Terres solidaires

Jean-François and Liliane Bavay created the non-profit organisation ‘Terres solidaires’ in 1995 after an agriculture study trip to the United States and Indian communities in the Mexican state of Chiapas. At that time, Mayan communities (Tzotzil and Tzetal Indians) were struggling to make a living cultivating coffee at an altitude of more than 2,000 metres, since they found it hard to sell the coffee due to lack of means and infrastructure.

In 15 years, more than 20,000 people have become self-sufficient, eating at least once or twice a day and acquiring access to a varied diet.

‘Terres solidaires’ has managed to achieve the following :

- to build coffee drying slabs, the first action carried out at the request of the Indians, since previously they had dried the coffee on plastic sheeting and it had tended to rot.

- to buy pulp removing equipment since previously women removed the seeds/beans by hand from the fruit, bloodying their hands.

- to provide local communities with scales which has allowed them at last to receive fair payment for the beans sold (in weight) since before they were frequently cheated by dishonest “coyote” middlemen.

Thanks to these three initiatives, the Indians have seen their proportion of sellable coffee increase from 10% to 90%.


At the same time, ‘Terres solidaires’ has created vegetable gardens at the request of the Indians. It has purchased seeds and everyday equipment for looking after the plots (spades, rakes, garden lines and watering cans). Prior to this, the Indians’ diet was restricted to corn and beans, lacking the right nutritional balance and restricting life expectancy. ‘Terres solidaires’ has reintroduced the potato into the diet of local communities from plants reared at the higher education faculty of Libramont in Belgium. It has also built henhouses and bought hens and given them the required vaccines.

The Indians have been able therefore to share eggs, hens and vegetables between different communities, which has rebuilt social links between them. The non-profit organization has also bought corrugated iron for storehouses where vegetables are protected from the sun and storms and helped to build a school for adults (with toilets, a small kitchen and dormitory), which also doubles as a storehouse for coffee.

At the moment Terres solidaires’s most important project is to buy reservoirs to store water which will be used above all for watering the vegetable gardens, but also for cooking, cleaning and for hygiene. Another priority is to buy pipes to distribute water, something several communities have asked for.

The organisation also plans to build several greenhouses with a drip watering system and to buy 3,000 fruit trees (lemon, peach and orange trees) which will provide shade for the coffee plants and fruit for the consumption of local communities.

Until now, these projects have been financed by the proceeds of parties organised at the Bavays’ farm, conferences, photo exhibitions, meetings and individual donations.

If you wish to make a donation, here is the practical information :

ACCOUNT N° : 103-0170493-35 ASBL " Terres Solidaires " Place du Marché, 7870 Lens, France.