Food and water security in ejidos around the Tacaná Volcano, Mexico

Published: 30 April 2019
Last edited: 01 October 2020
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To reduce the vulnerability to climate change of communities in the surrounding landscape of the Tacaná Volcano Biosphere Reserve, EbA measures were implemented with two communities: La Azteca and Alpujarras. Communities are organized as ejidos, which is a land-tenure structure in Mexico. 


The solution aimed to improve resilience of both the cloud forest and the agroforestry coffee production in order to face storms and heavy rains causing erosion, landslides and causing loss of lives, impacts to water springs, and agricultural production.


This combination of measures would improve water capture, reduce water erosion, and additional food products will be obtained for family consumption and comertialization. Actions were taken through state, federal and project funds to ensure sustainability in the medium term.


North America
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
River, stream
Temperate deciduous forest
Erosion prevention
Forest Management
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Local actors
Water provision and management
Other theme
Ecosystem services
Food security
Indigenous People
Science and Research
Sustainable livelihoods
Watershed management
Volcanic eruption
Sustainable development goals
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge


Cacahoatán, Chiapas, Mexico | ejidos La Azteca and Alpujarras, Tacaná Volcano Biosphere Reserve, Chiapas, Mexico


  • The area is subject to storms, strong winds, more frequent droughts and heat waves, floods and changes in rainfall patterns. This reduces the availability and quality of water and favours the incidence of pests, producing crop losses (mostly coffee and corn). In the future, more storms, hurricanes, plagues and landslides are expected.
  • Water erosion is a problem that impacts many downstream communities. If mesophilic forests are replaced by temporary agriculture in the upper basin, soil loss could increase up to 240%.
  • > 60% of cloud forest tree species are in some category of threat.
  • Sustainable development in the upper basin faces challenges, such as limited road access, heavy dependence on agriculture (especially coffee) and contamination of water bodies due to poor waste management.
  • Ejido community members need more capacities and knowledge regarding EbA options as well as opportunities to elevate their adaptation needs before government entities.


  • 211 families from the ejidos La Azteca (91) and Alpujarras (120)
  • Municipality of Cacahoatán
  • Downstream communities affected by the effects of deforestation in the upper basin (less water, greater risk of disasters and sedimentation on the coast).

How do the building blocks interact?

The solution in ejidos of the Cahoacán and Coatán basins, Chiapas, is presented in 3 Building Blocks (BB) that combine field actions, monitoring, exchange of experiences, participation, planning and the valuing of ecosystem services.

The implementation of EbA measures (BB2) is combined with the strengthening of governance for adaptation (BB3) under a "learning by doing" approach (BB1).

Promoting access by the ejidos to Payments for Environmental Services helps to encourage the application of EbA measures (reforestation, surveillance, soil conservation and productive diversification) in degraded forests of hydrological priority. Different practices are tested to increase the resilience of ecosystems and food security, which can be monitored and evaluated over time.

At the community level, a process of collective learning and empowerment is generated that includes the acquisition of knowledge on vulnerability, EbA, food and water security (BB1 and 2) and legal and policy frameworks relevant to climate change (BB3). Thus, progress is made in the governance of the ejidos and their capacity for political advocacy and accessing financial resources, which ultimately strengthens their capacity for climate change adaptation.


  • Greater knowledge of ejido leaders on EbA and sustainable forest management.
  • EbA measures that favour water and food security implemented with 211 families from the La Azteca and Alpujarras ejidos, mainly:
  1. soil conservation
  2. reforestation with native species in areas of common use (1012 ha of degraded mesophyll forests and areas with water sources in La Azteca).
  3. agroforestry systems (276 ha) in productive plots of Alpujarras.
  • Synergies with other efforts (eg. IUCN’s Cahoacán Project and CONAFOR’s restoration program) in particular to promote access to Payments for Environmental Services (1288 ha).
  • Collaboration between the ejidos La Azteca and Agua Caliente for the joint reforestation of 294 ha of degraded forests. 
  • Initial research on the benefits of EbA for food security using a Monitoring and Evaluation methodology with 20 families (10 from each ejido).
  • Strengthening of ejido Assemblies as a participatory social platform for the protection of forests.
  • Participatory preparation of a Local Strategy for Sustainable Development under Climate Change in the La Azteca ejido.
  • EbA priorities and vulnerability studies of the La Azteca and Alpujarras ejidos presented at the state level.



The ejidos La Azteca (91 families) and Alpujarras (120 families) are located in the upper basin of the Coatán River and the middle basin of the Cahoacán River, respectively, within the Tacaná Volcano Biosphere Reserve. In the area mainly coffee is grown, but also corn, beans and wheat for subsistence. Although there, cattle raising is of low intensity, it is widely practiced extensively and open grazing in the highest parts of the volcano has been practiced for decades without regulation. Added to this threat, there are also forest fires and extreme weather events such as hurricane Stan, which hit the region in 2005 and was highly damaging, causing crop and animal losses and damages to homes.


According to the Reserve Management Program (2014), measures are required to restore forests, conserve water and soils, stop the advancement of the agricultural frontier and raise resiliency or the natural response capacity to extreme events expected to increase in frequency and magnitude in the future. Through the protection of ecosystems and work with producers in agroforestry systems and best agricultural practices, promoted through a system of Payment for Environmental Services, this solution serves precisely these needs in two basins associated with the Tacaná Volcano.


Mr. Antonio Hernández Salas, member of the ejido La Azteca (Chiapas, Mexico): "We are caring for our forests so that, in this area, water recharge does not decrease. We know that with this vital liquid we can do many things and that is why we are alive and thriving, because we maintain our waters.

We have changed coffee varieties from Bourbons or Arab to "catimor" or "caturra" that are smaller and more resistant; we have exchanged experiences in Guatemala and in Oaxaca to understand how to mitigate climate change impacts.


That is why we are working shoulder to shoulder for the conservation of our environment, our natural resources and our forests. We have 1500 ha of land that are regenerating water, the waters have dried up in March-April in other communities because they do not have good management and care for the environment, but in our community of La Azteca we have never suffered from this situation.


I am infinitely grateful that we always exchange ideas, make questions, expand information, I always learn more and that I take with me to strengthen my community more."

Contributed by

MARTACLAUDIA.PEREZ_36296's picture

Marta Pérez de Madrid

Other contributors

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)