International Satoyama Intiative

IPSI, the International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative, promotes collaboration in the conservation and restoration of sustainable human-influenced natural environments (Socio-Ecological Production Landscapes and Seascapes: SEPLS) through broader global recognition of their value.

Forest management through community-based forest enterprises in Ixtlan de Juarez, Oaxaca, Mexico

SUBMITTED ORGANISATION : United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies
DATE OF SUBMISSION : 03/05/2010
CATEGORIES :
  • Group:Forest
REGION : Central America
COUNTRY : Mexico (Juarez, Oaxaca)
Google map: Google Map link to region
SUMMARY : The erosion of biodiversity and natural resources in Mexico has significantly surpassed the outcomes of the conservation initiatives undertaken by the governmental sector, leading to the exploration of new opportunities integrating stakeholders other than governmental agencies. One manifestation of this is the adoption by Ixtlan de Juarez of a local governance system called “Usos y Costumbres” (Uses and Customs), rooted in indigenous systems of community service that give particular importance to elders, open assemblies, and consensus; where in community members constitute the maximum authority that decides on all issues, including forest management.

Local governance structures such as this have contributed to efficient decision-making on major issues related to natural resource management, including the definition of rules governing access to forest resources, the planning and construction of road networks, the production of sawn timber and the obligation of community members to participate in forest conservation activities.

Extending this effort, community-based forest enterprises (CBFEs), such as logging businesses, have made great contributions to forest conservation. Forest resources, used by CBFEs are strictly controlled under the Forestry Management Plan drawn up by the community and authorized by the state government. Locations where trees can be extracted and where they must be protected are clearly stated in the plan, which the logging operators must follow, and profits are reinvested into the community.
KEYWORD : conservation, natural resource management, Mexico
AUTHOR: Ms. Kana Matsuzaki is a Program Officer of Foundation for Advanced Studies on International Development (FASID). Her field of specialty is environment and development, especially integrated /community-based natural resource management. Her experiences in the field are mainly in Africa, where she was engaged in the community forest management and the ecotourism development.

Mr. Bernard Yun Loong Wong works as a consultant for the Satoyama Initiative at the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies. He specialises in forest ecosystem studies, where he combines ecology and history in demonstrating the contributions of past human activities to the establishment of old growth natural forests in Japan. His other interests include the philosophical and cultural aspects of traditional landscape formation, and historical interactions between people and the land.
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In Mexico, deforestation and land degradation due to population growth, past agricultural policies, expansion of the agricultural frontier, over-exploitation, poorly regulated tourism, accelerated economic development, and arbitrary settlement policies have been having a serious impact on terrestrial biodiversity.

As a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Mexico recognizes its obligation with regards to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. However, the erosion of biodiversity and natural resources in Mexico has significantly surpassed the outcomes of the conservation initiatives that have been undertaken by the governmental sector. This has led to the exploration of new opportunities for expanding conservation work by integrating stakeholders other than governmental agencies. In fact, community-based biodiversity conservation in Mexico has expanded rapidly and is also increasingly influencing the policy-making processes due to growing recognition of its importance by state and federal-level conservation agencies, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions.

1. Regional Overview

The Sierra Norte Region of the State of Oaxaca is recognized as the most important region of Mexico for biodiversity conservation, given its high degree of biological richness and endemism (Ovideo, 2002). The ecosystems represented in the area harbor a vast and highly dense number of species of flora and fauna which has attracted the attention of the international scientific community. The region is recognized as a World Heritage biodiversity “hotspot” with more than 8,400 plant, 736 bird, 190 mammal, 245 reptile and 1,103 butterfly species. Endemism is also high and there are many rare endangered animal and plant species, including several species of the Cycadaceae family. Although the region is rich in biodiversity and its importance has been recognized, it has increasingly faced the risks of deforestation and other human interventions, as seen in other regions of Mexico.

In the last few years, community-based biodiversity protection and conservation, in particular forest conservation activities, in Oaxaca have expanded in number, geographic coverage and diversity of approach.

Photo 1: Ixtlan de Juarez

Photo 1: Ixtlan de Juarez

2. Policy Reformation and Concerns about Environmental Conservation

Until 1986, the incentives for sustainable forest and natural resource use were perverse since commercial wood extraction relied upon a system of industrial concessions or inefficient state laws. During that period, there were little incentives for long-term sustainability or diversification of natural resource utilization. Although indigenous communities or ejidos (communities located on land granted to landless peasants after the Mexican Revolution) had legal ownership of much of the country’s forestland, they were not able to utilize their own lands freely due to the pressure from the commercial use. Adding to that, past agricultural policies promoted the clearing of forests for subsistence and commercial agriculture or cattle-rearing. In the early 1990s, a series of policy reforms in the agricultural sector eliminated previous distortions in prices, livestock and input subsidies, and trade policies, and reformed the land administration system to strengthen land markets, while preserving ejido and indigenous community tenure. As part of this sectoral reform, a new Forestry Law was passed in 1986 and revised in 1992, providing the legal framework for indigenous community and ejido management of forests within their boundaries, based on a Forest Management Plan requiring government approval.

