Home Biological resources productive systems and market differentiation

Biological resources productive systems and market differentiation


Over 90% of the coffee in Mexico is shade-grown. The areas where it is produced are also home to a great variety of species that provide environmental services such as soil conservation, water and nutrient capture and retention, regulation of the silting of rivers and climate change mitigation.

Elleli Huerta, Mahelet Lozada Aranda, Lucila Neyra, Alejandro Ponce Mendoza, Rosa Maricel Portilla Alonso and Cindel Velázquez

Informing consumers about the goods they consume is crucial to involving them in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

Biodiversity, expressed as ecosystems, species and genes, provides essential goods and services to humans. We find it in what we eat, drink, wear and use. Who does not own a piece of wooden furniture, or has never used a toothpick, or eaten an ice lollipop on a wooden stick, or had his or her throat examined by a doctor using a throat depressor? Are we aware of where this wood comes from and what sustainable forest management involves?

Biological resources are the basis of agricultural, food (such as the milpa), livestock and forestry productive systems. They must be developed according to the criteria of sustainability for the benefit of society, especially those who perform these productive activities. As consumers, how can we recognize and express our preference for these attributes? The key is information to achieve differentiation in the market, associated with production methods and to realize that there is not only one market, but potentially many markets. Having information allows us as consumers to choose items from systems that incorporate biodiversity-friendly production practices. Although there are many initiatives where the producer associations themselves market their own products, in most cases, there is no direct relationship between producers and consumers, since other actors intervene in the distribution channels. The challenge we face is how to involve the other agents in the value chain so that the features of sustainable production systems are maintained and how to acknowledge the work of these producer associations.

Milpas: a Biological and Cultural Heritage

Mexico is the center of domestication and diversification of many important plants worldwide. These processes have been developed in traditional farming systems, such as the milpa, whose name comes from the Nahuatl milpan, from milli, meaning “planted plot of land” and pan meaning “over”. The milpa is polyculture, whose main species is maize, together with beans, squash, chili and many others, depending on the region. It is a space or habitat with an enormous diversity of flora and fauna that interact providing various benefits, not only for the species that live in them, but also for the human communities that manage them. In Mexico, there are many milpas, which vary according to the knowledge and traditions of each culture. Conserving them maintains their agrobiodiversity while preserving the knowledge of several generations of farmers and peasants.