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Beehive Food Systems

Food sovereignty through agroecology as an educational instrument.

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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Colectivo Las Abejas.

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Other

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

- Cantaro Azul A.C. (large NGO): Focuses on providing solutions for access to safe water and quality sanitation for schools and rural communities. - Parque Natural Encuentro:This entity is a multi-stakeholder organization were Cantaro Azul, Crisalium a.c., Colectivo las Abejas, and other individuals manage a 140 hectares property for nature conservation. - Red de Reservas: Alliance of organizations leading the conservation of four natural reserves in San Cristobal de Las Casas. –Ecoaprendo: Part of the Red de Reservas this entity is led by Colectivo las Abejas, Moxviquil and Tlatoli working to take schools to natural areas in San Cristobal to learn about their ecosystems. - Professor Alejandro Ovando: Leads an alternative education program in Chiapas. He is also a teacher at “Escuela Secundaria Técnica 66” where he develops a water and agro-ecology project with Colectivo las Abejas. - Pequeño Sol (private school):Alternative education. With 35 years of experience.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

San Cristobal De Las Casa

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

San Cristobal de las Casas (city and municipality), in Chiapas, Mexico. The municipality has a total area of 484 square kilometers.

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

The past 4 years we have gained the trust of individuals and organizations allowing us to develop projects in alliance with important stakeholders of San Cristobal.  Some of these projects that link us to the place are described below.

 -With Cantaro Azul in 2017, we visited 80 public schools to survey their water, food and green areas.  During 2018 we implemented a project in 3 schools were we installed a water purification system and a grey water filter connected to a agro-ecology system.

-With “Parque Natural Encuentro” we generated a network of projects called Inspiring Spaces as a strategy to preserve the protected area. The projects are:

 -Vivero Forestal: Led by the Crisalium with the purpose of producing native forest plants and trees.

 -Casa del Agua: A water laboratory led by Cantaro Azul as an educational space that permits students and investigators do research on water issues.

-Espacio Agroecologico La Colmena: led by Colectivo Las Abejas as an organic garden were students, teachers, and visitors learn about food sovereignty. 

Parque Natural Encuentro is also a part of the “Red de Reservas” (Nature Reserves Network) with whom Colectivo las Abejas develops the ECO Aprendo initiative, taking school children to visit the natural reserves and experience

-With Professor Alejandro Ovando we have been able articulate the school system with our agro ecological perspective through workshops with teachers from secondary schools from Chiapas.  The theme of the workshop is agroecology as a tool for education.  We have reached more than 2500 students and 500 teachers.

-In Pequeño Sol School, Colectivo las Abejas runs the Agroecology Project that is used as a tool to generate significant learning experiences in students.

-With 4 rural communities of San Cristobal de las Casas. Colectivo las Abejas has developed ecotechnologies focused on family grown food and water management. 

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

San Cristóbal de Las Casas is a colonial town founded in 1528. It is located in the region known as "Los Altos de Chiapas" (Chiapas Highlands), standing at 2,200 meters above sea level.

Presently with a growing population of over 200,000 people from various ethnic origins, as well as permanent and temporary international residents from all over the world. It has been historically the commercial hub of the highlands where indigenous and non-indigenous people have converged to exchange goods and services.

1992 was the year of the Zapatista uprising. This event and the creation of the Zapatista movement came as a natural response to the historical conflicts existent between the local indigenous population and the mestizos (descendants of the culture of the Spanish settlers) revolving around land property and economic and political power, in which for hundreds of years mestizos had unequal privileges.

The public-school system of San Cristobal de Las Casas municipality is made up of 215 schools, most of them don’t have the means to provide significant learning in students. Half of the schools are in rural communities and lack the proper infrastructure such as electricity, water, classrooms and qualified teachers.  Presently, there is a strong group of organized teachers called “magisterio” (union) with the intention of pressuring the government to improve school conditions.

Fifty years ago communities surrounding San Cristobal de Las Casas lived of their own production and had a harmonious interaction with nature.  The factors mentioned before like the growth of the city’s economy and the lack of proper education added to the deterioration of the forests and natural resources has pushed men and women from rural communities to migrate to the city looking for jobs, most of them precarious, as well as better living conditions and better education.

Concerning rural production, the main crops surrounding the city are corn (and its combination with beans, squash and chili called "milpa") and important production of vegetables for local consumption. People of rural communities in the area are very familiar with agriculture as an everyday activity but are losing their tradition of organic and natural production.

Corn is a staple food in San Cristobal prepared in many different ways like tortillas, empanadas, pozol, atol agrio, elote, gorditas, tostadas, and atol de granillo. This grain together with beans, squash, bledo, chayote, chickens, sheep, wild bunnies or birds make up the basic diet of the indigenous communities.