Once rural communities in Mexico acquired legal rights over their territories and natural heritage, they also developed local statutory powers for decision making on natural resource utilization, especially on the use of forest resources. These powers are embodied in community statutes, which are legally recognized under the political constitution in Mexico and are based on the implementation of effective conservation and sustainable use activities at the community level.

Photo 2: Timber factory managed by the communities in Ixtlan de Juarez

Photo 2: Timber factory managed by the communities in Ixtlan de Juarez

3. Community-based forest management in Ixtlan de Juarez

Community-based forest management (CBFM) in Ixtlan de Juarez was examined here for multiple reasons. CBFM comes in many forms that combine the socio-economic control resulting from a community forest structure with ecosystem-based forest management. Ecosystem-based resource management recognizes whole systems and integrated ecological, social and economic considerations at various scales across the landscape. For these reasons, community-based forestry is highly expected to contribute to the maintenance of forest cover and other ecosystem processes while providing economic benefits to the community. In addition, the community has applied their traditional governance system in managing the landscape. It is expected that community forests provides aesthetic benefits, wildlife habitat, watershed protection, sustainable management of timber and endemic specific conservation through traditional forest resource utilization.

3.1 Integration of Traditional Governing Systems and Modern Forest Management

The Ixtlan de Juarez municipality has adopted a traditional local governance system distinct from the state or national government system, called the Usos y Costumbres (Uses and Customs) system. Usos y Costumbres is rooted in indigenous systems of community service that give particular importance to elders, open assemblies, and consensus. The Asamblea General (General Assembly) consists of community members and is the maximum authority that decides on all issues related to the local community, including forest management.

Local governance structures have contributed to efficient decision-making on major issues related to natural resource management, including the definition of rules governing access to forest resources, the planning and construction of road networks, the production of sawn timber and the obligation of community members to participate in forest conservation activities.

Figure 1: the flow of the community-based forest enterprises profits within the community

Figure 1: the flow of the community-based forest enterprises profits within the community

3.2 Community-based Forest Enterprises as the Forest Conservation Method

In this area, community-based forest enterprises (CBFEs), like logging businesses, have made a great contribution to forest conservation. Forest resources, especially trees, used by CBFEs are strictly controlled under the Forestry Management Plan drawn up by the community and authorized by the state government. In fact, locations where trees can be extracted and where they must be protected are clearly stated in the plan, which the logging operators must follow.

The profits from the CBFEs are reinvested to provide social benefits such as roads, school buildings and rural medical centers, as well as into the enterprise’s infrastructure such as trucks, sawmills, cranes, etc. They are also distributed equally among community members. The way in which profits are reinvested is decided by the Asemblea General (figure 1).

Forest resources are utilized in accordance with the Plan as well as under the governance of the Asemblea General. Simultaneously, the community generates economic and social benefits through such forest management.

3.3 Links between Various Stakeholders

Although the community manages their forests through autonomous decision-making in Ixtlan de Juarez, the federal government also has to get involved in forest management through regulatory and supportive institutions such as the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources ( Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, SEMARNAT) and the National Forestry Commission ( Comision Nacional Forestal, CONAFOR). While SEMARNAT is a normative body that engages in forest regulation, CONAFOR is responsible for all activities related to the promotion and preservation of the country’s forests. The community has a good relationship with the government sector. Consequently, it has received subsidies from the government to engage in forest conservation activities. Also, the community receives support from various non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is one of the main international NGOs that has offered to provide training to strengthen the capacity of local forest technicians and consultants, and has promoted and developed community-based ecotourism.

A review of the literature and a field study indicates that CBFM in Ixtlan de Juarez has been operated effectively by the community, based on their traditional decision-making structure and in cooperation with various stakeholders. CBFM makes it possible not only to utilize forest resources in a sustainable way, but also to provide socio-economical benefits to the community. Therefore, the case of Ixtlan de Juarez highlights one of the ways to foster forest conservation and provide socio-economic benefits to the community in a sustainable manner.

References

Ovideo G. (2002) The Community Protected Natural Areas in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico. WWF, Gland, Switzerland.

This study was conducted as part of the program activities of the Satoyama Initiative, United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies.