Understanding poverty and sustainability needs livelihood studies that acknowledge heterogeneity at the community and household level. This is particularly true for Latin America where inequality and ethnicity are important aspects of poverty and sustainability. This paper is a detailed examination of the natural resources, socio-economic assets and livelihood strategies of two Mayan communities of the Mexican State of Yucatán. There were three fundamental objectives: to elucidate the people's perceptions of poverty, to analyse their resource use and livelihood strategies, and to suggest ways in which access to markets can reduce poverty and enhance sustainable development. Using qualitative and quantitative methodologies, the dominance of certain successful strategies are made clear. First, milpa - the traditional system of maize production - is a way of life for the Mayas. Secure access to maize-producing land is a valuable asset, partly because it also attracts government subsidies. Second, ownership of small livestock is also part of Mayan life. Ownership of other assets such as beehives gives access to (relatively) lucrative product markets. Third, active agribusiness marketing also requires assets: ownership of transport services; finance to assemble and sell products such as forest fruits, honey and maize; business skills and an ability to create commercial linkages to traders. Appropriate interventions for different wealth groups are suggested to enhance sustainable development of the communities.
Poole, N.D.; Gauthier, R.; Mizrahi, A. Rural poverty in Mexico: assets and livelihood strategies among the Mayas of Yucatán. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability (2008) 5 (4) 315-330.