Social Impact of the Mesquite industry in Argentina
For local families, the supplemental income earned from collecting and selling the mesquite pods greatly assists families to purchase school supplies, repair homes and provide basic necessities.
Mesquite, known as algarrobos in Argentina, is highly valued and provides many benefits for the local people. The nodules on the roots (they are legumes) help improve soil quality, the wood from the tree is used to make high quality furniture, and the sweet pods are a food source for humans and livestock. In addition, the trees provide shade for humans and animal which is essential as summer temperatures can reach 110° F or higher in the summer. In the original Indian Quechan language the mesquite trees were known as “taco” which translates to “The Tree” expressing the importance native people gave the mesquite trees.
Unfortunately, over the last 80 years mesquite trees have been overharvested for their wood to make fine furniture and flooring with little efforts being made towards reforestation and sustainability. In addition, in the region of Argentina where the mesquite production facility is located, nearly 700,000 acres of native forests have been bulldozed to plant GMO soybeans. Increase demand for mesquite flour is one way to help slow the continued destruction of the mesquite forests and protect the trees.
Since 1980 Casa de Mesquite partner Peter has been providing technical assistance to universities and government agencies in Argentina in the preservation and genetic improvement of the Argentine mesquites. A very strong collaboration has been developed with Mauricio Ewens, Director of the Forestry Station of the Catholic University of Santiago del Estero. After 20 years research, Peter and Mauricio have established a replicated trial of 12 different grafted mesquite trees that have been selected for flavor, high production of pods, and rapid growth. A video of the incredible pod yield obtained at 8 years of age is shown in the video below.
Additional crosses have been made between the best grafted trees for form, insect and disease resistance. Molecular genetic techniques are currently being used to more rapidly develop improved varieties. There are 50,000 acres of agricultural land that has been abandoned in this area due to irrigation mismanagement that has resulted in soils that are too salty for traditional row crops but that are perfectly fine for these mesquites. The mesquite are rejuvenating these soils and improving the sustainability of agriculture.
As the market for mesquite flour grows these new grafted trees and plantation management techniques will be of great importance in guaranteeing a continual supply of wonderful tasting mesquite flour and ensuring the viability of a sustainable industry for families with scarce resources