San Cristobal de Las Casas has network of small natural reserves intended for nature conservation purposes. Some of them are the Reserva Moxviquil, Reserva Huitepec, Parque Natural Encuentro, la Kisst, Reserva San Felipe, Quembo, Gertrudi Dubis. All of which are at risks of invasion for the exploitation of natural resources and housing developments.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

-Water: San Cristobal de Las Casas is a closed valley surrounded by pine and oak forests. In 1972 the federal government implemented a project that dried out the area: Project “El Tunel”. A 4km long, 4-meter-wide tunnel was drilled, opening the closed valley and connecting the local rivers to this opening. Nowadays the rivers of San Cristobal are its sewage system. To make this worse, once the contaminated water exits the tunnel outside the valley, it is used for vegetable production without any treatments. It is not only the disastrous sewerage system that generates the water contamination problem, but also exponential population growth the mismanage of the garbage system and the increased use of pesticides in agriculture. Water scarcity has become an important issue in the last years and will be a key issue in 2050. Also, the deterioration of the forest due to population growth and the demand for wood and other natural resources is an important challenge, it is causing the loss of fertile soil and native species, as a cause of this, the water issue worsens because the under land water system is losing its capacity to recharge itself, so in 2050 there will be less access to water for farming and for consumption.

-Land and migration: Farmers face a tough challenge in their fields due to the loss of fertile soil, now they depend on industrys to cover the need of nutrients for their production system polluting their soil and water with pesticides. Having little profit, young men and women migrate to the city in search of better opportunities. Land is being sold to people and companies outside their communities, which is compromising their autonomy and making them more dependent on low income urban jobs.

-Food and diets: Farmers are losing their seed heritage due to government campaigns for the use industrial seed for better production and higher economic yield. This issue is an important challenge when we think of preserving traditional farming techniques and local diets. Today it is already an important challenge, and for the year 2050 access to traditional seed will be limited

In the city, there is a mix situation regarding diets, on one hand you have a growing trend towards veganism, and locally produced food, but at the same time a low-income population that consumes mass produced processed food. Chiapas is the number 1 consumer of Coca-Cola in the world, there is a bottling plant in San Cristobal.

-Culture and technology: Young people from rural communities are adopting an urban consumer fashion and are losing interest in their traditional culture, food, technologies and their relationship with nature. We consider important to give value to the local culture which has maintained food sovereignty and autonomy for centuries.

-Politics: The government has normalized the invasion of protected areas and the burying of wetlands in the valley to widen the urban area and explode natural resources. Government does nothing regarding sanitation or building regulations to preserve the ecological balance. So the way urban growth policy is defined on 2050 will be key to our local food system.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

We see a lot of initiatives related to food systems in the municipality, but most of them are disconnected. Our vision is to bring as many stakeholders as possible to sway the education system to make possible a sustainable future for the growing food demand of the city, through locally produced vegetable food.

Through environmental education and visits to the reserves we will promote the use of ecotechnologies like dry toilets, grey water filters, rain water harvesting, bio construction and soil management in the schools of San Cristobal.

Young people inherit the land from their families, so we believe they have the power of shaping the future of their food system.  Through agroecology workshops with schools we can empower future generations to regain their fertile soil and original seeds. Giving value to their culture and original food system promoting an autonomous living that is interdependent with nature.

We also believe it is key for kids to learn about the ecosystem of the place they inhabit.  That’s why we give intention to schools visits to natural areas surrounding San Cristobal.  Participating in activities with a focus on sustainability is crucial for them to fully understand their ecosystem and land. Ensuring proper use of technologies in the future, to solve current and future ecological issues.

As the modern world reaches rural San Cristobal its key to give value to local and traditional handmade techniques and use modern technology to promote the conservation of original culture and ecosystems in harmony with nature. That’s why we know it’s important to implement ecotechnologies and agroecological projects in the public school so they can be models to be replied by families and institutions surrounding the school.

Changing education also changes politics and public policy; if young people give value to a forest or a natural protected area in the future there will be no risk of this places being lost or contaminated.  If people defining public policy value nature, we can assure they will legislate in favor of conservation and natural food production.  This is another reason to focus our work on school age children.

After the visits to the reserves and with the eco technologies and agro ecology systems in their schools the communities will get to interact with nature, food production systems and eco technologies.  As a result of this they will gain hope for a more sustainable future. In turn it will change the perspective of the next generations about the conservation of natural areas, natural food production and natural construction for a regenerative and nourishing food system in the future.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Once schools give importance to nature and to healthy food, we belief that people in San Cristobal will enjoy a more sustainable life and with that a happier and healthier living and will have a higher level of empowerment on issues related to sustainability, food and water. When schools are targeted as the key actor for a full transformation, we belief San Cristobal de las Casas in 2050 will be a place were:

-Consumers and producers are more conscious and value more natural products than massively produced ones;

-Ordinary people see value in their organic residues and know how to compost them getting nutrients for their home-grown food;

