The Rainforest Alliance is pleased to announce the winner of the 2019 Kleinhans Fellowship. José Antonio Sierra Huelsz is a researcher at the Tropical Research Center at Veracruz State University in Mexico.
He received his PhD from the University of Florida in 2016, where he studied the relationship between tourist resorts and forest livelihoods, and following that held a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship at the State University of Morelos’s Center for Research in Biodiversity and Conservation.
As Kleinhans Fellow, Antonio will study the governance of rural forests in Veracruz, a highly deforested state in Mexico. The research will be conducted in three regions of Veracruz where smallholders rely on harvesting timber from agriculture-forest interfaces, such as live fences, secondary forests, small forest patches and agroforestry systems. Although harvesting from rural forests in this state is legal, sustainable forest management is complicated by local conditions, practices, and norms.
Through interviews with smallholder timber harvesters, Antonio will assess farmers’ perceptions of current policies and learn about their forestry practices. In addition, Antonio will study archival data to examine trends in rural forest harvesting and the development of related policy.
The goal of this case study is to help build a regulatory environment in which the forest-agriculture interface can be sustainably managed by smallholders, informed by an understanding of the impacts of current regulations. Antonio’s work supports the Rainforest Alliance’s goal of fostering small local forest enterprises and promoting sustainable forestry management practices. At a time of political transition in Mexico, this research will also help ensure that local communities benefit from development policies and the forest code that will accompany the recent 2018 Forest Law. His tenure as Kleinhans Fellow begins September 2019.