is one of the most important farming systems in the history of Latin America.
Located in Central America, it extends from Central Mexico to the Panama Canal
and covers the areas of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and
Costa Rica down to the Gulf of Nicoya (Kassam, 2003). Mesoamerica has an
estimated population of 77 million inhabitants and more than 11 million are
estimated to be smallholder farmers and over 14 million herds of cattle (Dixon,
2001). Maize and beans are grown for both home consumption and commercial
purposes and these crops are the major source of energy requirement for
majority of the household, with roughly a fifth of national bean production
exported to countries like El Salvador, Venezuela and the United States (FAO, 2001).
More than 60 percent of the world bank funded projects have been to improve the
production of beef and about 30 percent was meant to improve swine, sheep and
poultry production (Jarvis, 1991). With the development of new technology and adoption
of new farming techniques such as shifting cultivation, intercropping, irrigation
and land reclamation; the area is projected to produce abundant food that would
counter the increasing demand for food for the next decades. Although much of
the cultivation is still reliant on rainfed agriculture, the famers also
practice irrigation, with an estimated irrigated land of about 2.4 million
hectares (40 %) outside the irrigated farm system and the harvest from
irrigated farms (6 tons/ha) is much higher than the harvest from the rainfed
farms (1-2 tons/ha), (Dixon, 2001). In Mexico, about 50 percent of maize is
grown under this system (FAO, 2001) while Nicaragua is among the leading
suppliers of beans into the world market (Gourdji et al., 2015).