Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, Yucatan, Campeche, Quintana Roo Mexico
Amigos de Calakmul Community REDD+ Program – Mexico
About the Project
The Amigos de Calakmul (ACAC) Community Forestry REDD+ Project provides critical resources and incentives for the indigenous landowner communities, known as Ejidos, to protect their forests through the sale of carbon credits and other funding sources. The Program Area is located around the Buffer Zone of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve (CBR), on the Yucatán Peninsula in the Campeche state of Mexico. Livelihood options for Ejidos living in the Buffer Zone are extremely limited. Due to land-use regulations, the only development activity allowed is sustainable low impact logging, however the income from these actives often is not enough to meet the subsistence needs of the communities, let alone allow for economic growth. As a result, the local Ejido communities are often forced to turn to illegal, environmentally destructive activities, such as slash-and-burn agriculture, to make a living. In the face of severe economic decline, Ejidos may also sell or lease the land to timber companies or other agro-economic corporations, whose practices threaten forest health and the biodiversity of this region.
In order to provide a viable income alternative to leasing their land for unsustainable practices, ACAC offers competitive, permanent conservation lease agreements with the Ejidos. These agreements allow the Ejidos to maintain ownership of their forests and require them to refrain from engaging in environmentally destructive activities. In return, combined with profits generated from the sale of carbon credits, the conservation agreements ensure that Ejidos receive annual compensation that is either equivalent to or, in many cases, greater than what they would receive from leasing their land to a logging operation.
The primary objectives of this project are three-fold:
- mitigate climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from land use activities that result in deforestation and forest degradation;
- improve community livelihoods, especially women, by providing alternative livelihood activities and carbon finance, and;
- contribute to biodiversity conservation by protecting forests and assisting in natural regeneration of forests as a means of improving wildlife habitat in the Program Area.
The Ejidos families engaged in the project will have income generating opportunities both in the forest extensions and within their towns. The protection activities within the forest areas include community patrolling, which is performed by the Ejidos after they receive training and support on enforcement practices and field-based technology. Support is also provided for Ejidos to develop businesses from the sustainable production of non-timber forest products, such as resins, honey and medicinal plants, providing new employment and income generating activities for the Ejidos families. Project activities also support improving agricultural practices and social programs. Many Ejidos live on subsistence-based farms and depend on adequate crop production for food security. Activities will include promotion of agroforestry systems and conservation agriculture to improve yields and crop diversity, while increasing climate resilience. The project may also implement other important social programs, such as water management, clinics and educational services, depending on available funding. Gender empowerment and inclusion is a key component in the implementation of program activities. As studies demonstrate, the inclusion of women in conservation and training on improvements in agricultural production techniques leads to lower migration rates and improved livelihoods overall for Ejidos families. As part of the terms of the conservation agreements, women are required to be fully represented in the governance of the Ejidos and provided direct access to the benefits of the project.
The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve (CBR) is the largest remaining tropical rainforest in Mexico and serves as a biological corridor for diverse species and their migration between the Yucatán Peninsula and the Guatemalan Peten to the South. The area is used by thousands of neo-tropical birds, before and after winter migrations, as a respite and nourishment site. The CBR is home to more than 60,000 species of flora and fauna, including more than 1,600 species of plants, 350 species of birds, 94 mammal species, 50 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and 18 fish species. Roughly 160 of these species are considered endangered. Additionally, this area is home to approximately 500 jaguars and is one of the only places in Central America large enough to maintain a viable jaguar population. Increasing pressures, driven by the conversion of forests to agricultural land, poses severe threats to this biodiversity hotspot. Thus, the protection of these forests through this REDD+ program is vital to preserving the biodiversity of the region.
The Amigos de Calakmul Community Forestry REDD+ Program’s climate benefits can be divided into two main categories: Mitigation of deforestation and the resulting release of emissions and facilitating the adaptation of local communities to new sustainable practices. The forests in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve provide a number of vital ecosystem services, such as purifying air, regulating temperature and storing water. In the absence of the project, deforestation would continue in the Program Area, greatly diminishing the important services provided by this ecosystem. Additionally, continued unsustainable logging operations in the area would make a substantial contribution to the release of carbon emissions, negatively impacting the fight against climate change, and making the region even more vulnerable to environmental shocks during hurricane seasons.
As conservation efforts are directed toward preventing unsustainable use of natural resources, Ejidos often need options for alternative and additional land-use practices. However, with limited training, knowledge and available funding, this is a difficult task. For this reason, the ACAC Community Forestry REDD+ Program is committed to helping communities adapt to new, more sustainable activities, such as implementing agroforestry and conservation agriculture. These practices also improve the climate resilience of crops, helping communities adapt to changes in the climate. By facilitating the implementation of these practices, we are able to assist the Ejidos in preserving their forests while generating long term revenue streams from sustainable management of their natural resources.