In the tiny Mexican town of Yaxunah (home of the Amazonas) nine women are working to ensure that traditional varieties of corn, beans, chilies, lentils and many others are not wiped out by genetically modified variants created by multinational corporations.
They do this through their own community seed bank and exchange called K’an-Lol, which translates as “the flower of good corn” in the Yucatec-Maya language.
“These seeds are part of our heritage, and if they disappear, they will be gone for good,” says Martina Ek of Yaxunah’s seed bank.
The system loans out seeds to locals at no cost, who then return new seeds to the bank after the harvest. The solution is low-tech but works because its seeds are always in circulation and creating new ones for the following season.
Most people who come to the seed bank are subsistence farmers who cultivate their milpa to help feed their families — with occasional small surpluses making their way to local markets.
Though more vulnerable to drought, traditional varieties of maize, such as the nuuk nal, which has a reddish color, tend to be larger and more nutritious than their genetically modified counterparts.
“Corn was first domesticated by our ancestors and it’s our gift to the world, but also our responsibility. So much these days is so uniform and flavorless … we just knew we had to do something about it,” says Enedina Poot Canul.
Just as was the case thousands of years ago, people today in Yucatán rely heavily on corn for their everyday diet and use a process called nixtamalization, through which maize is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution made up of lime water. It is then washed, hulled, and transformed into tortillas and other staples.
The women of the K’an-Lol seed bank are now also offering up their homegrown produce for sale with the support of Fundación Haciendas del Mundo Maya. ′
To order a guacal of fresh produce, send a message at