Local and Indigenous communities hold rights to nearly 75 percent of Mexico’s forests, yet more than half of the 12 million people who live in and around these forests suffer extreme poverty. Limited access to business development training, financing, and markets prevents communities—and their land—from flourishing. Climate-related droughts and extreme weather, along with the mass migration of rural youth to urban areas, have also taken their toll on forest communities.
The Rainforest Alliance has worked with a diverse range of partners in Mexico for almost three decades to foster the self-determination, economic stability, and sustainability of farming and Indigenous forest communities. Most of our work focuses on southeastern and central Mexico, where poverty is most extreme—and where deforestation and climate vulnerability have become urgent, ongoing crises.
Markets for a Sustainable Future
Building on our many years of experience in these landscapes, we recently launched a ground-breaking national platform, Markets for a Sustainable Future, to transform supply chains from the ground up. This transformation includes trainings for communities to develop their business skills and learn sustainable land management—as well as partnerships with companies to put products produced by these communities in shops.
The overall goal of this unique alliance is to develop a sustainable ecosystem of producers, markets, and consumers within Mexico. As the 15th largest economy in the world, Mexico is well-positioned to support the growth of community-based rural businesses that align with broader sustainable development goals. Markets for a Sustainable Future has already engaged numerous major companies and communities ready to make good on that promise.
Building on a successful model
Markets for a Sustainable Future builds on our overwhelmingly successful 2018 initiative, the Alliance for Sustainable Landscapes and Markets. We’ve partnered with the Coffee Producers Network of Oaxaca to share climate-smart agriculture practices with 1,000 smallholder farmers across the state, and to connect them with markets for their beans. As a result, farmers have restored 35 hectares of land, established four plant nurseries that produced 20,000 native trees, and initiated a reforestation effort.
We also worked with Alianza Selva Maya, a coalition of five ejidos (communally owned lands) devoted to sustainable forestry in Campeche and Quintana Roo. In addition to supporting a furniture business, K’aáx Mayas, that adds value to wood that is sustainably harvested by the partner-ejidos, we’ve connected the coalition with responsible buyers.
Reforestation in Chiapas
The Rainforest Alliance is working with communities in the Villaflores region of Chiapas to reforest 4,000 hectares (9,890 acres) of degraded land with native trees—another initiative launched by the Alliance for Sustainable Landscapes and Markets. The communities planted more than 540,000 coffee plants, restoring more than 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) that had been destroyed by the roya fungus. In addition, 200 smallholder coffee producers have undertaken our climate-smart agriculture training. Five coffee-farming cooperatives in the region are expected to achieve Rainforest Alliance Certification this year.
We’re also working with coffee farmers in the Tacaná region to improve climate resilience and agricultural practices. As part of this work, a group of 150 coffee farmers are working toward Rainforest Alliance certification. Their coffee plots integrate natural vegetation and healthy ecosystems, making them efficient buffers to the Volcán Tacaná Biosphere Reserve; farmers have restored 52.5 hectares (130 acres) of forest within the reserve itself.
Sustainable Mango Farming
Using a similar approach, we provided training in sustainable farming methods to mango producers in Oaxaca and worked with them to strengthen their business skills so they could sell directly to buyers. As a result, for the first time, these farmers sold their mangos directly to the Mexican juice company JUMEX and are now poised to sell to Walmart Mexico.
Grants for Indigenous People and Local Communities
In the states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Oaxaca, and Jalisco, we are overseeing efforts to disperse more than $3 million in small grants among two kinds of groups: underserved or vulnerable populations (including women, youth, and those without land tenure) and established community enterprises, such as producer associations and ejidos.
Because of our strong presence on the ground, the Rainforest Alliance oversees the granting process, from developing tools to evaluate proposals to ensuring proper use of resources. In addition, we provide guidance to women, youth, and other underserved groups the design and launch of new proposals. The initiative’s national steering committee that evaluates and selects grant recipients is comprised of Indigenous and local people.
The steering committee selected 42 proposals in the first round of grant-making—all related to sustainable forest management, agroforestry, climate-smart agriculture, silvo-pastoral systems, governance, or ecotourism.
A 360-degree approach to creating responsible domestic markets
All of our work in Mexico now falls under the umbrella of Markets for a Sustainable Future. This means every project and activity is part of a comprehensive approach that begins with producers, responsible companies, and finally consumers who share our vision of cultivating a sustainable domestic economy. Our alliance in Mexico includes forest communities, major companies, nongovernmental organizations, and government agencies working to create more sustainable value chains and address climate change. Together, we aim to make deep and lasting change on the ground in Mexico—for forests, rural smallholder farmers, and Indigenous and local people.