Strengthening community management and livestock farmers' livelihoods for conserving high mountain forests and grasslands of Mexico

Juana  Martínez Hernández
Published: 30 July 2021
Last edited: 30 July 2021
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The high mountain region in the transmexican volcanic belt  has faced great amounts of pasture degradation, deforestration and biodiversity loss. These losses were the product of years of bad agricultural practices, technology exclusion and underrated ecosystem services. Such practices have threatened the rural livelihoods causing a damaged inter-community relationship. Following these concerns a project was implemented in 7 different communities within the natural protected areas of the transmexican volcanic belt. The project focussed on an "ecosystem-based approach" known as "EbA". The main objective of the project was to reconstruct the local relationships within the communities so people could value ecosystem services through a more holistic perspective, so they could have a better understanding of nature and its importance. Through these main drivers the project aimed to increase the ecological resilience of the area and mitigate climate change impacts.


North America
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
Rangeland / Pasture
Temperate evergreen forest
Tundra or montane grassland
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Ecosystem services
Gender mainstreaming
Health and human wellbeing
Land management
Local actors
Protected and conserved areas governance
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Sustainable livelihoods
Increasing temperatures
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Ecosystem loss
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Inefficient management of financial resources
Infrastructure development
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of technical capacity
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Lack of infrastructure
Sustainable development goals
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 3: Incentives reformed
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with associations


Nevado de Toluca, Parque Nacional Nevado de Toluca, Zinacantepec, México 51393, Mexico | APFF Nevado de Toluca, APRN Valle de Bravo, PN Lagunas de Zempoala, APFF Corredor Chichinautzin, PN El Tepozteco, PN Iztaccíhuatl-Popocatépetl, PN La Malinche


The main challenges faced were: land and forest degradation, biodiversity loss, social conflicts, unemployment and poverty, extreme climatic conditions (drought and frost), lack of alternative income opportunities, lack of infrastructure, gender inequality, productive exclusion and technological exclusion. 


7 comunities within and outside the natural protected areas benefited; 682 women and men acquired  better management practices, which they implemented to achieve better grazing and livestock farming practices. 

How do the building blocks interact?

The buildiing blocks are integrated in order to achieve an approach known as Comprehensive and  Holistic Management of Natural Resources, which is a variation of landscape management and ecosystem restoration. The first block generates a baseline through the  analysis of social vulnerability to climate impacts at the local level in natural protected areas. Based on the above, generated alternatives aim to unite ecological approaches to social, economic and cultural considerations such as governanc and inter-community relations. The proposals are created in the Farmer Field Schools (FFS), working jointly with the farmers and  facilitators. Through improving previous practices, it reduces the pressure on the rangelands and forests of the region. These practices are the means that support communities and help them improve their productivity and family incomes. Furthermore, actions regarding food conservation are integrated to avoid long periods of food shortage. Guidance regarding proper use of fire in grasslands and forests is also part of the project and aims to reduce the pressure on biodiversity in the high mountains regions.


The project implementation topics were: community social inclusion, gender equity, participation and capacity building,
grazing management and, finally, the introduction of new types of forages that reduce vulnerability due to lack of food for livestock in the region.


Alejandra Villagran

The family Hernandez Ambrosio has dedicated their entire lives into sheep production within the protected area known as "Izta-popo". They have followed this practice as a mean to cover family expenses. Before the project was implemented, women needed to graze for more than 8 hours a day through the forests and pastures. Under this system, the family maintained 150 animals without understanding their productive cycles, having a 50% production out of the total capacity and having sales less than once a year. In addition, these grazing methods led to extensive deforestation and overexploitation of natural resources. These producers are highly vulnerable to droughts, excess rain in short periods, frosts and hailstorms that control their production models.

In 2017 the project, Conservation of Biodiversity in the Neovolcanic Axis implemented by the Natural Protected Areas Commission of Mexico with support of the GIZ, started a collaborative project. This project consisted on the characterization of livestock in mountain areas. In addition, actions were implemented to decrease  vulnerability to climate change  in order to improve current production, as well as create more sustainable alternatives. As well, the project promoted gender equity and inclusion, to create better intra-family relations and community relations. 

Today the family Hernandez has benefited through the trainings related to sustainable livestock farming and better grazing practices. They have created a holistic perspective of the natural resources and have increased the aggregated value given to these. They have decreased the quantity of animals needed for production, increasing productivity. They diversified agricultural crops and have carried new methods for forage conservation to decrease climate change vulnerability. In addition, they have made more profitable income through livestock production which has converted this activity to become a more inclusive practice. 

Finally, the project increased productivity by reducing the quantity of animals needed, it reduced opportunity cost by decreasing grazing time to make it more productive, and as a product, these increased the time farmers spent with their families. Now farmers have less losses, selling at first $1,500MXN, and now $2,750MXN per sheep. Clients have also recognized the aggregated value of the producers as they now follow sustainable practices. 

Contributed by

dmendez.bellamy_38364's picture

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit - GIZ México

Other contributors

Antonio de la Cruz González
Rancho Cruxtitla