Far away from home


Story of Paseano Gómez López

Paseano Gomez Lopez, a farmer from Chiapas State, Mexico, leaves for work. Assistance from FAO’s PESA project meant that Paseano is now able to make a living off of his farm. ©Alex Webb/Magnum Photos for FAO

Paseano Gómez López is a farmer from Nuevo Sonora, Chiapas state, Mexico.

He grows corn and chili peppers.

But to cultivate fields, farmers need money to buy supplies. They are often forced to take loans at high interest rates (10-20 percent). Sometimes, the farm’s yields don’t even cover the costs and they fall into debt.

Farmers in Mexico are also battling with poor soil and high altitudes; it’s difficult to grow crops.

“That's when you think about migrating - to improve your life, to send your children to school,” explains Paseano. “The situation is very difficult because of the poverty that is here in this country.”

As part of the PESA project, farmers learned how to improve soil fertility with compost. They also received training in raising livestock. ©Alex Webb/Magnum Photos for FAO

This is why Paseano decided to leave. He went to Virginia and Florida in the United States of America, where he worked for 10 months picking different types of tomatoes.

“You feel sad when you are away from home. You feel far away from your family."

"I worried about them – about my wife, my children, and they were worried about me. You keep wondering how they are doing,” he says.

After the 10 months, he returned to Mexico. Paseano became involved in the FAO-supported Strategic Food Security Project (Proyecto Estratégico para la Seguridad Alimentaria) or PESA. The aim of the project is simple: to make farmers’ lives better by helping them find ways to support themselves from agriculture and off-farming opportunities.

Paseano has been able to save money now. He hopes this can help support his family in the future. ©Alex Webb/Magnum Photos for FAO

“Now, I can stay here to take care of my crops because of the support I got. I have everything here, and I can save some money.”

Apart from support to grow better crops, Paseano’s family also received chickens and sheep.

“We no longer need to buy chickens, sheep or eggs. Sometimes, we can also sell the surplus. Our life has changed. I no longer have to borrow money. Now I have my own resources. My son finished high school and is now studying at the university,” he concludes.


The PESA project was rolled out to poor rural areas of the Oaxacan and Chiapas states. These two states have some of the highest rates of migration in the country with people moving to the USA or within Mexico to find work.

With the support of the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, the PESA project was implemented to enhance the food security of the most vulnerable groups in the most marginal regions of the country. This approach seeks to improve food production while also bettering living conditions and dietary habits.

Through this project, farmers learned how to use compost to improve soil fertility, produce honey, raise livestock and set up greenhouses. They now also have better access to water to irrigate their crops.

Migration shouldn’t be the only way to make ends meet. FAO invests in people’s livelihoods to give people the option to stay in their countries with their families. To leave or to stay should always be a choice.