In the Mayan highlands on the shores of Lake Atitlán of Guatemala is the Instituto Mesoamericano de Permacultura. It was created in 2000 by a group of Indigenous Maya Kakchiquel people dedicated to reclaiming native seeds and traditional Indigenous knowledge systems, and have chosen to use permaculture as the platform to help them achieve it.
After 36 years of internal armed conflict in the region that wiped out hundreds of communities and displaced millions from their land, this work is critical. The conflict disrupted the transfer of cultural and ancestral knowledge and the Indigenous community faces the very real challenges of poverty and malnutrition. Indigenous people were disproportionately affected during the war and left largely dispossessed when the peace deal was signed.
The institute is focused on restoring knowledge and local communities through access to land, seed and permaculture education. So far, the institute has trained more than 10,000 smallholder farmers and has helped to increase the community’s capacity to adapt to climate change and address malnutrition. It has been shortlisted for a 2021 Lush Spring Prize.