19 July 2017, Nuevo Sonora, Chiapas, Mexico - Paseano Gomez Lopez preparing to apply herbicide in chili fields.
Paseano is a farmer from Nuevo Sonora, Chiapas state, Mexico. He grows corn and chili peppers. But to cultivate their fields, farmers need money to buy supplies.
Often they are forced to take a loan, with a 10-20% interest. Sometimes, the yields don't cover the costs and farmers get in debt. They are also battling with poor soil and high altitudes; it's difficult to grow crops.
?hat's when you think about migrating - to improve your life, to send your children to school," explains Paseano. ?he situation is very difficult because of the poverty that it's here in this country."
And this is why Paseano decided to leave. He went to Virginia and Florida where he worked for 10 months - picking tomatoes, grapes.
?here is sadness when you are away. You feel far away from your family. I worried about my family - about my wife, my children. You keep wondering how they are doing. I got paid USD 500 per week. About USD 350-400 I would send at home. I could only keep about USD120-130 per week to cover my own costs," he says.
After he returned, Paseano became involved in a FAO-supported project. The aim of the project is simple: make farmers' lives better. Help them find ways to sustain themselves from agriculture and off-farming opportunities.
?ow, I can stay here to take care of my plants because of the support I got. I have everything here, and I can save some money."
Apart from support to grow better crops, Paseano's family also received chickens and sheep.
?y wife is looking after the chickens. We no longer need to buy chickens or eggs. Sometimes, we can also sell the eggs. We also have sheep, for us to eat, and for sale. Our life has changed. I no longer have to take money on loan. Now I have my own resources. My son finished high school. He is now studying at the university," he says.
Poverty and hardships have been pushing people in rural communities to migrate. The FAO-supported project - Strategic Food Security Project (PESA) of the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) (2002-current) - has been rolled out in Oaxacan and Chiapas states, in poor rural areas. The two states have some of the highest migration rates in the country, with people migrating to the US or cities within Mexico in search of a better life. As part of the project, farmers learnt how to use compost to improve soil fertility; received training in honey production, raising livestock, and setting up greenhouses. They now also have access to water to irrigate their crops. The project is made possible thanks to the support of the Mexican Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture.