Native Village Youth and Education News
September 2009

 

Maya nut changes lives while aiding the rain forest
http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/science/04/16/cnnheroes.erika.vohman/index.html?iref=mpstoryview

Condensed by Native Village

Flores, Guatemala: The nutrient-rich Maya nut grows in Central America's rainforests. The marble-sized seed can be prepared to taste like mashed potatoes, chocolate or coffee. To those who stumble upon the nuts on the ground, they're free for the taking.

The problem is that many people living in areas where Maya nuts grow don't know anything about them.
Erika Vohman is trying to change that.  "People are living right there, in extreme poverty, not even eating more than one meal a day and there's Maya nut lying all around," Vohman said. "They don't eat it because they don't know."

One Maya Nut tree can produce up to 400 pounds of food a year.  Dried, the Maya nut can be stored for up to five years -- a lifeline for regions with frequent drought. Maya nuts have high levels of nutrients including protein, calcium, fiber, iron and vitamins A, E, C and B.  "For some reason, people have stopped eating this food, which is one of the most nutritious foods you can get," she said.

Vohman believes that the way to uplift Central American communities is for them to return to their roots. She has traveled across the area teaching women how to harvest, cook and dry these Maya nuts into tasty, hearty foods.

"These women are responsible for raising the next generation," Vohman said. "If a woman's not educated and doesn't have access to any job opportunities, it makes it really hard. Our workshops [help them] acquire the skills and knowledge to feed their families and better their lives."

Training rural women about the Maya nut has also made them champions of rain forest conservation and reforestation. The group has found that where the Maya nut tree disappears, 50%- 80% of local species are wiped out in 6-12 six months to a year.

Harvesting Maya nuts helps many women establish business connections and earn income from their efforts.

"It's impacting gender equality. That's a huge paradigm shift," Vohman said.  "We're having an impact on the environment, an economic impact and also motivating reforestation. It's really amazing."

Watch how the Maya nut is transforming communities in Central America: http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/science/04/16/cnnheroes.erika.vohman/index.html?iref=mpstoryview#cnnSTCVideo

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