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FEATURE STORY November 15, 2017

Rural poverty and natural wealth – Pathways towards sustainable rural development

Rural communities in Mexico are known for their community forest management, and are increasingly enhancing their economic opportunities through community forest enterprises

Did you know that, globally, women entrepreneurs are the drivers and creators of jobs for the bottom 40 percent in society? This is why it is so important to actively support the work of women micro-entrepreneurs who have fewer income-earning opportunities.  

This is being done in Oaxaca, a state in the south of Mexico known for its gastronomy, traditions and tourist attractions, but which is also among the poorest states of the country, where the income level is below that of the basic food basket, as measured by the Social Gap Index.

The contrasts in Oaxaca are striking.  Despite its status as a low-income state for its inhabitants, Oaxaca is home to a great biodiversity and natural wealth, and its forest do provide economic opportunities for rural communities.  Over the last few years, community enterprises that use forests inputs have been set up in this area of the country and are generating economic resources for forest dwellers and communities

Forests cover 45 percent of the national territory, making Mexico home to 10 percent of all species, one of the world’s most  biodiverse countries.

Mexico’s forests are home to almost 12 million people, most of whom live in poverty and are directly dependent on natural resources.

The initiative to promote forest entrepreneurs in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, with the support of the World Bank, seeks to enhance sustainability and gender equity, with greater participation by women.  There are over 4 million ejido members (ejidatarios) and communal land holders (comuneros) in the country, of which only 19 percent are women.  This underlines the importance of incorporating a gender approach to the promotion of women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship, as the more opportunities that women have to operate in a more inclusive community space and take an active part in decision-making, the greater will be their participation in individual and community productive activities.

In addition, this approach helps empower rural communities and increases the value of forests by incorporating sustainable natural resources management practices that promote job options and, at the same time, protect the forests and their biodiversity.

You can watch this video on women forestry projects in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca.