Clearing of forest for cattle ranching, monoculture plantations, unsustainable logging, hydro-electric projects, and mining are the main causes of deforestation and forest destruction in Mesoamerica. These processes are associated with increased forest degradation, pollution, biodiversity loss, water shortages, and damage to local economies and food security, as well as higher carbon emissions. Centralized governmental management models have proved to be insufficient to stop deforestation and forest degradation. Instead indigenous and community land management in Mesoamerica has proved effectiveness for natural resource conservation, climate change mitigation, and poverty alleviation, but communities do not receive adequate support to address the pressures they face.
Many still lack secure rights to their land and forest and/or financial and technical support for managing them. The governments and large producers are responsible for forest destruction, typically disregard the rights of indigenous and forest communities, and often threaten, put in jail, or assassinate community activists.
In this context, it is necessary to promote sustainable livelihoods and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and forest communities. Most of the remaining forest in Mesoamerica are land administered collectively by indigenous people and forest communities, as the Sumu-Mayangna indigenous communities and territories. These communities have deep historical and cultural connection to their land and can help prevent forest destruction and maintain their forests as carbon sinks. With this project they ensure land tenure rights (through the promotion of territorial rights) and strengthen their organizational capacities to promote, defend and advocate along with their partners.
This iniative is highly relevant for its beneficiaries, at national, regional and also international level, since it constitutes a clear furthering about the possibility on territorial rights in Mexico and relates to previous, free and informed consent. It is a clear example of how raising political awareness work, and has evolved from a general proposal regarding territorial rights to the definition of specific goals based upon the different national scenarios, in this case Mexico.
The project advances formal processes required to obtain legal recognition of land and forest rights in specific territories and communities: Ejidos in Jalisco, Oaxaca, Chiapas y Peninsula de Yucatan.
It provides capacity building for Indigenous Peoples, peasants and public officers on territorial rights (including Previous, Free and Informed Consent processes); political assistance, participation in advocacy spaces, guaranteeing the participation of youth and women from the Ejidos and communities.
This project is implemented by the Mexican Network of Peasant and Forestal Organizations (MOCAF Network), which brings together over 50 local forest communities, indigenous and peasant organizations in Mexico, with the support of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests.