulation Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree Name of the Village Pueblo Viejo 4 1 16 12 33 Santa Cruz 0 0 22 8 30 Blue Creek 2 0 14 9 25 San Jose 4 3 13 10 30 Total 10 4 65 39 118 During personal interviews, t participants of this study lamented tzik along with kol making. Within each community social balance is harnessed by having Tzik and kol A person, who does not have kol will likely be someone within the community who will not have Tzik person or a person that have been socially ostracized. Within all the communities as it is reflected in Table 4 3, there is still that st rong belief that kol makes a cultural statement about being Mopan Maya and gaining Tzik Kol Making The Early Stages The process of kol making typically starts with the Kanan Kin ( Guarding of the Sun ) ceremony This ceremony is a multi day event which requires the participation of the entire community The planning of the ceremony is initiated by the person who is recognized as leader of the community. In most cases this person is recognized as the Alcade The designation of Alcalde is traditionally re cognized as the local judge within the community. The Alcalde seeks the help of other members of his council and other religious leaders. Those leaders are then further delegated to seek the help of elders


86 and ordinary members of the community for the cere mony. If a community member is asked to participate by any members of the council to participate in the ceremony, they are not expected to refuse. It is important to worship the sun recognize its power, and render it the reverence it deserves as the give r of all of life. The ability to recognize that power is e ntrusted within the knowledge and duty of the elders and their ability will be used during these ceremonial days The person, who is hosting the ceremony, is required to plea the services of the eld ers using the highest level of formality as it is known in tzik. The enactment of asking for the help of the elders is very ceremon ial that can last for several days leading up to the actual Ceremony days. A simple cultural mis step can jeopardize the enti tzik especially engaged with great care and are give n the recognition within tzik that they deserve. According to a participant in Blue Creek, those people with the designation on ilma h are engaged with the highest respect, for their presence in any ceremony would show higher honor. The Mopan Maya farmers know that the intensity of the dry season and the wet seasons alike will determine the outcome of their yearly crops. T h of the ceremony is used as a n occasion to make predictions for the upcoming seasonal changes by the elders There is an unspoken commitment to and respect for such predictions More importantly, the ceremony is dedicated to make special offerings to t he Sun God and the Rain God. The prayers of the community reflect their desire for the Sun God to allow the sun to shine during the preparation periods and the Rain God to provide the rains during the planting period. The elders take this responsibility ve ry


87 serious ly and try to make the best predictions possible. There are past accounts of times when elders made bad predictions that ended up causing starvations within the community. Each community depends solely on the predictions of the ir own community e lders. Predictions made from other communities may be shared between communities, but they are just for information and conversation, and are rarely followed. After the ceremony and celebrations are complete the next step in the processes of kol making i s the site selection This is also done with prayer ceremonies that can occur before the farmer goes out to scout the forest for a site or at the point when he has selected a suitable spot A ccording to my informants, the ceremony known as Mayehak is held upon identifying a suitable site primarily for the eviction of all unwanted spirits. After some time of selecting the site and after the site is blessed, the actual preparation of the kol plot will be done. The preparation includes felling the trees of the forest which are then left to dry for several weeks if not months. After the clearing is complete the weather is monitored closely for the appropriate time burn the field Throughout this process there is a wealth of social engagements that are re en acted that epitomize the true Mopan Maya Culture. The power of t he concept of t zik is invoked during this ceremonial process and each milpa farmer is forced to take stock of who is within his or her circle of t zik and of those that they can rely on to m ake their kol Since the village farmer s are dependent on shared labor strategies it is important that each farmer himself is regarded with t zik The man must be fully cognizant of those community and family member who can be regarded to have t zik shared labor may be limited inter communal relationship with another woman. He must be aware of


88 whom his wife or the recognized female head of household will accept as a help for during the time that the sha re labor are ongoing. The recognized female head of household can be the mother of the farmer, or the oldest female relative in that family. It is tradition ally required that if any member of the community is called upon to help another farmer he is also expect ed to have his spouse join the household of the host farmer to prepare food that will be served to all the workers on th at workday The cycle can continue for several days during that month. Although the moods during such days are festive wit welcomed. The host women are very s elective of which member of the community they will accept to help in during these important days. In the instance where a man agrees to help another, his wife is also expected to be available to help the host women In cases where the women have fallen out of tzik the cause of such mis understandings must be resolved before the work day s arrive. Where those issues remain unresolved, a woman may send the olde st daughter to take her stead which would make the situation less confrontational However such gestures are unusual and if they do occur it is regarded as a curse and may have negative impacts on the kol itself During the food preparation processes the elder women are often consulted for specific knowledge pertaining to the culinary skills. Younger women and newly wedded wives are often taken as apprentice during these days, and taught formal social engagement sk ills. The elder women in the community spend a large portion of time sharing their knowledge to the younger women of proper conduct within the community t hat maintain s their integrity and that of their husbands. The discussion that occurs during those conv ersations is centered on socially acceptable norms of local conduct


89 that delineates the concept of tzik Elders are given more latitude during these social engagements to speak more openly on need for tzik Table 4 6. Name of the Village It is important for us to get help from our elders Cross tabulation Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree Name of the Village Pueblo Viejo 0 2 1 17 13 33 Santa Cruz 0 0 0 17 13 30 Blue Creek 0 2 1 6 16 25 San Jose 1 2 3 20 4 30 Total 1 6 5 60 46 118 Mopan Maya m en and women alike agree d that consulting with elders is important during the process of making kol During in depth interview s a strong majority of the out yan ti basis for the information reflected in Table 4 4, which indicates that most respondents depend on the aid of the elders during the making of kol How one may carry the mselves during the various ceremonial engagements is judged severely. By that nature, Tzik is a fundamental element in all engagement s The Making of Kol In the process of making kol itself, the farmer has to ensure that the proper procedures of the traditional ceremonies are done accurately In the communities of San Jose and Pueblo Viejo, the participants in this study consistently reported that they must wait for elders to conduct the ceremonies (Documented on October 2009) Thus the elders are c onstantly consulted for the proper procedures. All the knowledge of the cultural elements of making milpa and the associated traditions are at this time invoked


90 by the elders. The ability of a farmer to a ccess that information depends significantly on the status of himself and his family within the circle of t zik A farmer may be able to acquire enough people to make kol but if he has fallen out of t zik or is perceived to be undeserving of t zik then he will be unlikely to receive help from the elders. The refore kol goes beyond the mechanical processes of making milpa and extends to the cultural functionality of an individual member of the community. K ol is the icon through which a Mopan Maya is validated within their community. During interviews in Santa Cruz, (Documented May 2009), work parties that were preparing for planting said that d etailed and extensive plant knowledge is required in kol making All eleven men in the work party, of ages ranging from 21 years old to 69 years old agreed that plant kno wledge was necessary. That knowledge includes information of cultivated and uncultivated plants. They claimed that Mopan Maya farmers will often plant their crops with the knowledge that the yields will be shared with the local fauna. In that sense the pla nts are purposefully planted to attract certain species of fauna that can be beneficial to the farmer. That knowledge is specific to the ecosystem in which the Mopan Maya will make milpa that period That can be surmised from this fact is, that the plant k nowledge base is immense and not all of that knowledge will be used at any one period. The understanding and knowledge of uncultivated but useful plants that are included within the milpa is also typically transmitted vertica l l y through the generation by close contact of practitioners with in th e specific ecosystem In Santa Cruz village, where 8 second generation farmer household w ere interviewed, each participant indicated that they learned about plants in their Milpa form their fathers (May 2009) The fa rmer


91 himself will individually have a direct preference for which uncultivated edible plants are for food which activate the transmission of knowledge about those plants For example the ( solanum nigrum ) plant, which is commonly, collected in the newly established kol plots This is a small perennial plant that is an early emergent plant in plots that have just been burnt. This plant is an important seasonal addition to the diet which is collected intensely However, most of the youth within the s tudy communit ies claim that they do not eat this plant (Field Notes, August 2010) However they know the plant and they know that it is edible. In many cases, they collect the plant to themselves, either for home use or for barter in the community. The you th also commonly keep stock of where plants are growing as a hunting spot. The plant itself serves as a food source for bigger bird species that are often trapped for meat. Th is is an example of the need for the young Mopan Maya person to be engage d in mil pa making alongside elder s who are also still engage d in milpa making in order to allow the transmission of kol knowledge. selectively exclude it from their milpa and it cannot then be used for attracting birds. In a traditional kol being managed by elders, there can be a significant number of uncultivated trees left standing during the preparation phase Tab le 4 7. List of plants that are commonly found within o milpa plots in Pueblo Viejo Village Plant Varieties Primary Forest kol Plot Fallow kol Plot Rice ( Oryza sativa) X X Beans ( Phaseolus vulgaris ) X X Corn ( Zea maize ) X X


92 Table 4 7 Continued Plant Varieties Primary Forest kol Plot Fallow kol Plot Coco Yams ( Colocasia esculentum) X Cassava ( Manihot esculentum ) X Plantains ( Musa paradisiaca var .) X Bananas ( Musa paradisiaca ) X Sugar cane ( Sacharum officinarum ) X Mammee ( Pouteria sapota) X Chico Sapote ( Manilkara sapota ) X X Habanero peppers ( Capsicum Chinensis X X Ginger ( Zingiber officinale) X Papaya ( Carica papaya) X Ceder ( Cedrella odorata) X X Red Wood ( Colubrina arborescens) X Zericote ( Cordia dodecandra) X X Cabbage Bark ( Lonchocarpus castilloi) X Black Pioson Wood ( Metopium brownie) X Jabin ( Piscidia piscipula) X X Granadillo ( Platymiscium dimorphandrum) X


93 Table 4 7 Continued Plant Varieties Primary Forest kol Plot Fallow kol Plot Mohagany ( Swietenia macrophylla ) X Cohone Palm ( Orbigyna cohune ) X X Baylea f ( Sabal mauritiiformis ) X X Jippy jappa ( Carludovica palmate) X X Chacah ( Bursera simaruba ) X X Sweet Potato ( Ipomoea batatas ) X Winged Yams ( Dioscora alata) X C a coa ( Theobroma cacao ) X Guarumo ( Cecropia obtusifolia ) X Hog Plum ( Spondias sp.) X Warree Cohune ( Astrocaryum mexicanum ) X Table 4 7 is a short list of plants that exist in a plot that is managed by an elder. The hardwoods are selectively left behind during the clearing phase of the milpa Many of these trees are left for the purposes of construction or for later harvest for other timb er purposes. Trees that provide fruits that both the human and wildlife eat are left untouched. The fruiting trees are especially protected if they are near the edge of the milpa It is believed that the wildlife that may also feed on the crops will be mor e readily attracted to the fruits of the uncultivated plants, thus preventing excessive destruction to the crops. It is also very common for the farmers to selectively trap favored meat animals near these trees. As it was noted during this study, plots tha t were newly


94 established had bigger diversity of uncultivated trees and shrubs. As the plots remain longer in use, it appears that the diversity of tree species reduces as several trees are collected for firewood or construction use Most of the hardwood will have been cut from within the plots and rapid growing trees like the Guarumo ( cecropia obtusifolia ) will take over. Plots that were in the second year of the milpa cycle showed that t he Guarumo is often left undisturbed and are the dominant species This tree has no significant timber value, but it is a good source of food for birds and monkeys among many other animals. In an interview with a village healer of Blue Creek village, he pointed out that the leave s of the Guarumo tree ha ve many uses (Docum ented in June 2008). The leaves are often smoked as a cigar or are sometimes s t eeped into a tea to reduce fatigue or other forms of stress. He also uses the leaves from the Guarumo tree as a remedy for people who are suffering from diabetes. In addition to are built using the wood from this tree as walls. The wood from this tree is very soft and very light in weight, and would last for about two years as a wall. Elders are particularly aware that the species de crease will also mean a decrease from small b u rrowing mammals to large ones like the t apir ( Tapirus bairdii ). The harvest large one. Referring t zik and honors the notion that an animal is equally important as human In that sense a snake regarded with another degree of tzik Elders within these communities seem to be


95 aware that the plant diversi ty within kol has a connection to the presence of wildlife. Elders refer to a kol that has very few crop or uncultivated plant species as otzil kol (poor milpa ) (Documented July 2010). In other words the plants that are present within the kol of elders are carefully arrange d in an attempt to mimic the original ecosystem. Changing a ttitudes towards kol Although milpa farming is fundamental for the vertical transmission of the Mopan Maya culture young farmers are veering from the traditional milpa system According to one farmer in Santa Cruz village; farm 2009). Y oung milpa fa rmers who practice milpa agricultural system appear to be less cognizant of the values of kol as a medium to transmit traditional ecological knowledge. Young farmers especially those in Blue Creek village do not feel that they should teach their children how to make kol. Instead, they have a tendency to plant cr ops that are considered cash crops in which case Blue Creek farmers plant upland paddy rice, sale to the market. The use of a diverse cropping system becomes less favored, and hence the knowledge associated with each plant and it relevance in the entir e system can be lost. In a few instances members of the younger generation farmer may continue to use the milpa strategy as a mode of production They still find it important to engage in the practice of customs associated with milpa making, minimally In other words, as the Mopan communities are shifting from subsistence f ar m ing to market agricultural strategies some younger community members make efforts to keep essential traditional elements of the milpa making for one crop only and abandon the system after the first harvest However there is a strong move by others of the younger generation to move away from the idea of milpa farming. As shown in Table 4 6, the notion of abandoning


96 kol is evident among young pe ople that have moved out of the Mopan Maya communities and are living in Belmopan and Punta Gorda In fact much of the young Mayas that live in Belmopan do not feel that there is a need to make milpa anymore. Table 4 8. Do you think the Mopan should have milpa ? Which town are you from Cross tabulation Which town are you from Total Punta Gorda Belmopan Do you think the Mopan should have milpa ? Strongly Agree 3 3 6 Agree 6 3 9 Neutral 5 13 18 Disagree 5 10 15 Strongly Disagree 2 5 7 Total 21 34 55 What Table 4 8 illustrates is the fact that when the Mopan Maya migrates from the indigenous communities, they almost immediately abandon the Mopan Maya tradition of milpa making K ol and Tzik we re rarely referred to by the urban Maya of this study Only 15 participants of the 55 that w ere interviewed agreed that they should make milpa In many cases, the Mopan Maya people living in the urban areas of Punta Gorda and Belmopan who claim to have milpa also claimed that they hire labor to make the milpa as shown in Table 4 9 Most participant from the urban areas claimed that they engage in milpa activity only as a secondary activity and not as a primary source of living. Therefore, it is more feasible to hire other men to make milpa for those families Table 4 9. Which town are you from* Do you hire other men to make your milpa ? Cross tabulation Total Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree Which town are you from Punta Gorda 10 7 2 2 0 21 Belmopan 7 16 7 3 1 34


97 Total 17 23 9 5 1 55 The way in which each traditional Mopan Maya community has been cultural ly arranged through many generations makes traditional ecological knowledge has been an effective transmission mode in the past ( Bernstein 1999 ; Tehrani and Collard 2009 ) However, the fact that the young Mopan Maya farmers of this study are making milpa for reasons othe r than cultural commitment, suggests that the vertical transmission of traditional ecological knowledge is being disrupted. What milpa represents culturally is still valid to the Mopan Maya and the younger generation still find it important at least mimic this practice within their communities The elders within all four communities insist on following traditional processes associated with milpa production, and believe in the value of ensuring that the practice of conducting traditional ceremonies is mainta ined by the younger generation. In reality, kol or milpa farming is the only opportunity that young Mopan Maya people will have to learn of their Traditional Ecological Knowledge; that learning is only achieved through contact with the older Mopan Maya ge neration. Table 4 10 Milpa is important to me? Village Cross tabulation Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree Name of the Village Pueblo Viejo 1 6 7 8 11 33 Santa Cruz 0 1 4 21 4 30 Blue Creek 0 0 0 8 17 25 San Jose 0 0 7 11 12 30 Total 1 7 18 48 44 118 During interviews among with all four communities in this study, t he word kol was used in various ways to represent different concepts. Although the word kol literally means the physical location of a milpa it also refers to the concept of farming and all the parts associated with it including elements that are social and spiritual. Kol is often


98 used to make reference to the social stature of a community member (Documented June 2007) For instance, i f a kol lil winik a maker of milpa ), his stature is raised to a more honorable one. Such regard bestowed upon him, places him in a position among his community that grants him all the community courtesi es. Similarly the value of being a is further asserted d uring the arrangement of marriages ; the suitor is brought before the parents of his bride to be, he will be asked if he has a kol According to a participant in from Santa Cruz village, i n times past, this can be the most critical of all points in arranging a marriage between the young couple (Field Notes, December 2008) According to the Alcalde from Santa Cruz village a young male Mopan Maya person must demonstrate a competent level of knowledge of making kol or milpa for h im to be fully accepted as a legitimate member the community (Interview, October 2009) This is the first and most important act he will have to do within the society. Especially for men, this is a rite of passage into manhood that usually signifies his readiness to start a family (Interview, October 2009) The fact that a young man has fully demonstrated the he is capable of correctly making kol would mean that he has demonstrated the awareness of his place within the society and ha s honored those that are regarded as his elders and other s who will remain within his circle of t zik He will have paid his respects appropriately as dictated by the culture, to all his elders and accep ted his place within the social structure of the community Those act ion s would have ensured the secur ity of the assistance from member s of the community especially those of the elders


99 In cases where the young man feel s limited or insecure about establis hing his place within t zik of his society, his father or an elder that is biologically closely related to him, will establish that network for him According to a participant in Pueblo Viejo, fathers or family elders will commit a younger man for events such as exchange s without consultation of the young man (Interview, February 2009) All arrangements that are made by the elder on behalf of the young farmer must be honored In the event that the apprentice farmer is not able to fulfi ll th ose commitment s, then the father or the elder who made the commitment will be obligated to fulfill them. The apprentice farmer is bonded by the commitment of the father or elder and cannot renegotiate the arrangements. It would be an insult to both th e elder and the third party within the agreement. Shared Labor Strategies The Maya people believe and know that they are a part of the ecosystem. Based on that wisdom, the work involved in making kol is done involving all member of the community as a syst em. A participant from Blue Creek, refer to the principles of shared labor to have been adopted from observation of the Ants over the many years (Interview January 2009). As such the Mopan Maya in this study seem to understand that the ir role as farmers is nothing more than caretakers of the natural environment and there appears to be a cohesive understanding among the collective. The practice of milpa farming epitomizes and reaffirms this belief through the year ly re enactment of festivals and shared labor during the making of kol. If there can be one poignant example of how traditional ecological knowledge of the Maya people activated it is the reenactment of milpa ( s lash and burn) production and all its affiliated activities The engagem ent in shared labor of Milpa farming acts as a catalyst for each community and all cultural

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100 values to hinge on the activities of milpa farming. A farmer who wishes to start a milpa must first be a part of his community and have proven his ties to other mem bers of the community through tzik There are obvious reasons for this virtue, but also there are other unspoken reasons that are not written but are clearly understood. The making of k ol Farmers from in this s tudy agreed that they need to help each other in making kol as shown in Table 4 8. T o start kol there is a need for intense labor to clear the forests. This is done with the use of simple metal tools and human muscle labor. The number of men farmer can sum mon to help him at th e first stage will determine the size of his kol Table 4 11. Name of the Village I must help other farmers to make milpa Cross tabulation Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree Name of the Village Pueblo Viejo 0 1 1 27 4 33 Santa Cruz 0 0 0 26 4 30 Blue Creek 1 2 0 7 15 25 San Jose 0 3 1 22 4 30 Total 1 6 2 82 27 118 However it must be noted, that a farmer cannot just openly invite as many men as possible. The number of men that commit to exchange work days is calculated so that the farmer will have enough calendar days to return those work days to every member of his work party at the right time An interesting point of observation during planting work days is the demography of the me mber of the work day team. It was observed that younger host farmers more often sought the help of elder members of the community or close family members (Field Notes, June 2009) The reason for seeking out elders is understood to be that elders are often closely related to the farmer and the y can be more lenien t and patien t in returning the work days. Additionally, elders are essential a s

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101 they provide on site guidance about how a young farmer may conduct himself in actions related to kol making The seeking of elder as members of the work day team is very complex. According to a participant in Pueblo Viejo, t he term e lders in this instance do es not necessarily refer to someone old but also anyone with a valued repertoire of traditional knowledge and community tzik (Documented August 2008) Within the community an old person is regarded with honor and is important (Interview, August 2008) They are given certain rights and privileges because they are considered the guides for the community way of l ife. In fact, a man with children that have grown up and have their the respected one (Documented August 2008) The recognition of a man the respected one since it also place that individual at a higher social status. Other than the fact that such a person now must be given all due respect, this person may also be a power ful source of knowledge that can determine the success of a kol yield. Having such individuals a s mem ber s of the work day team also ensures that this young person will most likely get day teams will provide a vast knowledge base. Additional ly, having elders as members of the work day team allow the young person to show generosity and compassion which can be regarded as a way for an individual to show t zik In some cases, the young farmer will return his work day commitment to an elder by pro viding an appropriate portion of his milpa yield as payment or physically demarcate a portion of the kol as well (Observation August 2008) This sort of payment seems to be preferred in a situation where the elder is aging and

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102 may be incapable of making hi s own kol The benefit of such an act for the young farmer ensures the commitment of that elder for his kol to do well. The young farmer can seek the help of the elder to perform the appropriate ceremony at the right time when there is a need for such serv ices In that process the young farmer learns those rituals as well and thus that knowledge is passed on The making of kol also represents the start of a life long tradition for the Mopan young man. Here he will put into practice all the knowledge that is associated with k ol and hone the necessary skills associated with that knowledge. In interviews with a younger farmer of Pueblo Viejo (Documented December 2010), i n the instances where he reaches the limits of his knowledge regarding the husbandry of his kol he can call upon the elder to advise him of the necessary actions particularly in cases where wild animals are a problem The Mopan Maya are somewhat animistic and strongly believe in the supernatural spirits that are charged with protection of all things natural, including human life. Those spirits are honored in ceremonies, and are revere d with great respect ( Carter 1969 ; Danziger 1996 ; Gregory 1984 ) In Interviews (Field Notes, February 2009) t he Mopan Maya of this study claim that t hese spirits must be appeased with the right rituals at the start of the creation of kol Failure of any farmer to enact such rituals can provoke bad luck to befall the kol Pests that destroy the crops are regarded as a manifestation of curses from According to the Alcalde of Pueblo Viejo Village, during the 2005 corn harvest season in April that year there was plague of mice that attacked the c orn. He claims that the mice were so many that using any poison was futile. In that case, an ilmah was

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103 asked to perform a Mayehac. His recount of the event revealed that a few mice was caught alive and taken in the ceremony that lasted all night. Before su nrise the mice were taken to a nearby cave, where they were released alive. In his words, everyone was asked to stay away from the kol for three days. He claims that when the farmer returned to the kol all the mice were gone and the field was intact (Field Notes, February, 200 9 ). Such outbreak is an example of events that can only happen if the spirits that protect the forest were not honored. A young inexperience d farmer may react by using poison or some method of aggressive control of the pests. However it is belie ved that such acts only make the problem worst and may affect all the farmers within that area (Interview, February 2009) In such cases the knowledge of elders is often sought. There is a strong conviction that the spiritual protectors of the natural world must be appeased Therefore, prayer and rituals are often in voked. An elder in Blue Creak claims that i f a farmer did not perform a ceremony to appease the spirits at the proper moment then he is obligated to seek the services of a n ilmah to perform the ceremonies at a later point (Field Notes, March 2009) What this illustrates is that that come along with making kol which depends on the knowledge of elder s Sharing and exchanges as cultural marker s in kol Ko l is the basis of many material exchanges within the Mopan Maya c ommunity. A s observed in Santa Cruz (Field Notes, May 2009), very important example of such the members of the community who will make kol will gather with their wi v e s and families in a commun al sacred place to worship the sun. In recent times, Christian

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104 church buildings or ancient Maya temples are used al ike as a common place for this ceremony. Although the church building s are used the Christian c hurch leaders are often not involved especially if they are foreigners to the culture Figure 4 2 Guarding of the Sun festival featuring the Deer Dance at Lubaantun Maya Site the coincide with the three days before the first full moon in the month of February. The first two days are considered purifying days, with the last day being a celebration day. During the purifying days, the elders preside o ver the rituals. They will burn incense and chant ancient prayers to call upon the guardians of the natural world and particularly Lord The prayers are recited in very low raspy tones, which many times sound like the wailing o f pain. The words that are used in the prayers are kept secret by the elders Those prayers will be bestowed upon deserving younger members o f the community when the elders deem them to be ready Each year one or a

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105 few younger member of the community may be added to list of those who will perform the ceremony. B efore the sun sets on the second day of the purification days every family will br ing samples of crops and seeds or plants, and also live animals to the ceremony. These offerings are chosen as a representation of all forms of seeds and small livestock (mainly chicken and pigs) that will be used the creation of kol The mood of the cerem ony is often very somber and quiet for the first two days. These are regarded as sacred days and therefore an ambience of meditation and reflection is required The musicians, including traditional m arimba players and the players of locally made h arp s will play a specific piece of music that is only used during these days Any form of celebration, such as drinking alcohol or excess eating or sleeping is prohibited. Men and women are prohibited from any sexual contact. The elders are often expected to hold a ll night vigils, without any sleep for those two nights. All men are expected to hold vigil as well. Women with young children are allowed to rest along with their young children. By sunset on the second day all the offering are received and the vigil will continue until the morning of the third day Very early in the morning of the third day all the live animals mainly chicken and pigs are slaughtered and prepared to be cooked for the festival At day break on the third day, the local musicians will be summoned to prepare to play their instruments as the sunrise is a waited. In Pueblo Viejo, the traditional Deer Dance is prepared and performed which can continue up to seven days later There may a lso be other kinds of traditional dance that are organized for performance on that day, depending on what is available in the specific community.

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106 The final ritual of incense burning and prayer is performed just moments before the sun rises. The elders wil l ceremoniously walk outside and look towards the sunrise. These moments are kept a s quiet as possible. As soon as the sun rises, the elders will start talking among themselves in a quiet tone, making predictions on the intensity of the dry season that wil l start soon The prediction s are mumbled among the elders and then passed on to the rest of the interested individuals. Although the younger farmers do not fully trust the prediction s they would not openly question them. This prediction is done so that t he farmers may choose wisely on the location of their kol If the gift made by the community pleases the spirits, the sunrise will be bright red denoting that the dry season will be gentle and long with the rains arriving after the burning of the kol site If the spirits are not pleased then the sunrise will be pale denoting a short and intense dry season. It is at this critical point that the farmers will decide what type of forest will be clear ed kol Young farmers and those who will atte mpt to make their own kol are appropriately advised on what would be the best location. The third day of the ceremony becomes a celebration : music is played, and lots of alcoholic drink is provided to all the men. This is a time when new and exotic plants or livestock are exchanged among friends and relatives In cases where the commodity is too precious to exchange the y may be a sold for cash. All other crops and food items that were offered are prepared for the mid day meal and all members o f the community are welcomed to feast. The men will use the rest of the time before the mid day meal to engage in making arrangements for work day exchanges. It is at time that an account of the previous

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107 year s work day exchanges is tallied to determine what i s owed to each other. This can be a very delicate period of negotiations for the men and may sometimes end in disagreements. All the tallies of the work days are done from memory recollection. All men who are present presume that they have returned all wor k days, but more often than not, it is revealed that some work days were overlooked or are unaccounted for. Such discoveries become difficult, for it is considered inappropriate to challenge such claims. After all the arrangements are made and the work day exchanges have been agreed, everyone is left to celebrate. Some will get intoxicated from drinking the locally made alcoholic drink called or a kind of beer made from corn. During the time of celebration, children interact more freely w ith the elders. In these exchanges many stories are recited for the entertainment and education of the children. A story can be prompted by the physical attribute of a plant or fruit that may be present. Within those stories valuable information is passed on. For example during a relaxed period of the ceremony I observed, a r ooster walk ed in and made a sound that made all the hens Kol milpa The story in Santa Cruz village A long time ago, with many red moons passed, when the earth was still new, a young man took a young wife. They loved each other at the beginning. The man, he made very big kol Protector of the corn) blessed them with a gift of two chickens, a rooster and a hen. They were blessed that their chickens became abundant. The wife fed them well. But then the wife became

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108 unhappy, and very mean and dictating. She scolded him with every l ittle mistake. Then the peace in the house was gone. The man began to worry, and he would come home and sit by his door and gaze into empty space. The chicken and the two roosters watched, and know that the love in the family was gone. The roosters wished to tell him what to do. But how could they, they we not able to talk his language. Then one morning as the giving them the ability to talk. The roosters waited anxiously, crowing more than usual, for their father (the man) to bring their corn. And so he did. As not love you anymore like b been kind to make kol for our corn, we know the path you take every day is long and muddy, we know that your load of corn is heavy, and we love you The man your kol let her sweat fall where your sweat have fallen and exchange with her your tumpline, rememb came running and flying to him and lead them to off scratch for their own beauty in the kol And so did the man won the love of his wife again. And there was peace. The end. By (Documented February 11, 2008) In this story kol is used as a metaphor to reinforce the Mopan Maya way of life. It instills within the young the understanding that everyone must have purpose and the making of kol is an important purpose, both individually and communally. It does not only provide the foo d that is eaten every day, but it also provides the calm inside ea ch member of the household. This also speaks to the idea that a community becomes divided when a shared belief of kol as means of community survival ceases to exist. Site Sections for the Milpa Of all the farmers who attended the ceremony in Santa Cruz village 14 farmers claim ed that s oon after the celebrations are completed, each farmer will go into the forest for the purpose of selecting a kol site (Documented Februa ry, 2009) Based on the predictions that have been garnered from the elders, the best

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109 possible site is determined. During an interview a participant in this study claimed that elders who join the younger men to select a kol site will use various technique s in determining a suitable spot He claims that elders will taste the soil to make sure that it is suitable for planting corn (Field Notes, February, 2009) This is especially important when the farmer is planning on clearing old growth forest. In one situation it was observed that this process was indeed lengthy and tedious. The soil sample is collected and examined be the elders. T he elder during his examination will squeeze the soil in their hand s to determine how well it may retain moisture. If the soil that is being squeezed extends from the hand, then it is determined that that soil would be adequate to withstand the dry season. That test simply indicates that the soil will have more luc or clay within, and thus have a better structure to r etain moisture (Documented February, 2009) On c e a According to both the Alcalde from Santa Cruz and San Jose, this maker system is a very old traditional way of claiming farm lands. The Mopan Maya uses a communal land system of ownership ( Barry and Vernon 1995 ; Gregory 1984 ; Wilk 1999 ) No one person has entire proprietorship of land. The marker, known as is the only way a farmer can show claims of ownership. The is a pole that is fashioned with one side shave d flat, with the top of the pole split slightly and a green succulent plant, usually a H aliconia sp stuck inside the split end. This may be the most authoritative symbol that a Mopan Maya can use to claim own ership to an area of land. If a marker is placed then no one else can claim that particular site.

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110 Generally, a path is cleared around the entire site that is marked. That determines that size of the kol that year. Clearing a path around the desired site a lso allows another farmer the opportunity to use any additional suitable area that may be available for claim. Another farmer can place his marker adjacent to a site that is already claimed. In instances where this is done within a primary forest setting, the markers generally mean that such a site is claimed for about five to seven years. The Alcalde from San Jose Villages, that cannot be placed there ever again, even by the owner of that kol He explains that i f the owner were to place a marker, it means that no one is welcomed on his kol which is also a sign of aggression (Documented February, 2009) Furthermore t he can only be used as a marker in high forests or primary forest. Any use of this marker outside of such situation is regarded as offensive and can instill violent reactions. If a marker is placed in an occupied location, especially on site occupied by anot her community member, a n aggressive confrontation will most likely occur. In such cases, the village appointed legal authority, in the person of the Alcalde is summoned to mediate the confrontation. Even after the matter is settled the perpetrator who pla ced the has to publicly remove the marker in order to show goodwill and regain t zik The forest clearing It was observed among the participants of Puebloe Viejo village, that the initial activities for the preparation of kol are very religious. On the first day of the forest clearing, a small ceremony is performed by the farmer or an elder at the site itself (Field Notes, February, 2009) A farmer further revealed that the purpose of the ceremony is to ask for permission to occupy that space and to ask forgiveness for the pain that will befall the living things in that area and to seek the blessing of the guardian spirits of kol

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111 Th e ceremony is to ensure safety and protection from all the bad things that can happen during this period. The farmers are aware that they are destroying the homes of many other life forms, therefore a part of the ceremony is dedicated to asking permission to clear forest and to beg for forgiveness for the pain that the making of kol will cause. A promise is made to the g uardians of the forest that enough food will be planted in that kol so that the wild animals may feed as well. This promise is made as repayment for the harm caused to the natural world which may have caused hardship for the wildlife If the ceremony is do ne right, and the guardians of the forest as well as the guardians for the animals and plants are appeased then the clearing can begin. The cleared forest will be left to dry for several weeks before it is burned in late April. The planting will generally start after the first rain in the month of May. Figure 4 3 The Maya milpa year calendar January and February Guarding of the sun ceremony March April Kol site Preparations and Burning May Planting of kol Planting Ceremony June July A time of rest Leisure hunting and fishing is carried out August September Harvest Festival and Thanksgiving November December The second kol Season is Started

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112 After the corn has been planted in the first phase of kol, farmers claim there is lots of time for relaxation. In Pueblo Viejo the m en claim to take time out to engage in communal hunting or fishing (Field Notes, July 2009) Generally this time of year is considered the wettest period. There are inevitably many floods that will bring new fish life to the rivers that are harvest ed readily. Women a re often engaged in making baskets or other crafts making as a past time. In some cases the young men or even the male head s of household may leave the community entirely for a couple of months in search of wage labor. However, shortly before the harvest t ime arrives t he y will return to their kol duties. A Sense of time The Mopan Maya of the 4 communities in this study seem to arrange the calendar as the time period may be relevant to the making of kol. A ccording to the Alcalde from Pueblo Viejo the held in the month of February of the calendar year, however, explained that it is not uncommon for it to happen as early as December and January of the calendar year (Interview, July 2009) The time for ceremony is set by the elders in the community in consultation with the village Alcalde. Although there is no scientific explanation thus far, one farmer in Pueblo Viejo claim ed that the emergence of certain types of insects is used as a good indicator for the correct time to c onduct this ceremony (Field Notes, July 2009) This suggests that the Mopan Maya kol tradition invokes the use of another method of keeping time that of t he natural life cycles of insect and other wildlife which are used as markers for the change of seaso ns and guide human activity within the community. The burning of the fields must be done at the most appropriate time under the right weather conditions It was observed that the f armers generally never visit the kol

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113 site after the forest is cleared unti l the day it will be burned (Field Notes, May 2009) However t here is a consistent monitoring of subtle changes in the atmosphere such as the increase in cloud cover, increase of fog in the morning or the occurrence of lightening that does not bring rain. Although none of the atmospheric changes are recorded, it was noted that such changes are openly discussed among the farmers. In an interview with a participant from Blue Creek, he claimed that the moon cycle is also closely followed (Field Notes, May 200 9) Generally, the of the moon are considered to be the best days to burn the fields. But a farmer may choose to burn his field earlier than normal. The most obvious purpose of burning is to clear the kol site, but there are other considerations that are made. Burning the field earlier than normal is a decision driven by several factors. Some of these factors include longer term planning and good sense of how intensive and/or how long the dry season may be The decisions to burn are informed by the predictions of a long wet season that was made at the ceremony. A long wet season means that seasonal monsoon rains will start early, perhaps a s soon as the middle of the month of May but more typically in the m iddle of June and may last until September. There will sporadic short periods when the rains subside but not enough to dry any biomass material that may contain woody material. In cases where a short wet season is predicted, wood for construction and firew ood can be collected from the standing forest and dried in a relatively short period of time. Firewood is a major source of fuel for the Mopan Maya see Table 4 7 Although many families have gas stoves, they are rarely used. If the field is burned earlie r there will be a good abundance of firewood that can be collected for a long time. A young

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114 farmer in Santa Cruz suggested that t he smaller and softer wood that dries faster will be collected first while the larger and hardwoods will be left for much later collection for fuel (Documented May 2009) Table 4 12 Name of the Village We need firewood for cooking Cross tabulation Neutral Agree Strongly Agree Name of the Village Pueblo Viejo 0 12 21 33 Santa Cruz 0 0 30 30 Blue Creek 1 7 17 25 San Jose 0 14 16 30 Total 1 33 84 118 The Mopan Maya live if traditionally built homes. All the material that is used to build home structures are collected from the nearby forests, but some wood is purposefully collected from Kol Sites. A participant in this study reported that a field may be burned earlier, so that the intensity of the heat is just adequate to cure the hardwoods which will be collected for building construction (Field Notes, May 2009) Extra care is taken in making decisions about when t o burn if the farmer has intentions to collect build ing materials from his kol If the burn is made too late then the fire will be too intense and the quality of the wood will no longer be suitable for construction. In that same instance, the smaller size wood that is suitable for firewood will all be lost. The knowledge of soil nutrients and soil structures is also very important. Soils that have less clay are considered newer soils and are generally burned later. It is typical for the farmers to also burn earlier when the soil is determined to be very rich in clay. The clay soil structure hardens with exposure to high levels of heat. If fields that are situated on clay soils are burned to o late, and the soil have been exposed to high levels of heat intensi

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115 that this can prolong the number of days that is required to complete the task. Exposure to heat of high intensity will typically bake the soil, making it very dry and ha rd. In years when the prediction for the dry season is to be short, farmers tend to burn earlier, so that planting can be done before the rains start. If the soil has less clay then the farmer can wait longer, to ensure a good burn. The replenishment of th e soil moisture will most likely occur at the first rain. Fig ure 4 4 A burn that produced the desired quality of ash The Mopan Maya farmer s appear to be aware that the nutrients from the ash are also very important to make the corn field grow healthy. During interviews in Santa Cruz, (Field Notes, May 2009). In addition other farmers also commented that ash as gift from the guardians of the kol Therefore, each burn is done with the hope that the fiel d will get the optimal amount of ash. Not all ash is considered good. The farmers are often careful to burn at a point

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116 instances where the fire from the burn is too i ntense, only white ash will be produce d and the farmer gets concerned as he knows that the soil will be deprived of essential nutrients. The farmer is also conscious of the fact that portions of the ash will be lost to surface runoff during the rains. Havi if not all, of the ash will be lost. In some cases, when the corn crops are affected, farmers may transport ash to their milpa s It was observed that the preparation for field burning is also planned v ery carefully, so as to prevent wild fires. No field burning is carried out without taking the necessary pre caution s Special consideration is made so that the fire does not burn the standing forests ( Field Notes May 2009) More importantly wide fire paths are made around the cleared site to prevent the fire from spreading into the neighboring cleared forests that are waiting to be burned as well. A participant from Blue Creek village stated that while i t may seem like a kind gesture to burn another field without their knowledge, but in most cases this i s considered disrespectful ( Field Notes, May 2009) To prevent Kol and community ties Kol milpa farming is clearly very important for the Mopan Maya, beyond just the mode of food production. As it is clearly stated previously, the kol or milpa agriculture serves as the catalyst which binds the community members its entire social structure. The Mopan Maya communities that were studied are very remote, and are depend ent on the basic economic system that is associated with kol A participant, who works part time as tour guide, stated that m onetary exchanges for access to commodities, especially for those produced in the community are not common (Documented August 2009) It is more likely that some items will be bartered for other

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117 items of like value, but the offer of work day exchanges is regarded as a significant compen sation. Most, if not all the daily needs that sustain the livelihood of the Mopan Maya are garnered locally. A few essential items that are impossible to produce locally are purchased. It is therefore significantly important for every community member to engage in the system of kol at some level with other members of the community. In this way, the kol making effort is shared and the community support and participation is harnessed. Although hiring labor to make kol way to make kol Even though kol is not profitable and most of the produce is for the subsistence of the Mopan Maya, there is still a strong desire to continue to make milpa In an interview with an elder in San Jose village revealed a growing concer n that there are fewer young men who are willing to make kol and by extension unwilling to start their families (Field Notes, June 2009) Demographically, most of the young people who do not engage in milpa generally leave the village Participants of this study in all 4 communities disagreed, when asked if they think that young people who had milpa will leave the villages as shown in Table 4 9. In other words, milpa also show a strong community tie to the villages. Table 4 13 Name of the Village Young people who make milpa leave the village Cross tabulation Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree Name of the Village Pueblo Viejo 8 20 5 0 0 33 Santa Cruz 1 14 10 5 0 30 Blue Creek 7 16 2 0 0 25 San Jose 2 14 10 3 1 30 Total 18 64 27 8 1 118

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118 In additional interviews with 5 young farmers, the agreed that although the way of milpa is difficult and labor intensice it is the only way that they know of to be respected within their communities (Documented June 2009) Have such respect with the community they claim that they can seek marriage arrange ment from within the village or nearby villages T herefore it is essential to partake in the social arrangements of milpa In the context of traditi onal ecological knowledge transmission, the making of milpa is still an acceptable mechanism for the young people to engage the elder population for the benefit of their knowledge systems. This importance that is placed on the making of milpa is linked to many other activities that a young person will be allowed to engage in, or will be prohibited from engag ing in within the community activities. Mode of Knowledge Transmission Although the Mopan Maya household is basically a nuclear family, it was observed that the primary household is commonly populated with extended family members. Elder members of the family often live with the older child and their families. In these cases indigenous communities tend to create favorable environments for transmission of traditional ecological knowledge. Most likely the natural engagements within the household will be culturally directed along the establish ed path of authority by age. It must be noted that such vertical transmission of tradit ional knowledge may be true for exchanges within the household, but that mode of knowledge transmission will be changed dramatically and become multi directional whenever there are interactions that occur with other members of the community outside of the household. There are many exchanges that occur between farmers who are engaged in kol that also lends itself to the transmission of traditional ecological knowledge. In Table 4 10, shows

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119 farmers agreeing to share new plants as gifts, which is a good exampl e of how knowledge may be transmitted multi directionally. Table 4 1 4 Name of the Village I share new plants for milpa as gifts Cross tabulation Strongly Disagree Disagr ee Neutral Agree Strongly Agree Name of the Village Pueblo Viejo 0 2 0 5 26 33 Santa Cruz 0 0 0 4 26 30 Blue Creek 3 5 6 5 6 25 San Jose 0 0 1 16 13 30 Total 3 7 7 30 71 118 Within th is established multi directional mode of knowledge transmission, it is difficult to understand why traditional ecological knowledge cannot be transmitted in a compartmentalized or sterilized environment outside of the context of the milpa itself They must be actively learned in situ as the information become s relevant and important at the time. Figure 4 5 Three generation of Milpa farmer

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120 For example the transmission of traditional ecological knowledge related to plants and plant use among the Mopan Maya is important. P lants that are used as sp i ces for special or seasonal occasion s are often dili gently protected by specific families. These plants are non cultivated plants and do not belong to anyone, however as soon as those plants become productive they are claimed and cared for. These plants are discovered during the acts of making kol, and are often marked for later use. When a younger person is present, the occasion is used to share information about that plant. A specific example of a highly protected plant is the Caludovica palmate P arts of this plant are eaten and the leaves used to make ba skets This plant also attracts birds and small mammals that can be harvested In an interview with a farmer, he also revealed that birds and mammals eat different parts of the plant are different times of the plants life cycle (Field Notes, August 2009). Additionally, s pices and edible plants are collected by community member of various ages but younger adults or children are often the dedicated collectors so they must be informed at a much younger age Horizontal Transmission of knowledge During interviews farmers, claim ac quiring a new plant is desirable for most them However, one farmer pointed out that before a new plant is persistently cultivated, he farmer will try to seek all available to regarding that plant from other farmers (Fiel d Notes, July 2009) This type of information exchange can take various forms. In some cases if another farmer is already growing the plant in question, then a formal visit may be arranged. Such purpose of such a visit can be declared during arrangement of the visit However it is not uncommon for the purpose of the visit to be disguised with other important matters. Farmers who are aware that someone else may interested in that

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121 plant will offer a sample. They will also be obligated to provide the necessary information regarding that plant. During field visit in October 2009 a new variety of banana ( Musa sp) was introduced in Pueblo Viejo village by a friend of the village. The seedling was presented along with a few already ripe bananas. The recipient of this gift was very gr ateful for the present, but was clearly cautious. The bananas were very short, about 3 4 inches long, and had a diameter of about 2 inches. The bananas we re light yellow in color when they we re green, and turn ed into a dark red color w hen they ripened as shown in Figure 4 5 Figure 4 6 New variety of M usa sp introduced in Pueblo Viejo

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122 From the reaction of the recipient, it was clear that this was a new plant. The person making the gift suggested that his friend tasted the ripe banana. The recipient hesitantly accepted the gift with a lackluster commitment to plant it Just about then, a child came over, and the recipient offered a banana to the child. The child ate the ripened banana and ran off happily. At that point t he recipient started to inquire about the banana, asking questions about the habit s of the plant. He was most interested the husbandry of the plant, so he asked w here is was most likely to do well when it was planted Should it be in a shady area? Does it require shade? Do wild animals eat this banana where it came from? Does it have a strong smell? All these que stions were asked because the recipient was trying to understand th e plant, so he c ould introduce it to his field. When he was later interview and asked why he was asking so many questions his response was simply milpa That respons e suggests that great care that is taken in prot ecting the existing milpa not only from pests or diseases that are attracted by existing crops, but those that can be attracted by new crops as well The kol is basically done with very little or no use of synthetic pesticides, therefore a good knowledge of the plants and the animals and insects that may feed on them is very important. Any introduction of a new plant into the already carefully placed collectio milpa While such a claim sounds simplistic, one must appreciate that the Mopan Maya exists daily with the knowledge and awareness that the spirits are forever present. The farmers are always wary of ac cepting new plants. It was observed in Santa Cruz, that new plants seems to always be grown next to the home to start which allows thorough assess ment of its behavior while growing (Noted, July 2009)

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123 Threats to traditional ecological knowledge All four communities that were studied have very small populations. Pueblo Viejo has about 150 households in total. There may be a slight increase in that number during the periods of making of the kol The same is true for Blue Creek Village with about 80 househol d and Santa Cruz with about 100 household. The one community that has seen tremendous expansion is San Jose, with approximately two hundred households. As much as the Mopan Maya tr y to maintain their traditional practices, the forces of western culture ar e still very tantalizing. In personal interviews in Pueblo Viejo, y oung men stated that they feel they need to abandon the making of kol and seek opportunities out side of their communities. A participant from the same village who has joined the military, and his wife is a school teacher, said that he may have to give up kol making and leave the village entirely (Interview, July, 2009), Indeed there is not much more to do in order to forage a living with these communities other than to make kol That process requires hard labor as well as it requires a lot of commitment to the kol itself, and the entire society which is dependent of the yields for any given year. There is not much that can be sold for cash, but the communal reward, that is not measurable in cash, is far more important for anyone living in the community Additionally the young farmer stated that it is preferable to find labor that will have immediate cash returns (Field Notes, J uly 2009) Although that family may be better secured financially, the negative effect is that the gap between the elders and the next generation widens and by extension threatens the transmission of traditional ecological knowledge. Pueblo Viejo vi llage is the oldest Mopan Maya community in the Toledo District that was established in 1840. It Until then, there was a very small school and one Roman Catholic Church as the only

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124 icons of western culture. At present, it is visible that families are insist ing on sending their children to get higher levels of education. According to the Alcalde in a personal that is not related to kol (Field Notes, August 2009). This is reflected in Table 4 9 where the members of this community agree that they are losing more of its population compared to the other communities Table 4 15. Name of the Village Mopan Mayas are leaving this community Cross tabulation Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree Name of the Village Pueblo Viejo 3 11 2 15 2 33 Santa Cruz 1 12 6 11 0 30 Blue Creek 15 5 3 2 0 25 San Jose 9 10 5 6 0 30 Total 28 38 16 34 2 118 The educational trend within Pueblo Viejo follows the national standards where a child at the age of 4 o r 5 is typically placed into the local formal education system ( Crooks 1997 ) That child will spend a large portion of the day at school for the next eight years. During that time the child is forced to learn to speak English and is cons tan tly being reminded that it is important to learn that language. Immediately after elementary school the child will spend the next four years at the high school level in the nearby town or community away from their own. During that time there will be very limited contact between those children and the elders or their parents who are actively involved in kol making. An interesting point of observation is th at only those children who do not qualify into the next level of school ing return home to engage the way of kol making. The

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125 negative aspect of that situation is that those children who return home to engage in kol making will have limited knowledge of kol making. This compounds the already negative attitudes and further encourages them to abandon the kol way. All the other Mopan communities are at risk of this loss of childhood integration into kol making as they face the dilemma of education Conclusion The traditional ecological knowledge of the Mopan Maya is embedded in all aspects of their life. Their diet and daily existence is eviden ce of that. However, what is also clear is that the Mopan Maya nurtures a philosophy that their life is entirely connec ted to the natural world physically and spiritually. This philosophy encourages the Mopan Maya to fully understand the value and respect for each member of the society. Tzik is the concept that ensure s such a philosophy of existence is maintained within th e community In order for that philosophy to continue, it must be passed to the younger generation of Mopan Maya. There is a clear understanding among the Maya that they are fully connected to their natural environment. Each farmer makes kol with the know ledge that he will disturb the natural environment. Therefore ceremonies are conducted to remind him that he is f ese ceremonies also encourage a vast understanding of the ecological interaction s among the diversity ele ment of nature. The farmer is not distant from that particular we b of life and will often go into the natural world fully aware of its complexity Aesthetically, the Mopan are happier if they have a kol Many times the Mopan will remember the family life story by describing how beautiful the location of his kol was during different times. The Mopan Maya often conduct ceremonies that are intended to

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126 heal the spirit of the body outside in the environment and very often at the location of the kol This brin gs a sad thought to the forefront of all this study. It reminds me of a lesson from Nooch Winik Ack from Blue Creek Village, who parallels the migration of young Mayan away from the c ommunity with that of a j aguar c u b that is taken away hat j to explain that such an animal will not be able to reproduce, will not know how to work (hunt) and will not ever the able to earn the Tzik of the wild Jaguars, even its own biological mothe r. Similarly the Mopan who leave the community are at greater risk of losing their place within the culture and may lose their traditional ecological knowledge all together.

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127 CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATION S Facing change The Mopan Maya have actively resisted changes brought on by the exogenous forces of colonialism in the past and modernization at present. As a nation, the government of Belize is consistently adopting development strategies that would homogenize the populations of Belize. How ever t h e traditional ecological knowledge of the Mopan Maya is persistent as they negotiate powerful social change s It is s till impressive to be able to visit a Mopan Maya community in Belize and witness their action s as the y carry on with their daily lives The celebration of ceremonies as part of the making of kol is testament to the resiliance of their culture. The notions of kol and tzik are placed at the core of their cultural existence. Tzik is vigorously alive as it i s juxtaposed with the making of kol The creation and restoration of t zik is constant in all forms of societal engagement. There are challenges that will continue to threaten the cultural ways of the Mopan Maya The exogenous forces of media and the promi se of better economic standards are attractive to the Mopan Maya as well. In some cases it is easily argued that the Mopan Maya can benefit with better economic gains. Young men and women who are willing to forego the traditional practices refuse to partic ipate in traditional practices. In some case those young people ridicule the traditional processes by creating mischief at the festivals. As the ir culture struggles with the se continuing change s they too as a people will have to find their place within t he formal institutions of education the ensuing machinery of capitalistic econom y and more importantly the menacing threat of

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128 institutional objectives that are enacted to invalidate the traditional ecological knowledge system The loss of the traditional ecological knowledge of the Mopan Maya would ensure the total loss of kol and t zik With these two concepts gone the people will fail to recognize their place within greater Belizean society and perhaps the world. So much of th e language and the concepts of time are structured upon these two concepts within the society. The Mopan Maya elders in all four communities and the families that are living within urban setting of Belmopan City and Punta Gorda Town strongly recognize tha t the way of the Mopan Maya can disappear with the next generation if the value of their traditional ecological knowledge systems is ignored The Mopan Maya language is also threatened as these paradigmatic shifts occur among the young people. The willingn ess to speak the Mopan Maya language is reducing drastically within all Mopan Maya communities, especially among the young Maya. In some cases Mopan Maya parents are purposefully encouraging their children to speak English or any other language other than the Mopan Maya The ability to speak the Mopan Maya language is the only effective medium by which Mopan and especially the elders can transmit their traditional ecological knowledge to the young. Some elders refuse to speak any other language but the Mop an Maya as a way to force the younger generation to speak their native language The adaptation and use of other language s as the primary mode of communication among the young Maya totally severs the ability of the elder to shar e their knowledge.

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129 Young May ans, especially those that have recently returned to the community find it difficult to engage in the traditional ways using their newly acq uire d language. In cases where the newly educated young Maya return to the community, they seem to create a new cul ture of their own that does not include the traditional ways and is very often promiscuous and considered undesirable by the larger community In severe cases, young people purposefully harass the elders so that the elders feel that their knowledge is outd ated a nd no longer useful to them T he ability to speak an other language misplaces the context in which traditional ecological knowledge is useful In other words, the teaching of traditional ecological knowledge becomes irrelevant unless they are taught in situ and the appropriate language is used. There are several notable efforts that are being made by the Mopan Maya to keep some their traditiona l ecological knowledge vibrant. Some Mopan that are living in the urban areas have diligently transported plant varieties to their an almost futile effort to pass on their knowledge. In many cases, the elder men are the only ones who have know ledge of the plants and their uses. T hey too are the only ones knowledgeable of the care that is required to grow of these plants.

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130 Figure 5 1 A home garden with traditionally used spices There is no doubt that education is good. However, to quote an elder from San Jose the wild animal already has all the education to live; it is when that animal seeks to know more than li f e it self that he feels (Santiago Ash, 2009) This statement is a poignant reminder of the c hanges that the young Mopan Maya are facing. The education system in Belize has been dominated by Christianity and a western education system that does not always embrace the traditional ways of the Mopan Maya The s e societal change s force the Mopan Maya t o engage an unfamiliar economy that is far less forgiving than their own traditional economies. The f ormal western education system is compartmentalized and it is best employed in a sterile environment. That structure of this education methodology deprives the teachers and students of any chance of engaging traditional ecological knowledge. On the contrary, the traditional ecological knowledge is delivered in a more familiar environment. The diversity and rich natural environme nt of the Maya world is entirely

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131 ignored b y formal education system, a notion that collides head on with the preservation of the traditional ecological knowledge. We now know that kol is a powerful concept that harnesses all form s of significantly importan t cultural values. Coupled with that finding we know that kol Tzik is always honored among community members and towards the natural environments and it s various parts both biological and supernatural. With that reality the need for the memb ers of the Mopan community to know and respect all parts of their natural environment becomes essential This is a living practice that is carried o ut i n the daily engagements of the Mopan Maya. A person who will make kol must to earn the right to do so by participating in all the aspects that are associated with that activity. He or she must demonstrate a strong command of the traditional ecological knowledge. That knowledge must be holistic and takes into consideration the dynamic changes that are happeni ng with in the interactions of community individuals at that time. tzik process of making kol must be given the right lev el of respect. Therefore I conclude that the Mopan Maya need the milpa farming system and the associated natural ecology in order for them to be able to replicate and continue to produce their traditional ecological knowledge. Study Conclusions In Chapter one the understanding of the role of milpa farming am ong the strategies utilized by the Mopan Maya to ensure the transmission and persistence of their traditional ecological knowledge was raised as the overarching question for this study. This question was then further separated into five guiding questions a s follows:

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132 Table 5 1. Research guiding questions Number Research guiding questions Question 1: Can the understanding of the traditional practice associated with milpa farming provide insight to the transmission of traditional ecological knowledge of the Mopan Maya people between generations? Question 2: Can exploring milpa crop diversity demonstrate understanding of the local ecology and the community cultural sustainability? Question 3: Does the shift from milpa agricultural to intensive agriculture strategies reduce the number of milpa crops varieties that can lead to the loss of traditional ecological knowledge ? Question 4 : Does the Mopan Maya engage in cultural activities to maintain their culture and ways to transmit traditional ecological knowledge? Question 1: T he understanding of the traditional practice that is associated with milpa farming among the Mopan Maya provides valuable observations about the strategies used in the transmission of cultural knowledge and competence of the Mopan Maya people between generations This study concludes that the Mopan Maya are dependent on the kol system of agriculture As it was described in the Chapter 4, Kol goes beyond agricultural met hods to functions as a sociopolitical organizing concept with the Mopan Maya communities In that sense kol is essential as an avenue for the transmission of traditional ecological knowledge within and between generations Kol is not just the act

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133 making of a garden plot or farm but rather it is a n important element of the corpus of knowledge t hat weaves the Mopan Maya culture together socially This study clearly illustrates that within the kol the male individuals of the Mopan Maya communities must conform to this system in order to gain validation as members of the community. The practical component of kol is no less important; as that is require for the understanding the physical engagement of Mopan Maya individuals with the natural environment. That enga gement requires detailed ecological and spiritual knowledge of that specific environment that harness es all the natural resources provided within. Although the Mopan Maya may readily have access to all these natural resources in those ecosystems; they are bonded by cultural belief and cultural value to be prudent in the ir degree of use of those resources. In that light the Mopan Maya are committed to re enacting the ceremonial elements of kol that validates their meaning of existence The notion of kol is the holistic replication of the cultural schema of the Mopan Maya As this study has shown, not every person who is born into the Maya society will make kol However if the individual wants to be validated culturally within the Mopan Maya communi ty, that person must honor the system of kol and engage the concept of tzik In reality, tziki is a precursor for daily individual interaction, and as well as the cultural conduit that facilitates the cultural exchange that is need for kol Together the t wo concepts kol and tzik forms two pillars in the community cultural values. When these two concepts are fully understood, the principles of the entire complex of traditional ecological knowledge become more apparent. Similarly, that understanding can prov ide an opportunity to understand mechanisms within the Mopan Maya culture that will ensure traditional ecological transmission.

