"You don't need to cut trees from the forest to meet basic needs. A family can grow enough to live well on just 2.5 acres," says Lupita del Rio Pesado. She and the people of Alternare are showing the way.
Alternare is a Mexican organization that works with local communities in the monarch region. They are building a model for living that protects the forest and the people. Alternare is about alternatives — real alternatives for the countryside and for the campesino (farmer).
People use trees from the forest for houses:
It takes 15-20 trees like these to build a 4-room house.
Adobe instead of wood:
Alternare is helping local people learn how to make adobe bricks.
Adobe is a natural building material. Adobe bricks are made from clay. The clay is mixed with organic materials, formed into bricks, and dried in the sun.
An adobe brick house can last for a lifetime. A roof made of adobe tiles is strong and long-lasting, too.
Wooden houses don't last long. Every 15 years they have to be built all over again, using another 15-20 trees for a 4-room house.
Families need wood for cooking.
A typical family needs two burrow-loads of wood per week for cooking.
Alternare is working with families to build wood-saving stoves. These stoves save 50% of the wood a family normally uses for cooking. Just think: each stove cuts the need for wood in half!
The new stoves are also much better for the family's health. Old-style stoves fill the kitchen with smoke. Breathing the air is like smoking two packs of cigarettes per day.
Alternare is helping families plant organic gardens. The climate in the monarch butterfly region is perfect for growing vegetables. A family can grow enough for themselves and sometimes more to sell. How wide should a garden be? Here's a tip from Alternare: if you can reach across the garden you can pull weeds without stepping on the plants.
Organic fertilizer grows better crops. Notice the plump grains of corn on the right. The corn on the left is grown with chemical fertilizer.
Alternare is learning what works!
Lesson #1: People don't like to be changed by other people. They like to do things for themselves. Alternare brings people together at their training center where they share ideas and learn from one another.
Lesson #2: Don't promise to solve people's problems or give them money. Many conservation programs have failed in the monarch region that way. "We always tell people, you won't get rich working with us but we will help you solve your own problems," says Lupita del Rio Pasada. Alternare gives people ideas that grow on their own, like seeds in a garden.