Forests: From Overexploitation to Employment Creation

June 15, 2012


  • A support package on forests and climate change will benefit an estimated 4,000 indigenous or rural communities
  • The idea is to give communities tools to make the most of the forest’s resources and continue preserving the environment.
  • In Oaxaca for example, jobs have been generated in the sustainable timber production or in community ecotourism.

The National Commission of Forests of Mexico (CONAFOR) and the World Bank will implement a package of support for forests and climate change, which whom they hope to benefit 4,000 indigenous or rural communities.

“ With this operation, the communities and ejidos will have a better technical, economic and public policy support that will allow to improve their living standard through the management of their forests and will generate global climate benefits,” said Juan Manuel Torres Rojo, Director of CONAFOR.

Since 2006, more than 2,200 ejidos in Mexico have received support from these CONAFOR programs, with the idea to give them tools to make the most of the forest’s resources as a community and continue preserving the biodiversity, water and other environmental services.

“Everything has changed. Before, we were renting out our forests and only the buyer would benefit. Now we are bosses and workers at the same time, “ said Guadalupe Padilla, from the San Andres El Alto community, Oaxaca, in a case study document.

Since the 1990s, the management capacity of the communities in Oaxaca has been strengthened, and jobs have been generated in sustainable production of timber, in community ecotourism, production of edible mushrooms and payments for environmental services. The vision now is to strengthen these forest community companies and consolidate the strategy.


" Everything has changed. Before, we were renting out our forests and only the buyer would benefit. Now we are bosses and workers at the same time. "

Guadalupe Padilla

San Andres El Alto community, Oaxaca

The owners of the forests

The forests in Mexico are within those with the greatest biodiversity in the world. On top of being the habitat for hundreds of species, they are as well a source of revenue and of work for the rural communities that live in them.

A third of Mexico’s territory is covered by forests and 70% of these areas are the property of ejidos, through an own structure of assemblies and councils, and rural or indigenous communities.

But the forest degradation rate is still high, according to government estimates, which puts in danger the flora and fauna, and affects the quality of life of the Mexicans that live from their resources. And although the deforestation rate declined in the last years, the forest surface decreased from 69.2 millions of hectares in 1993 to 65.3 millions of hectares in 2007, according to a government document.

The reasons for this deterioration vary by region, but include agriculture, an unsustainable timber industry, overgrazing, fires and diseases.

In the Sierra Norte in Oaxaca, the forests are managed independently by rural communities and ejidos, under a system that takes into account the environment, as well as the economic and social development of the communities.

 “We all win”

The forests in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, for example, were overexploited during decades, mainly by paper companies that weren’t contributing to the well-being of the rural populations. The challenge of the sustainable management and the restoration of the forests was and continues to be important.

CONAFOR, through the program of forest community development and the program of payments for environmental services (taking care of the biodiversity and prevention of natural disasters), has worked with communities in Oaxaca and in all Mexico to strengthen their organization and the sustainable management of the forests.

“With the projects of productive diversification of the forests, especially with the community ecotourism, we all win. The forests are preserved and jobs and incomes are generated directly for the community, but also for other service providers, “ said Netzar Arreortua, from the Capulalpam de Méndez community, Oaxaca, in a case study document.

With the new cooperation between the World Bank and CONAFOR, it will be made sure that the current programs continue being successful, going further than specific loans or projects towards an integral development solution adapted to the country. Furthermore, there will be studies, workshops and consultations related to relevant topics to make informed decisions.

The package will combine various financing instruments, as well as assistance in looking at different development options and support in the exchange of knowledge with other countries. Taking all these tools together, the goal is to have a greater impact.

With sustainable forest management as a basis, new focuses can be explored to strengthen the communities’ capacity to confront, adapt and resist risks and impacts of climate change.

These communities will also be able to be incorporated in the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Program REDD+, an initiative of the international community to give financial incentives to countries to reduce their carbon emissions.