lacuadra_asgreenasitgetsRecently I read a report given to a commission on sustainable development by the leader of a multilateral humanitarian group. The leader considered the “global food crisis” an urgent priority. He announced that he had established a special task force to work with the agricultural sector, and argued that more production was needed to feed the world’s increasing population.

Well, that makes sense. People need to eat. Food, after all, is on the bottom rung of Maslow’s hierarchy. But how we go about increasing production is central to the debate. Will we continue to demand more from a tiring planet, or will we look to the future with the concept of sustainability in the forefront of our minds?

Personally, I do that by keeping the voice of Mother Earth in the back of mine, and this is what she’s saying:

“I’ll admit, you humans are smart. You’ve come up with this technology – chemicals, genetic engineering and what-not – to keep me producing around the clock. In the old days, I’d get some time to rejuvenate. But not anymore.

“Your efforts will fill bellies for now, but where’s your long-term vision?  Have you forgotten the concept of ‘carrying capacity’?  There’s a limit to the volume of life I can support.

“Your waistlines might be expanding, but mine isn’t. I can’t just keep increasing my production volume to meet the needs of your growing numbers. Especially in this heat. Not to mention the effects on my health, like erosion, depleted nutrients and a perpetual reduction in species diversity. Just look at my thinning forests and varicose rivers!  You know how it feels when you’re overworked. Sometimes the damage is irreversible. And remember, you’re just one of many species that calls me Mum. So come on, treat me with more care and be nicer to your brothers and sisters.”

It’s uncomfortable for us to think of the human species as just one of the trillions of biotic factors in our planet’s complex ecosystem, but that’s what we are. It’s even more uncomfortable to think that our well-intentioned “feed the hungry children” efforts might be perpetuating the poverty crisis, rather than alleviating it. But until we stop working against Mother Nature, and start working with Her, our development efforts will be neither successful, nor sustainable.

That’s what we’re trying to do at As Green As It Gets. We don’t claim to have solved the whole of the global food crisis, but neither do we accept that people must starve in order for the Earth’s population and carrying capacity to reach equilibrium. With that in mind, we are helping Guatemalan agricultural workers and producers to implement environmentally sustainable business practices that will develop their local economies while preserving regional ecosystems for use by future generations.

The people we work with are small, independent producers from disadvantaged communities in Guatemala. Many of our producers cultivate marketable cash-crops, such as coffee and hardwoods. Others produce art and textiles. We’re also working in several rainforest areas, providing education and resources that enable communities to provide for themselves economically by restoring their native forests rather than slashing trees to grow more corn.

We believe economic development is integral to reversing the poverty cycle in which these communities have languished for generations. Our objective is to facilitate the movement of small producers beyond subsistence agriculture by helping them acquire additional skills that can provide income beyond their survival needs. Using these additional resources, the family can set their own priorities for development, such as improving living conditions and increasing their children’s opportunities.

We support the producers through services such as small business financing, market development, export and legal services, and technical training in intercropping methodologies, managed forestry and organic farming.

Our core producers have seen an increase of between 100% and 600% in their annual income since forming a partnership with As Green As It Gets. Many other producers have seen significant increases in income through supplemental sales. Moreover, we encourage our producers to share the wealth. Some pay up to 667% minimum wage to hired employees.

As Green As It Gets receives no payment in any form from its producers. 100% of product sales revenue and small business financing are distributed directly to the producers, their workers and their communities.

We think our Mum would be proud.

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As Green As It Gets operates out of the village of San Miguel Escobar.

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