Mexican Community Creates a Sustainable Forest and a Sustainable Future16/01/2013
Mexico is the fifth most biodiverse country on our planet. It is home to a wide range of flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth. It is particularly rich in forest species with over one thousand native tree species alone. Mexico’s forest cover 28.6 per cent of its land surface – compared to just 13 per cent in the UK – but it also has one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation.
The Rainforest Alliance is working with local communities across Mexico to stop this destruction, helping them secure a sustainable future for their forests, their children and themselves. Stuart Singleton-White, our Senior Manager External Communications recently visited one such community in the Oaxaca region of Mexico. Here is what he found…
The Ixtepeji Community Forest Park lies 8,000 feet up in the Serra Madre Del Sur Mountains. To reach it requires a 45-minute drive out of the city of Oaxaca climbing and climbing through an increasing remote landscape of small agriculture and pine forest, along mountain roads that twist and turn back and forth and then back again. This was not a ride for the timid and squeamish. As I looked out from the bus window I often found myself looking directly over a sheer drop with the valley bottom hundreds of feet below. I was so glad I wasn’t driving, particularly when we encountered trucks full of logs hurtling towards us down the mountain.
The community forest park covers a total area of 21,372 hectares and is run by the local Zapotec community, who took over responsibility for the area from the Mexican government. In fact almost 80 per cent of Mexico’s forests are now under the legal jurisdiction of local communities. For the Ixtepeji community this means a greater say in how their forest is managed and the economic activities that take place there. With much of that management under the guidance of a management committee nominated by the community themselves. Those economic activities include logging, for which the community has gained FSC accreditation through the Rainforest Alliance.
This means that the area of the forest open for timber extraction, approximately 3,834 hectares, is operated on a 10-year rotation with selective extraction taking place in each area once a decade, and while the community does plant trees, a great deal of the management focuses on the natural regeneration of the forest.
But it’s not only timber that provides an income for the community. Another 1,924 hectares is managed to allow the sustainable extraction of other forest products such as ferns, bromeliads and mosses – a vital component of any Mexican family’s nativity scene.
In 2003 the community set aside 1,200 hectares of the park for the development of an ecotourism enterprise, situated in the heart of 2,521 hectares of fully protected forest.
Today they provide holiday accommodation through nine family-sized cabins and an accommodation block of eight rooms, allowing tourists to get a real natural Mexican experience; whether hiking, bird watching or simply relaxing in such a beautiful environment.
What I saw in Ixtepeji was a great example of sustainability in action. This is forest management that isn’t simply preserving protected forest. This is a dynamic and productive environment, conserving the best in biodiversity while ensuring a community is able to work in harmony with nature. A community able to provide livelihoods to its members both for today’s generation and tomorrows, while allowing that community to keep its roots planted deep in its ancestral soil alongside their majestic trees.