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134 The concept of tzik is a fundamental part of the traditional ecological knowledge that provides a concrete cultural framework f or social interaction that fosters information exchange between generations. This study has shown that the key to unlocking the reservoir of traditional ecological knowledge the activation of tzik by all members of the community. Although a person can potentially enter the Mopan Maya culture by demonstrating an understanding of all the parts of tziki and the system s that are associated with kol making ; that person must also be willing to learn the strong connection of these two concept as it relates to the natural world and spiritual world. There is a high cultur al value that is attributed to kol making, by way of t zik Every young person at some point or another during their lifetime will have to pay the right tribute of t zik to their elders Beyond it relevant to the kol tzik is also expected in all forms of daily interactions. This includes family engagement and those engagements external to the family. Not engaging in t zik would signify that such a person no longer wish to be regarded as Mopan Maya The essential aspect of the Mopan Maya culture is the demonstration of competence in tzik coupled with a strong command of the knowledge that is associated with kol making Kol and tzik function as a systematic way to organize traditional ecological knowledge of the Mopan Maya. As stated above, these two concept function in tandem, but they also do have very specific kinds of knowledge this is corollary to their use. Each segment of that knowledge is rarely acti vated in isolation of the other. This emphasizes the need for young people within Mopan Maya culture to learn that systematic arrangement within the culture.

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135 Question 2: T he exploration of the crop diversity showed that the careful integration of valuable plants into the milpa system honors the strong commitment of the Mopan Maya to ensure food security The Mopan Maya, carefully protect uncultivated trees and plants species during forest clearing and protect emergent plants during the entire cycl e of kol. Those trees and plants are used for many different kinds of uses, but it is normal for them to be evaluated for food resources first. Mopan Maya men showed that they understood the connection of the plant food sources with wild animal species. Th ose plants species are protected, precisely so that the Mopan Maya can hunt the animals for meat. Th is kind of traditional ecological knowledge provides further guarantee of a secure food source for the Mopan Maya. The Mopan Maya demonstrate understand ing of the local ecology by the timing of when food crops are planted, including those plants that are considered as secondary to the milpa system. Additionally the y are aware of the climatic changes that can occur during each year and how those abrupt change s will affect such ecologies. Having a large diversity of crops in the milpa provides added resiliance for the food source. The continuous observation of how the forces of nature wil l affect the local ecology. The enactment of such ceremonies and the exchange of crop seeds is a testament to the versat ility of traditional ecological knowledge. The traditional ecological knowledge that is invoke d and shared during such a ceremony ensure s the health of the local ecology and the community cultural sustainability During th e ceremon y many crop seeds and livestock are shared between farmers This is a n effective way for the farmers to share know ledge

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136 and learn about plants that can be used in the milpa system This is the point where young people through involuntary observations are expected to learn from the elders. When tzik and kol are combine, the opportunity for traditional ecological knowledge creativity is allowed. Such opportunities lead to continual applied experimentation by the farmers of new plants in various environments That experimentation caters for the continual changes as they arise, while the Mopan Maya seeks ways to adopt accordingly. The discussions held among the farmers plants that are especially unique and new are precursors to information exchange of more co mmon crop plants Not every plant will be used as a permanent addition to the already established kol plant diversity, but it will be a chance for the Mopan Maya to test their knowledge. Additionally this allows them to show kindness and friendship as they share the knowledge of their plants further validat ing tzik Farmers are expected to have many plant varieties within their kol plots. A kol that only has one crop planted or a few species of plants typically indic ates that such a farmer will not stay within the community Such a farmer will not care to establish or strengthen any tzik network. Given those factors, it can be considered that that kol is temporary and will soon disappear which breaks many valuable cu ltural practices Any member of the society who refuses to engage the concept of kol and tzik and other associated cultural practices will always be challenged and socially limited within the community. Those farmers who do not follow the traditional way o f mak ing milpa will be limited in their knowledge for the proper care It is likely that they will not give any consideration for the wildlife that will share their space. Those farmers are also

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137 considered to be more likely not to protect nearby standing forest and limiting food sources for wildlife Wild animals are opportunistic feeders, which makes the kol more vulnerable to their destruction if their natural food source is destroyed. Th e process of appeasing the guardian spirits is a reminder of the e cological functions that exists in the area and validates the commitment of the human to the supernatural beings that will ensure the balance of their existence. Such process also emphasizes that all individuals are recreated in circle of Tzik as legitimat e members of the community and even equal to the plants and animals. Figure 5 2 Essential complex of traditional ecological knowledge In essence Figure 5 2 displays the complex that makes up the traditional ecological knowledge of the Mopan Maya. Tzik i s the bedrock of all community networks, that extends from the formulation of share labor associated with kol to the enactment of ceremonial practices within Mopan Maya culture. The traditional

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138 ecological corpus is transmitted by the creation and maintenan ce of kol None of these activities can be carried out without the proper engagement of the spiritual world. The Mopan Maya are fully aware that there are things within the ir environment that are beyond their control and must be revered as such. The most i mportant link to the traditional ecological knowledge of the Mopan Maya is held by the elders of each community. The elders must be valued as active members of the society, who will act as the cultural guides. Finally the knowledge of the elders are willin g to share their knowledge, which can only be delivered in the Mopan Maya language by them, in the relevant learning instances. Question 3: T h is study did not analyze the crop varieties within milpa plots within the Mopan Maya communities. However this is a very important question for future study. With the basic exploration of crop varieties that was conducted within a few Milpa plots, it appears that the increas e varieties of crops place d within t he milpa can result in a n increase of traditional ecological knowledge As described in chapter 4, each plant carries a corpus of knowledge that is particularly relevant to th ose particular plants that is used in the horticulture methods. However as the mi lpa system continues to interact with the market economy the logical process seems to lead to a notable decrease in crop varieties. Farmers will need to engage in intensive mono cropping strategies of agriculture if they want to take advantage of the mark et economy. Although this may be favorable to gain cash, such changes may threaten the food security of the Mopan Maya. In all four communities each farmer claimed that in the past they have more than five varieties of corn crops. There are 3 varieties o

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139 the Mopan Maya have been increasing the use of hybrid varieties of corn. What is more alarming is th at these corn varieties are normally planted in close proximity to more indigenous varieties. As a result the indigeno us varieties are being lost through cross hybridizations Farmers in these communities share many concerns about pests that are prevalent on hybridized corn which are harder to control in all stages of the corn life cycle. Pests are hard to control during the growth stages, but it is worst when the corn is producing grains. The husk o n the corn ears is not thick enough which exposes it to biting insects and birds. A s it is traditionally done farmers collect there seeds from the seasonal corn crops. A few farmers complained that the seeds they collected from hybrid corn varieties w ere cursed, because the corn grew but only produced small corn ears on a few plants. In one situation a farmer claimed that he had to depend heavily o n the other crops that were planted within his kol to avoid starvation This is result of not producing corn that one year because he collected his corn seed from a hybridized crop. Hybridized corn is designed to be planted for one generation only and do no t replant well. Question 4 : T he members of the Mopan Maya community do engage in cultural activities. The cultural engagements do serve a strong purpose in transmitting traditional ecological knowledge. Beyond the practical purpose of encouraging food pro duction using the milpa system the associated activities helps to maintain the Mopan Maya culture Cultural engagements require the use of tzik and in so do ing maintain the involvement in traditional practices as a way to transmit traditional ecological kn owledge In particular, the traditional ecological knowledge of elders is more easily accessed during

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140 these ceremonies. Elder seems to find it easier to require those young people who are willing to commit to tzik by encouraging them to create their own ne twork and participating in specific cultural activities In all four communities, the use of the Mopan Maya language is persistent and by extension, that opens the access to traditional ecological knowledge with the whole society. During the study all the participants spoke Mopan Maya without hesitation. However, when the study was taken to the urban areas, more participants were reluctant to speak Mopan Maya language. This is a critical component of transmitting traditional ecolog ical knowledge. As it stands currently, all the elders in the study communities preferred to speak only the Mopan Maya language. Kol is a powerful notion that harnesses the socio political structure of the Mopan Maya and is held in high esteem as a cultur al value. Again this brings to mind the lecture of Nooch Winik Ack, from Santa Cruz village that was presented in Chapter 4, who concludes that a Mopan Maya who leaves his village is no different than a wild animal that is taken away from the forest. As h e pointed out, s uch a n animal is dead at many levels since it will not be able to reproduce nor find his place within the structure of his community e ven if it returned to the forest This is a truth that parallels the reality of the Mopan Maya as the y e ngage the mainstream culture of modernization. The Mopan Maya are thirsty for strategies that they can use to keep transmitting their knowledge to the next generation. Recommendations This study shows that traditional ecological knowledge is retained and transmitted through the biological and cultural practices of milpa farming It can have significant contributions if it is a malgamated with the formal education system of Belize especial ly

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141 th e curriculum that is directed at the Mopan Maya children. This step is especially important for those communities that are almost entirely Mopan Maya in ethnicity. Th e pedagogical strategies of traditional ecological knowledge transmission through the making of milpa will allow for the local education system to integr ate the natural environment as a major component. For the purposes of traditional ecological persistence, using the natural environment at the platform of learning that is relevant to the Mopan is fundamental With the traditional ecological system of Mopa n Maya, there are valuable lesson that can be transmitted beyond the Mopan Maya communities. Kol is not just a farming practice, but if the whole complex of the knowledge is considered it teaches the world one more way of living a good and productive life. With the attitude and decipline that is required in the making of kol it is possible for such lifestyle to young people whether they stay in the communities or not. The along with Tzik and kol serve as the value p illars of the learning s ystem for the Mopan Maya for the proper transmission of traditional ecological knowledge as illustrated in Figure 5 1. Figure 5 3 The Mopan Maya model of traditional ecological knowledge transmission Transmission of traditional ecological knowledge Kol Tzik Elder's

