Teacher Miguel Ruiz Pérez is a member of the ejido community of Miguel Hidalgo II. He admits to having been doubtful about the oil palm. And even about farming itself. His plantation is fairly new, having started planting just eight years ago.
He has devoted his life to sharing knowledge in classroom environments. He was a driving force behind education in his community, and now that he has retired, he would like to show his children (Miguel, Sayde and Carmen) that he still has a lot of energy for doing what he does best: applying whatever expertise he has acquired.
Together with several of his neighbors, in an area where cattle pastures had been the common denominator, he doubted that the oil palm was going to be a viable business. Now he has to swallow his words, but he does so philosophically. He knows that in today’s world, market prices are not regulated by any government. That is why he sees the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO certification) process as a way to sell quality.
In 2019 rainfall levels in Chiapas were not as high as palm growers would have liked. They know that water is the engine that makes fruit reproduce in the upper parts of the palm. However, the technical assistance and training provided by the Holistic Program helps them to better prepare for droughts and even scarcity of rainwater, in order to get better crop figures.
Although farming was not his profession, and certainly not a family-learned trade, farm work has changed the way this teacher thinks about his palm grove.
However, scarce rainfall will become more and more of a problem due to the effects of climate change. Prior to the implementation of the Holistic Program, abundance was not managed well. The program seeks to help producers better manage shortfalls, while also making much more of the harvest season as yields will be higher.
“No one fertilized before because nature gave us everything. Then it rained a lot, about eight months out of the year, and oil palms produced 80-90 kilogram bunches,” he says. Thanks to the program, oil palm plantations can now regenerate and be more productive in light of modern-day limitations.
As a good teacher, Miguel can instruct young people and provide employment for local workers, which will in turn boost progress in their communities. In addition, his kids are starting to become more interested in palm growing and learning about growing processes in other countries. “The program most definitely helps us, because one starts to think about what to cut, where to cut and how to tend to the leaves. It’s a whole process.”