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How Can Mexico Engage Rural Stakeholders in the Fight Against Climate Change? We Have Some Examples
January 18, 2022
At COP26, Mexico adopted new climate commitments. As a signatory of the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, Mexico committed to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation. Achieving the goal will be challenging, but it can be done by leveraging resources and scaling up successful approaches, including those summarized below.
Regulatory and Technical Support
We’re going to give away the ending right now: some parties need a financial incentive to join the fight against climate change. Putting those incentives in place calls for a three-pronged approach that we advanced under the Abt-led Mexico Competitiveness Program:
Create a level playing field. That is, devise a legal framework that prioritizes the fight against climate change and the indispensable role of natural ecosystems in it. Abt advised Mexican policymakers during the development of Mexico’s General Law on Climate Change, which mandated national and sub-national governments to adopt ambitious climate change goals and concrete actions to meet them.
Develop skilled players. As it relates to halting deforestation, these players include small-scale farmers, community-based organizations, and private sector partners willing to adopt, deepen, and/or finance sustainable production practices. Abt worked with civil-society organization grantees and government counterparts to strengthen the capacity of local communities to implement these practices in areas ranging from land use planning to commercialization of sustainable produce. This included working with ejidos, areas of communal land used for agriculture in which community members have usufruct rights instead of land ownership rights.
Install a referee that can follow the game closely, ensure fair play, and apply corrective action when needed. Abt helped the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources to play that role. We developed Mexico’s first system to monitor progress in implementation of the Special Climate Change Program and trained government officials from more than 20 Mexican federal agencies in its use. The system, the first of its kind in the developing world, enabled the government to track progress on the implementation of close to 300 mitigation, adaptation and cross-cutting actions.
The Mexico Competitiveness Program also was a major contributor to Mexico’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation, Forest Degradation and the Role of Conservation, Sustainable Management of Forests and Enhancement of Forest Stocks (REDD+) initiative. Through the Competitiveness Program, Abt supported innovative REDD+ pilots that:
Recognized the role that landowners play in actively managing forests, and the importance of obtaining economic value from protecting ecosystems. Program grantees worked with ejidos in Chiapas and Quintana Roo to develop land use plans that clearly indicated the forest areas that would be conserved, areas that would be restored (acahuales), and productive lands. We also worked with communities to develop new economic activities that did not require the clearing of forests, from beekeeping to the commercialization of vegetables that were widely consumed but not sold, such as chapaya. We also helped communities to develop the capacity to protect their forest resources against fires, poaching, and pests, all of which are causes of deforestation and degradation.
Emphasized community-level capacity building to make REDD+ projects sustainable. We organized exchanges between supported communities in Chiapas and in Quintana Roo. These dialogues helped communities to get practical advice from their peers; it was also reassuring for community members to know that they were not the only ones pursuing carbon capture as a strategy to diversify their livelihoods. Promoting sustainability not only means promoting the longevity of efforts, but it gives local stakeholders greater ownership of the benefits of sustainable activity. Again, this helped promote financial inclusivity.
Ultimately, these recommendations were incorporated directly into Mexico’s blueprint policy document Vision REDD+. Also, by linking communities with the international, voluntary carbon market through the use of the Plan Vivo Standard, these efforts helped to reduce the vulnerability of community-driven projects to changes in the policy landscape.
The Competitiveness Program also supported other ejidos, communities, and their partners in developing sustainable valued chains, including nature-based tourism, timber and non-timber products, fisheries, and coffee. While most of these were not explicitly linked to climate action, they all aligned communities’ economic interests with the conservation of natural ecosystems.
Success Begets Success
Much remains to be done, around the world … and in Mexico. But Abt’s work with Mexico has already demonstrated that technical expertise, capacity building, and linking smallholders and communities with markets can help rally all stakeholders to tackle this important issue.