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  • Delaney Hayden

Last Peace Coffeehouse of the semester bridges food sovereignty and climate change

By: Delaney Hayden, Asst. News Editor


On April 22, 2024, Rebecca Day Cutter, an organizational consultant for The Garden’s Edge, came to speak at the final Peace Coffeehouse social of the semester in Science Hall Commons. The Garden’s Edge is a small non-profit organization that stands in solidarity with Maya Achi Communities, focusing on initiatives crucial for climate resilience and traditional medicine preservation. Its mission is to “support farmers, community organizations, and social movements with strategies that address environmental degradation, global climate change, loss of small-scale farms, and the erosion of indigenous cultural knowledge.”


Cutter began her talk by speaking about the time she spent living in Guatemala and the work she does now through The Garden’s Edge as one of the only members who resides in the United States. The Garden’s Edge is inspired by the “Edge Effect,” which is one of 12 permaculture principles.


“When two different systems come together, their interaction creates a diversity that wouldn’t otherwise exist,” Cutter stated. “Permaculture design compels us to create edges to promote this kind of diversity, and this is the goal of the Garden’s Edge.” 


Since 2019, The Garden’s Edge has been collaborating with the communities of Chixolop and Las Minas to mitigate the effects of climate change. Over the past few years, they have implemented several key initiatives, including the construction of two sand dams and the installation of numerous household greywater filtration systems. Additionally, they have undertaken extensive tree planting efforts, resulting in the establishment of over 4,000 trees.


 In October 2022, heavy rainfall led to the sand dams reaching full capacity, enabling plans to raise the walls to their final height of approximately nine feet. This expansion will enhance sand and water collection capabilities, further bolstering the resilience of the communities.

Due to the completion of these projects, 570 households have been provided with filtered water, and the communities have begun to embrace additional water conservation measures. This includes the initiation of a community-driven watershed protection program integrated into local village schools. 


The Sand Dam initiative exemplifies a holistic, community-driven approach to addressing multifaceted environmental and social challenges. By empowering local leadership and fostering intergenerational learning opportunities in watershed management, this endeavor underscores the transformative potential of grassroots initiatives.


The event shed light on agroecology partnerships spanning around Central and North America, as Cutter addressed topics ranging from permaculture to community seed banks. Seed banks are places where seeds are stored to preserve genetic diversity for the future. They are usually flood, bomb and radiation-proof vaults holding jars of seeds from different plant species.


Cutter shared that there are seed banks across the world, and in New York State that participate in the Seed Keepers Network. According to the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance, “The mission of the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network (ISKN) is to nourish and assist the growing Seed Sovereignty Movement across Turtle Island (North America).”


Cutter emphasized the significance of sharing skills, knowledge and traditions across communities, spanning from Guatemala to the Haudenosaunee Territory and the desert Southwest of North America. 


Cutter went on to discuss the collaborative efforts undertaken by The Garden’s Edge, working hand in hand with indigenous communities to implement sustainable farming practices. These efforts aim to not only ensure food security but also safeguard biodiversity and cultural heritage. 


She shared that in pursuit of keeping the elders’ traditions alive, they began programs in which the youth of the communities could come and learn the traditional cultural practices and skills, in hopes of passing the traditions down to many more generations.

As the event concluded, participants left with a potentially renewed sense of purpose, as Cutter had even brought seeds for those in attendance to take home and plant in their own backyards.


For more information about The Garden’s Edge and its initiatives, visit www.gardensedge.org.


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Kathleen Hayden
Kathleen Hayden
4月26日

Very well written and a very interesting article.

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