In the state of Campeche in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula lives a 55-year old Mayan Beekeeper by the name of Leydy Pech. She is one of six grassroots environmental activists who has been honored with the 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize.
The prize is known as the Goldman Environmental Prize – Green Nobel Prize, and it is considered a great honor to receive one. One of her fellow recipients is an indigenous Waorani woman from the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest, Nemonte Nenquimo, who was also one of the top 100 most influential people this year by Time Magazine. Nenquimo campaigned and achieved a court ruling that protects 500,000 acres of rainforest and Waorani terriroty from oil industry disruption.
This 4:33-minute video by Goldman Environmental Prize is about Leydy Pech, 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize, Mexico.
In the same way, Pech raised awareness and formed a coalition in her hometown of Hopelchén, to address the dangers of genetically modified planting by a large corporation. Monsanto is an agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation that is heavily involved in genetically modified planting. In 2012, the Mexican government gave this company permission to plant genetically modified soybeans in Campeche and six other Mexican states.
In Campeche, as many as 25,000 mainly Indigenous families reply on the honey business. Mexico is the sixth-largest honey-producing country in the world, according to EcoWatch.
The government had not consulted with indigenous and local communities so in response, Pech formed a coalition of beekeepers, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and activists, and they filed a lawsuit against the Mexican government. Their research on those plots produced evidence of glyphosate and the effects of the chemical, which is used in the pesticide Roundup, in the urine of people in her hometown as well as in their water supply, according to EcoWatch.
Unable to sit by, knowing what was going on, Leydy decided it was her responsibility. She felt that not doing anything would be like betraying her own identity.
In 2015, the Supreme Court of Mexico ruled unanimously that Indigenous communities must be consulted prior to any planting of genetically modified soy, thanks to her efforts. The permits that had been granted to Monsanto in Campeche and Yucatán states were cancelled, and Monsanto’s permits to grow genetically modified soy was later revoked in seven states by Mexico’s Food and Agricultural Service, according to EcoWatch. It took five years to finally win and stop Monsanto and their genetically modified soybeans.
Pech is a beekeeper and works with the rare, domesticated stingless native bee species melipona beecheii. These gentle bees have been cultivated by the Mayan people for centuries and are now endangered. We recently wrote the blog post, Maya Beekeepers in Mexico Hard Hit by Tropical Storm Cristóbal, where we discussed these bees. Pech also manages a shop that is part of an organization she founded in 1995 with other women from her town, Hopelchén, AIDA reported. The store is called Koolel-Kab, or “women who work with bees.” She learned beekeeping from her grandfather and had to break through barriers in a trade that was mainly a man’s world.
Leydy told AIDA that in a world where only men have been able to make decisions and speak, she has broken with that tradition and she has been questioned. The organization was told they wouldn’t achieve anything, but they persisted and demonstrated their abilities. As the men saw the results of their work, the organization was publicly recognized as an example of struggle and success.