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Enhance indigenous agricultural systems to reduce migration

Changes in social and environmental conditions in the Western Highlands of Guatemala undermine food security and job opportunities. We describe how targeted assistance can build upon traditional agricultural systems to increase adaptive capacity, improve nutrition, provide jobs and thereby reduce pressures to migrate.

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Fig. 1: Benefits of milpa systems in the Guatemalan Highlands.
Fig. 2: Beans growing in a milpa system in the Highlands of Guatemala.

Data availability

Additional field reports on bean varieties and trials are available in Spanish from ICTA ( and the Buena Milpa project (


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We thank J. R. Moscoso for providing information on ICTA bean research, C. Contreras of Buena Milpa, and H. Jager and R. Efroymson for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. This publication was made possible through support provided to Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Food Security, under the terms of Contract No. MTO 069018 “The multi-donor trust fund for the CGIAR” as well as through the financial support from the CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) on Wheat Agri-Food Systems (WHEAT) and Maize Agri-Food Systems (MAIZE), and the Smith Center for International Sustainable Agriculture, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the US Agency for International Development or any other institution. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by the UT-Battelle, LLC, for DOE under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725.

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Authors and Affiliations



K.L.K. and V.H.D. contributed equally to conceptualization, preparation of the original draft and revisions; L.F.R., C.S., and S.L.-R. contributed to investigation, project administration, reviews and editing; all authors contributed to funding acquisition.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Virginia H. Dale.

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Competing interests

L.F.R. and C.S. serve as Project Coordinator and Training Coordinator, respectively, for the Buena Milpa Project. The other authors declare no competing interests.

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Kline, K.L., Ramirez, L.F., Sum, C. et al. Enhance indigenous agricultural systems to reduce migration. Nat Sustain 3, 74–76 (2020).

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