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142 Recommendation 1 The study of traditional ecological knowledge is very complex. There is far more human behavior involved in understanding the foundations of traditional ecological knowledge. This study only addressed two concepts within the scope of the Mopan Maya knowledge system. There are several other q uestions that need to be answered several pertain ing to language and it s use in the expression of traditional ecological knowledge. This research was challenged by the length of time that was spent for fieldwork. For any scientist to obtain the complete p anorama of the milpa it would be beneficial to do a longitudinal study to fully document the various stages of traditional ecological knowledge that are utilized. Additionally it is very important to have the cooperation of the Mopan Maya themselves as a people to be fully able to capture those elements that are essential. It is essential that the community themselves get involved in documenting all other aspects of their knowledge, including the categories of names assigned to the various aspects of the natural environment. Recommendation 2 The community themselves must insist on having their young members participate in the traditional processes that are associates with kol K ol and tzik do hold important social value that can motivate the young Mayans wherever they may choose to live. There are specific power ful social values that are in the daily political engagement of the Mopan Maya that can inform oth er societies of new mechanism of collaboration. Cooperation takes a whole new meaning when it is bolstered by the combined effect of kol with tzik that must be fully studied and cannot be ignored It is common with the present day rural communities in Beli ze that the younger generation are determine to

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143 deviate from the traditional practices of their cultures. However if the inherent value embedded in the Mopan Maya traditional ecological knowledge is kept alive the children will like be better served as mem bers of the society. T hese values must be highlighted as the children are encouraged to engage in kol making. The society may need to change the intensity of their agriculture, as the y face less access to arable land, but the cultural aspects of their ways of agriculture do not need to be abandoned Recommendation 3 The governmental agricultural agency of Belize must honor the vast knowledge that is employed the kol system. The farming system of the Mopan Maya can inform the agriculture strategy of Belize. Most of the Belizean settlements including the capital city of Belmopan is situated on good agricultural soils. Perhaps if the idea of kol and its associated part can be shared with the larger population of Belize, it is possible that the population can g row enough food to feed itself. At present Belize is an importing country; with a large portion of the imports are vegetable and wheat to feed the nation. T he Kol system is based on a diverse cropping system that can grow food varieties that are acclimatized already to the local environments. Kol can be honored as an icon ic national treasure; it is possible for all communities in Belize to learn how to make kol Recommenda tion 4 Finally, as our country continue s to mold a strong formal education system, it is important to take lessons from the traditional ecological knowledge of the Mopan Maya. There are many philosophical lessons that can be adopted into the formal educati on system of Belize, from the elementary school level a ll the way to the university level of education. : Since colonial contact, Belizean societies have reli ed on the western philosophies and approaches to cultural integration along with ecological manage ment

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144 The western approaches have proven weak in terms of successful social and environmental management thus far. Perhaps the traditional ecological knowledge of the indigenous people can be more beneficial for the establishment of a harmonious society an d a sustainable ecology in Belize.

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145 APPENDIX A SEMI STRUCTURED INTERVIEW QUESTION GUIDE Question 1: Can the understanding of the traditional practices associated with milpa farming provide insight to the transmission of traditional ecological knowledge of the Mopan Maya people between generations? 1.a What do members of this community do on a daily basis? 1.b Can you explain what are the parts that are involve in each activity? 1.c How many members of the community are involved in those activities? 1.d Who are involved in these activities within the house hold? 1.e What would you say are the most important elements of these activities? Question 2: Can the analysis of milpa crop diversity demonstrate understanding of the local ecology ltural sustainability? 2.a How many crop varieties do you plant each year? 2.b Where do you get knowledge about these plants? 2.c What plant you do depend on most each year and why? 2.d Where to obtain the different varieties of your plants? 2.e How do you select each plant that you include in your farm? Question 3: Does the shift from milpa agricultural to intensive agriculture strategies reduce the number of milpa crop varieties and lead to the loss of traditional ecological knowledge?

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146 3.a Do you feel that you have to plant crops to sell? 3.b If you are planting plants to sell, do you use less or more plant varieties? Why? 3.c Do you tell your children about plants, even those that you do not plant? 3.d Where are the best places to plant cr ops that are for sale? 3.e How many crop varieties do you plant each year that is for sale? Question 4: Does the Mopan Maya engage in cultural activities to maintain their culture and as a way to transmit traditional ecological knowledge? 4.a Are there ce remonies that are related only to farming? 4.b What are the important parts of the ceremony that you participate in? 4.c How often do you need to participate in those ceremonies? Why? 4.d Do younger people in this community participate in those ceremonies? 4.e What do you have to do to be a part of these ceremonies?

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147 APPENDIX B SURVEY QUESTIONS Transmission of traditional ecological knowledge among the Mopan Maya Toledo District Belize Dissertation survey questions Name of Village (Check one) San Jose Vill age: ________ Pueblo Viejo: ________ Santa Cruz: _______ Blue Creek: _______ Gender of interviewee Male: _____ Female: ______ What is your race? Maya Mopan: ______ Other: _______ Level of education of interviewee None: ______ Primary level: ______ Secondary Leve: ______ Tertiary Level and above: ______

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148 Weekly salary $1.00 $100 00 $101.00 $200.00 $201 $300.00 $>301.00 Age of interviewee: 18 28: ____ 29 39: ____ 40 50: ____ 51 : ____ Employment status: Employed Self Employed: _____ Unemployed:____ What kind of work do you do? Milpa Farmer: ______ Healer: ______ Student: ____ Other Notes:

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149 Community livelihood : For each statement, please select you level of agreement. 1 Strongly Disagree, 2 Disagree, 3 Neutral, 4 Agree and 5 Strongly Agree Mopan Mayas are leaving this community 1 2 3 4 5 We mostly produce to feed our family 1 2 3 4 5 We make milpa to so that we can sell our produce 1 2 3 4 5 I only use help from people in my village 1 2 3 4 5 The population in this community is growing 1 2 3 4 5 Our community members are building homes deeper into forested lands 1 2 3 4 5 The Maya people are forced to farm on bad soils 1 2 3 4 5 We need firewood for cooking 1 2 3 4 5 We consume game meat frequently 1 2 3 4 5 We depend on forest wildlife for our survival 1 2 3 4 5 Notes:

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150 Attitudes towards Milpa : For each statement, please select you level of agreement. 1 Strongly Disagree, 2 Disagree, 3 Neutral, 4 Agree and 5 Strongly Agree All Mopan Maya must make Milpa. 1 2 3 4 5 Is Milpa important to you? 1 2 3 4 5 Each person must have Milpa to be respected in the community 1 2 3 4 5 We don't care if there are no more trees next year 1 2 3 4 5 We need material from the forest to survive 1 2 3 4 5 We consume game meat frequently 1 2 3 4 5 Young People and Milpa : For each statement, please select you level of agreement. 1 Strongly Disagree, 2 Disagree, 3 Neutral, 4 Agree and 5 Strongly Agree Young people who make milpa leave the village 1 2 3 4 5 Young people who make milpa are respectful 1 2 3 4 5 Young men don't respect Milpa 1 2 3 4 5 Elders have lots of respect for Milpa 1 2 3 4 5 Each Man must have milpa in order to gain respect in the community 1 2 3 4 5 The government encourages us to produce more 1 2 3 4 5 Notes:

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151 Making Milpa : For each statement, please select you level of agreement. 1 Strongly Disagree, 2 Disagree, 3 Neutral, 4 Agree and 5 Strongly Agree Every year we must cut high forest for milpa 1 2 3 4 5 We use the same plot of land to do our farming every year 1 2 3 4 5 Must attend ceremony before I start milpa 1 2 3 4 5 Farm produce more if we make ceremony 1 2 3 4 5 I get new plant seeds from other farmers in the village 1 2 3 4 5 I share new plants for milpa as gifts 1 2 3 4 5 Fires help us clear land for agriculture 1 2 3 4 5 Notes:

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152 : For each statement, please select you level of agreement. 1 Strongly Disagree, 2 Disagree, 3 Neutral, 4 Agree and 5 Strongly Agree I must get help from my elders with milpa 1 2 3 4 5 We learn the old ways about milpa from our elders 1 2 3 4 5 Only people with Tzik work with me 1 2 3 4 5 It is important for us to get help from our elders 1 2 3 4 5 I must help other farmers to make milpa 1 2 3 4 5 We must take turns to help each other make milpa 1 2 3 4 5 We can make milpa properly without elders 1 2 3 4 5 We make milpa to so that we can sell our produce 1 2 3 4 5 It is important for us to get help from our elders 1 2 3 4 5

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153 Sustainability : For each statement, please select you level of agreement. 1 Strongly Disagree, 2 Disagree, 3 Neutral, 4 Agree and 5 Strongly Agree I use fire to make the soil better 1 2 3 4 5 Steep sl o pes are not suitable for milpa 1 2 3 4 5 The trees are for anyone who can cut them 1 2 3 4 5 Every year more forest land is destroyed to produce food for the households 1 2 3 4 5 Only broad leaf forest has fertile soils 1 2 3 4 5 Agriculture on slopes are suitable for only a short period 1 2 3 4 5 Fire destroys more forests than agriculture every year 1 2 3 4 5 Wild forest fire occur occasionally in this area 1 2 3 4 5 Most fires are started from Milpa fires 1 2 3 4 5 Fire improves the soil quality 1 2 3 4 5 Notes:

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164 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Pio Saqui was born in 1972, the village of San Antonio, within the Toledo district of Belize. He is one of thirteen children from a traditional Mopan Maya family. He did not speak any other language other than Mopan Maya until he was 9 years old. O n January 2, 1974, his family relocated to the small community of what is now known as Maya Mopan village. Two years later, due to community unrest, his family relocated again to li ve in the village of Maya Center where his family still resides He attended a small make shift school within the village of Maya Center Roman Catholic School. From there he left his village to live in Dangriga Town, among the Garifuna people as he comple ted his high school education. In 1992 he completed an Associated Degree in Applied Agriculture Sciences, from the Belize College of Agriculture. Two year s later in 1994, he left Belize all together to pursue higher Science degree in Natural Resources Management from Colorado State University. He returned to Belize in 1998, t o fill a position as faculty member at the University College of Belize, which became the University of Belize, in 2000 Since then he has serve d in various capacities at the university of while establishing the Natural Resources Management Program. He is married to Juanita Garcia, who joined him i n completing both their PhD programs at the University of Florida Together they have one son, Keith James Saqui age 2.