Saturday, August 18, 2012

Timber in the Sierra Juarez

The mill in Ixtapeji
Wednesday I traveled with the Rainforest Alliance crew into the Sierra Norte, home to many indigenous ejidos and communities (Mexico's two forms of communal land ownership), some examplars in community forestry. Winding up into the mountains 1000 meters or more from Oaxaca City's 1500m, green precipices on one side or another, signs note obviously "dangerous curve" and "winding road." A sign states, "Welcome to the best managed forests in Mexico," one that's evidently drawn the ire of the rest of Mexico. The brutally simplify, the community forest model holds that forestry provides the key for combined economic development and cultural preservation within Mexico's rural indigenous communities. (Click to read and see more.)

The guys listened intently about a plague hitting pines and the new mill machinery
Rainforest Alliance provides technical support to communities, for instance in building communities of practice around forest management, disseminating information, and funding studies that inform, for example, renovation of mills based on market data. In another program, they certify forests that meet standards under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label for sustainable wood. In this case, we were visiting Ixtapeji, the original gateway town the Sierra, one day by horse prior to construction of the highway 30 years before. The path of the highway, Mexico 175, still drew criticisms from the communities. Constructed for timber extraction rather than community connectivity, some communities were 20 kilometers from the road.
 In Ixtapeji, we visited a training workshop run by the heralded forest-management group Uzachi (a management collaborative between four communities) for forestry technicians, 20-25 young guys from communities around southern Mexico here for two weeks of training. They would not become professional foresters, but would learn basic principles they could bring home to their communities and inform practice. It was consistent with the participatory model of training many locals rather than using external professionals. As Paco said, "you've got to keep the decision-making in the community," that when you don't accountability is lost. Eugenio from Rainforest Alliance was particularly excited to welcome five guys from a very rural community in Mexico state, remote and over-regulated, extracting far less timber than it could and deeply impoverished.
Rainforest Alliance's Paco, a local legend for his work in forestry over 30 years, surveys the scene
The renovated mill
The guys (and one woman) listen
Eugenio consults
Paco and an authority

Natividad is known for its gold mine, drying up and a historic and contentious source of water pollution. Now it cleaned up its act but the state government has promoted artisanal mining using mercury...
Next, a mill in La Trinidad
This mill is on wheels
An orchid sanctuary, home to orchids from trees harvested.
25 species represented, down from 80

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