Condensed by Native
Flores, Guatemala: The
nutrient-rich Maya nut grows in Central America's
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
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
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
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:
News September 2009Native Village Home Page
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