Category Archives: Features

Saving Mexico’s most totemic chilli

A plague of whiteflies descended on the Martínez family’s fields of yellow, red, and deep purple chilhuacle in southern Mexico two decades ago. Chilhuacle is the star chilli in several versions of Oaxaca’s signature dish ­– mole – and cooks had long paid a premium for the chilli’s unique smoke and citrus flavours. But its cost was about to climb higher.

Read the rest of this feature at Rethink Magazine: [html] [pdf] o léelo en español en Revista HojaSanta: [html] [pdf].

Photo: IBLI

How Kenya’s herders got their livestock insured

When the rains failed to come last year in central Isiolo County, Kenya, Mohamed Dahir figured he might lose 40% of his herd of 400 sheep and goats. Like several million other pastoralists in northern Kenya and across the border in Somalia and Ethiopia, Dahir and his herd live migrating between pastures.

Dahir did indeed lose some animals, but he received a payout from an emerging kind of livestock insurance: based on predictions of vegetation growth in the area and how many animals that might harm, his index-based livestock insurance policy gave him 50,000 Kenyan shillings (about £370) in cash before the drought and its consequences really settled in. He was able to buy enough hay from distant counties to save 95% of his herd. Continue reading

Trial and error in a Mexican beach town

When general store owner Melchor Villanueva leans on his countertop he can see his whole world under his hands. The counter’s glass surface displays photos of his community: young soccer players, teens in their coming-of-age quince años finest, and bandanna-wearing fishermen. Many descend from survivors of Hurricane Janet, which in 1955 killed a third of the population of Xcalak, a beach town on the Mexico-Belize border, and destroyed the town’s coconut plantations. “It left only sand,” Villanueva recalls. Continue reading

Ensayo y error en un pueblo playero de México

Cuando el dueño de la tienda de abastos Melchor Villanueva se inclina sobre el mostrador puede ver todo su mundo bajo sus manos. El vidrio del mostrador muestra fotos de su comunidad: jóvenes futbolistas, jóvenes vestidas con sus mejores galas para sus fiestas de quince años, y pescadores con pañuelos contra el sol. Muchos descienden de los supervivientes del huracán Janet, que en 1955 mató a una tercera parte de la población de Xcalak, una ciudad costera en la frontera de México con Belice, y destruyó las plantaciones de cocoteros del pueblo. “Acá dejó solo arena”, recuerda Villanueva. Continue reading