Communities in the municipalities of Texcoco and Tepetlaoxtoc de Hidalgo, just outside of Mexico City, are working together on forest conservation. Several ejidos (or communally managed lands) are cared for by the ejido members (or ejidatarios), who also use forest management to sustain their communities. “We make use of the forest, yes, but we take care of it,” says one of the community members. “This is for everyone: for the youth to come, for the environment”. In addition to authorized sustainable timber harvesting, the ejido members also pick edible mushrooms and medicinal plants.
Keeping the forest healthy
To look after the forest, the ejidatarios split into “brigades” responsible for various tasks, such as, building firebreaks, pruning, and cutting tall grasses. Four technical advisors also work with the community to advise on work needing done. “In a place close to an area as anthropized [transformed by humans] as the metropolitan area, everything that can be done to conserve the forests [which are] the places where water is captured and where forest management is done that allows there to be young trees, which capture the most carbon, is very important, and not just for these communities,” comments Aurelio Bastida, a professor at Chapingo Autonomous University. Looking after local forests is one of many ways people can live more sustainably. Purchasing sustainable clothing and shoes, for example, made from natural, upcycled, or recycled materials can also drastically lighten an individual’s environmental footprint. Moreover, by washing and looking after them correctly, people can extend their shoes’ longevity and avoid needless wear and tear.
Sustainable timber production
Boasting 99 members, the San Juan Totolapan ejido has been responsible for 746 hectares of forest for two decades. To ensure timber is produced sustainably and as authorized by the Mexican Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), they’ve also rolled-out a forest-use program. Devised by technical advisors, the program determines how much timber can be harvested per year and where from. Reforestation plans are also implemented, while profits made from timber sales are put back into forest management and the community. “Streets were paved, the elementary school was improved, [and] the ejido’s assembly hall was constructed. If there is a death, that is where the [money] comes from to help with the funeral, and the same goes for any emergency that any ejidatario has,” says Javier González Chávez, a technical adviser.
The community forest in San Juan Totolapan looks beautiful and well-cared for (ecotourism isn’t practiced in the area, in contrast to nearby communities). However, the community has also faced their fair share of challenges, including, bureaucratic obstacles, as well as dealing with people who don’t understand the community’s purpose and goals. “The people from outside [of the community] denounce them because they believe that they are using up the forest. They don’t know that they are authorized to make use of it,” says J. Carmen Ayala Sosa, a forestry expert from Chapingo Autonomous University. Nevertheless, the ejidatarios are continuing undeterred and remain committed to looking after the land.