-Farmers value diversity and have access to original and natural seeds maintaining an ecological balance in their fields and autonomy in their production;

-Consumers neglect products that are contaminated with fertilizers or black water;

-Water sources like springs and rivers are clean and cared for;

-Sanitation is regulated by government generating healthy life conditions;

-People stop thinking it is preferable to shit on clean water;

-Garbage is separated, reused, recycled, composted and disposed in a safe manner;

-Society protects the existing natural areas surrounding San Cristobal and promotes the creation of new nature reserves;

-People enjoy and value being in contact with nature;

-Education through agro-ecology, Eco technologies, and nature generates significant experiences in an inclusive environment;

-Policy prioritizes the conservation of our natural environment over the economic interest of the minority and politicians, by promoting organic food production through incentives for natural farming;

-The governments water agency SAPAM provides sufficient and quality water to all the population in an equal manner.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

"Colectivo Las Abejas" is a group of people from different cultures and walks of life, with a variety of strengths and work experiences, converging in our interest of promoting and articulating diverse initiatives with the intention of leading society towards a regenerative future. We work with many organizations and individuals, including private and public schools, tzotzil communities, local business and government agencies, natural reserves and NGOs in San Cristobal de Las Casas. Our work with these stakeholders revolves around education, agroecology, bioconstruction and eco-technologies, culture and ecotourism.

We have developed our line of work in this place for the last 4 years, most of our energy is spent facilitating workshops for students and teachers, recollecting seeds from the region, caring for the natural areas, promoting the reuse of grey water, promoting the use of dry toilets, recollecting organic material for composting, promoting the recovery of the regions constructive systems like adobe, bajareque and cob, adding sustainability components to social events like parties, festivals and meetings.

Our vision is that through education, our environment, diets, economics, culture, technology and policy can be shaped into any form. That’s why Coletivo Las Abejas together with many stakeholders from San Cristobal de Las Casas work every day in shaping a sustainable and caring future.

The way our global food system works today is because for the last 50 years we have been educated to think that happiness means having a lot of thing, that progress means developing infrastructure, that health means fiscal appearance and cleanliness, that success is having power over people, that food comes from the supermarket and that you study to get a job.  We believe life is much more, we know that happiness is equal to wellbeing; that progress is equal to sustainability; that healthiness depends on a sustainable wellbeing. We think food should be grown in our homes, parks and schools and we think we should go to school to build healthy relationships we our peers and natural, to grow in community and to have a chance to experience life and get to know about our self’s.

For the last four years we have been developing an alternative education strategy were we use agro-ecology, eco-tecnologies, bio-construccion and nature as the tool to share history, math, natural science, language, geography etc. allowing to use real life issues with witch the students can identify them self’s generating significant learnings in the students and shaping a new idea for a more sustainable future.

We have created a hive of interconnected initiatives that work as a system were inhabitants of San Cristobal de Las Casas build a relationship with the land and contribute in producing healthy food for their peers, customers and families.

We have worked with over 100 schools in San Cristobal where we shared the importance of composting, growing your own food, recycling, water and conserving nature. In the first encounter with schools the purpose in to share information and to have fun. Through activities that allows us to get information of the actual situation regarding food, water, waste, culture and economy in the community, but also creates awareness about these issues.

In a few occasions we have been able to obtain funds that allowed us more profound involvement in schools. This allowed us to: execute workshops with the teachers, students and parents; the installation of food gardens, water filters and eco-tecnologies; take students and teachers to visit our agroecological project in Parque Natural Encounter and other natural reserves in San Cristobal; organize multi school festivals with nature and art theme with over 900 students. This experience has inspired our vision and makes us strongly believe that education is clue and agro-ecology is the tool.

We want to see a world were nature is our most important guide to education. For this to happen we need to get the school system to change and the way to change it is motivating each individual school to join a movement to pressure policy makers to legislate in favor of a sustainable way of life.

To accomplish our vision, we what to build up a network of interconnected projects that articulate each other and nurture each other, we what to start with schools communities through sustainability projects, that allow the community to have access to eco-tecnologies, organic farming technics and seeds, safe water. Creating awareness in the community about the importance of food sovereignty, nature and water. Assuring a conscious society for the future.

We want to create a hive of interconnected initiatives that work as a system were inhabitants of San Cristobal de las Casas build a relationship with the land and contribute in producing healthy food for their peers, customers and families. In these years, we have built strong and sustainable relationships with multiple stakeholders that trust our work in propagating the seeds for a better relationship between people and nature.

In these years, we have built strong and sustainable relationships with multiple stakeholders that trust our work in propagating the seeds for a better relationship between people and nature. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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Photo of Gabriela Vargas Romero

Hola! I´m so happy to see the work you´re doing in one of my favorite places, San Cris is very special to me and I believe it has a lot of potential to set examples that can be replicated in other parts of Chiapas. Are you working with Helda from Colegio Frontera Sur?

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