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Planting avocado trees in Chihuahua. Planting avocado trees in Chihuahua.

Chihuahua farmers replace marijuana with avocados

Municipality of Guadalupe y Calvo sees potential for nearly 90 million pesos annually

Some farmers in Chihuahua are giving up growing marijuana and planting avocados instead, according to the mayor of Guadalupe y Calvo.

Farmers in the municipality, considered part of the notorious Golden Triangle of drug production, harvested 10 tonnes of Hass avocados this year. Now they aim to plant up to 50,000 avocado trees by the end of the year, announced Mayor Noel Chávez, who hopes to create a new economic model in the region.

“People didn’t believe in this, but we said we’d give it a try, and the first results are being seen. This program started three years ago with coordination from all three levels of government, and in another three years we’ll be seeing our production multiply,” said Chávez.

The municipal government believes avocado production can generate up to 90 million pesos (US $4.6 million) annually.

Chávez says he sees motivation among the farmers who themselves see great potential in avocados due to their popularity in markets like China, Japan, the United States and Europe.

He suggests that poverty is to blame for area farmers growing marijuana and other illegal crops, but hopes that education and awareness will show them another way to make a living.

“No one gave them the technical knowledge [before] to switch over to avocados,” he said.

Chávez has envisioned a plan to disassociate communities from illegal crops and increase local consumption of the fruit, with the expectation to become an exporting community within the next three years.

This year’s 10 tonnes is a good start, but Chávez believes his municipality of 70,000 residents can do much better. And he expects Chihuahua to be able to compete with avocado-producing states in southern Mexico.

He recognizes that the project has received its fair share of criticism and that many people were reluctant at first because they thought the avocados wouldn’t take off. Now, however, many are looking to get certified to export.

“Today, Guadalupe y Calvo is . . . about to become the mega-region for avocados . . . said Chávez.

“I’ve been working as a professional forest environmentalist for 25 years, having seen all kinds of ways to take advantage of our ecosystem. It’s now time for us to take advantage of this use of our natural resources,” he added.

Source: El Sol de México (sp)

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