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Results Briefs May 8, 2019

Improving Livelihoods and Mitigating Climate Change in Mexico’s Forest Communities


Beneficiaries of the Forests and Climate Change Project, Mexico.


Photo: Jessica Belmont / World Bank

Through this project, rural communities gained planning and implementation support to increase forest conservation, production, and productivity, leading to strengthened forest resource management and increased income opportunities. Community-managed forest areas under sustainable management practices doubled to almost four million hectares during project implementation. By managing forest assets more sustainably, deforestation decreased by 25 to 50 percent in project areas.


Mexico’s forests are home to more than 12 million people, most of whom live in poverty and directly depend on local natural resources. While forests provide important strategic, social, and environmental contributions to Mexico’s economy and local livelihoods, they face a number of pressures. The forest sector overall lacks adequate local management, long-term vision, and commitment to sustainability by the communities that own 61 percent of the country’s forests. Only 15 percent of the project’s targeted 15,584 communities managed their forests in accordance with an approved forest management plan. Mexico also faced the challenge of high rates of deforestation and forest degradation, the direct drivers of which include conversion of forest lands to pasture and agriculture, unsustainable logging, overgrazing, and pests and diseases. Some of the underlying causes include insufficient alignment of policies, institutions, and programs across sectors, a deficient incentive framework for sustainable forest use, and forest communities’ insufficient capacity and access to markets.


The Mexico Forests and Climate Change Project was part of a package of World Bank engagement supporting Mexico’s ambitious Forests and Climate Change agenda within the overall framework of its National Development Plan and vision for Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). To foster effective community forest management, the project aimed to strengthen forest communities’ social organization and managerial and technical skills to help ensure the longer-term sustainability of rural investments and improve livelihoods. Within this context, the following elements were incorporated into the project design: (i) development objectives aimed to strengthen communities’ social organization and sustainable forest management to generate additional income from forest products and services and to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation; (ii) project activities provided capacity building and financial support to communities working to improve forest conservation, management, and implementation of innovative forestry production techniques, to increase forest production and productivity, and to foster economic development by diversifying and promoting new forestry income options, including through innovative REDD+ approaches supporting integrated conservation agriculture and forestry investments; and (iii) key outputs sought included implementation by more communities of sustainable forest management and conservation schemes, such as their increased participation in Payment for Environmental Services (PES), community silviculture, and value chain development programs. Outputs also aimed to diversify forest income opportunities and reduce net deforestation and forest degradation rates in selected landscapes. 


265,632 beneficiaries were provided with the tools (both capacity building and investment support) to manage forest assets sustainably.


Under the project’s forest-sector demand-driven incentive programs, 265,632 beneficiaries were provided with the tools (both capacity building and investment support) to manage forest assets sustainably, including by enhancing the contribution of forests to climate change mitigation and adaptation, promoting and strengthening forest value chains, and developing innovative REDD+ approaches. Key results include:

  • The forest area managed by communities under sustainable management practices doubled during project implementation, and at project completion in 2018, this area represented 3,935,984 hectares (ha), a significant increase of 1,833,358 ha compared with the 2012 baseline of 2,050,626 ha.

  • The increase in the number of communities sustainably managing their forests significantly reduced forest degradation and deforestation. Support through Payment for Environmental Services (PES) resulted in a 25 to 50 percent reduction in deforestation in project areas. Project support also led to a 5 percent annual average reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, from 11,469 gigagrams of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent per year at baseline to 10,907 gigagrams of CO2 equivalent per year at project completion.

  • Over the course of project implementation (November 2012 – February 2018), forest communities’ capacity to reach a high level of economic development grew by 75 percent through their increased ability to diversify forest production, adopt new technologies, access forest markets, and increase their income.

Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank, through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), provided $350 million to the project. The project was part of a package of World Bank engagement in Mexico spanning over two decades in support of the country’s efforts to improve forest management under its ambitious Forests and Climate Change agenda. The Bank’s Mexico Forests and Climate Change Project brought together financial and analytical instruments to comprehensively and programmatically support the forest sector. In addition to the IBRD loan, other project financing included US$42 million in combined Forest Investment Program (FIP) loan and grant proceeds. Analytical support was provided via a grant from the Program on Forests (PROFOR) to develop a roadmap for aligning forest and agriculture investments; a grant from Development Economics (DEC i2i) to assess the impacts of the project’s PES program; and an additional grant from PROFOR to help develop Mexico’s REDD+ intervention model.   


The experience, capacity, and commitment of the implementing agency, Mexico’s National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR), were key factors in the project’s success. CONAFOR was particularly active in detecting issues that might hamper the implementation progress, in proposing viable solutions, and in reaching agreements with counterparts. CONAFOR’s commitment fostered a strong network of donor partnerships. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) supported implementation of two other FIP projects, and other donors, including Norway and the United States, supported the government in developing its REDD+ enabling framework. Other Mexican government agencies supporting rural development, including the Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources, paved the way for a collaborative, productive, and efficient interinstitutional working environment. 


The project primarily benefited marginalized and vulnerable forest communities. In interviews, project beneficiaries remarked that the project helped provide their families with steady income and that they no longer considered it necessary to migrate to seek job opportunities elsewhere.  

Antonio Romero is a technical forest advisor in the San Pablo ejido (community) in Durango, the state with the greatest area of timber production and the most livestock. “Migration has to do with job opportunities, with the possibility to develop economically, both at the individual and the family level. In the case of San Pablo, we are beginning to reap the rewards from sustainable use of our sawmills and our forests.”

Moving Forward 

Several operations will support project sustainability as well as the scale-up of its development outcomes. The IBRD/ISFL Strengthening Entrepreneurship in Productive Forest Landscapes Project (2018–2023) builds on this project’s successes and ensures continuity in the areas of community forest management and PES. It also supports innovative new approaches, including (i) increasing the economic and environmental benefits of project interventions by promoting the integration of productive forest management activities along with forest conservation and restoration activities in the same territory, and (ii) focusing on productivity to enable forest-dependent people and enterprises to more fully reap the benefits of forest landscapes.