Community Empowerment and Resilience in the Chinantla: Building Capacity for Locally-Led Forest Monitoring

EcoLogic Development Fund
Published: 16 July 2021
Last edited: 16 July 2021
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Summary

This solution responds to deforestation and habitat loss in the tropical forests in the mountainous Chinantla region of northern Oaxaca, Mexico, while improving the livelihoods of the region’s primarily indigenous residents. The ecologically significant forests of the Chinantla include the last remaining cloud forests and the third-largest rainforest in Mexico, and are part of the Mesoamerican global biodiversity hotspot. The Chinantla region is also recognized by the Mexican government as a Priority Region for Conservation. Both the landscape and its indigenous residents -- who have a long history of poverty and socioeconomic marginalization -- are growing increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Through a collaboration between EcoLogic Development Fund and its local partner, the Fondo Ambiental Regional de la Chinantla (FARCO), this solution focuses on forest restoration, reducing pressure on forest resources, community-led protection of land, capacity building, and sustainable forest income generation.

Classifications

Region
North America
Scale of implementation
Local
Ecosystem
Agro-ecosystem
Agroforestry
Forest ecosystems
Tropical evergreen forest
Theme
Adaptation
Agriculture
Food security
Forest Management
Health and human wellbeing
Indigenous people
Land management
Local actors
Mitigation
Protected area management planning
Restoration
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Challenges
Drought
Extreme heat
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Ecosystem loss
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Physical resource extraction
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Lack of food security
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land

Location

La Chinantla Region, Oaxaca, Mexico
Santa María Jacatepec, Oaxaca, Mexico

Challenges

Environmental: 

  • Loss of forest land to forest fires, illegal logging, and government seizure

  • Forest degradation

  • Local ecosystem increasingly vulnerable to effects of climate change, including droughts and extreme heat

  • Biodiversity and habitats threatened

  • Communities lacked the skills and capacities to collect the data necessary to qualify for national environmental stewardship incentive programs

Socioeconomic:

  • Pressures from outside groups to develop land for ranching and agricultural cash crops

  • Indigenous residents have long history of poverty and socioeconomic marginalization

  • Community members have limited choices for earning an income, and are often driven to income-generating activities that are harmful to the environment

  • Food insecurity

  • Lack of land sovereignty for indigenous residents living in or near forests

Beneficiaries

  • The rural and predominantly indigenous men, women, and children in the communities in the Chinantla region (approximately 85,976 people)
  • Future generations who will inhabit the communities, and engage with the ecosystem

How do the building blocks interact?

We only work with communities who have asked for our help, so first we identify the communities that have expressed a need in terms of threats to their local ecosystems or livelihoods (BB1). We then work with the community to develop a contextually appropriate plan to address these environmental and livelihood needs (BB2). We help the communities gain access to training, tools, skills, and financial and technical support. We believe the local residents living in or near the threatened forests are in the best position to protect them, so through capacity-building we empower community members to take ownership and engage in community-led forest monitoring and protection (BB3). The “guardians” of the forests whom we train can share knowledge with and inspire their family members, neighbors, and community members to protect the forests. Agroforestry and forest restoration (BB4) are another key aspect of this plan. Reforestation helps restore degraded land, contributing to a more stable climate and better resilience against climate change. Agroforestry provides greater food security and increased economic opportunities, while resulting in better soil health and decreased pressure on forest resources and water sources.

Impacts

Environmental Impacts:

  • Forest cover maintained and increased in 8,000 ha in two municipalities in the Chinantla

  • Reforestation of degraded land contributes to greenhouse gas emission uptake, contributing to a more stable climate and greater resilience to effects of climate change

  • Biodiversity and habitats are protected through monitoring and restoration of forests

  • Community members empowered with technical capacities to collect scientific forest monitoring data through workshops and training, thus enabling them to qualify for environmental stewardship incentive payment programs 

Socioeconomic Impacts:

  • Sustainable livelihood activities (agroforestry plots, small enterprises, etc.) provide new income opportunities for communities, and shift reliance away from forest resources 

  • Improved food security through adoption of practices such as agroforestry and establishment of home and community gardens

  • Land sovereignty reestablished for community members

  • Overall well-being of residents improved through greater economic and food security

Story

EcoLogic Development Fund

“I care for the land because the land takes care of me and gives me life, water, and food. Even when I do it as a volunteer, I proudly wear my shirt to show I am part of the monitoring brigade from my community.”- Andrés Sánchez, Age 60, Vega del Sol

 

"The home gardens and agroecology initiatives are a big help for the local economy, it's so great when you're already harvesting... but first you have to sow and that requires a lot of work but we will do it again." - Carmen Gutierrez, San José Chiltepec

 

“I see the certification as an example to follow to say: you are conserving without destroying the area to which the certificate is given... It has to be written down how many hectares and the location of the area we are conserving. We make a commitment and we do keep it... to take care of that area for 10 or more years”. -Abel Delfin, Santa María Jacatepec

Contributed by

Barbara Vallarino EcoLogic Development Fund

Other contributors

EcoLogic Development Fund
Fondo Ambiental Regional de La Chinantla
Fondo Ambiental Regional de La Chinantla