Most of the problems faced by Oaxaca’s forests are the same as those that forest resources in many other parts of the world experience such as deforestation and the reduction of forest cover. Several studies have shown that these processes are linked to policies and practices that harm natural resources such as changes in forest land use for agricultural, urban and industrial purposes, mining and tourism. Other factors include the construction of infrastructure works, illegal logging, fires, pests, diseases and natural disasters. Deforestation and degradation have global implications since they account for 10% of Mexico’s greenhouse gas emissions.
However, the parts of Oaxaca with forest management programs face additional challenges that are exclusive to communities governed by usos y costumbres, indigenous customary law. There is an inherent tension between the priorities of community institutions and the demands of the private sector. Market values such as labor discipline contrast with community values such as inclusion. In these communities, inclusion ensures that decisions are made in assemblies, a process that contrasts with the rapid decision-making of the private sector, designed to maximize profits.
This unique form of governance has brought enormous benefits, since having direct access to their forests encourages community members to have broad community participation and favors the appropriation of their territory.
Oaxaca has 6.1 million hectares of forest.
Forest ecosystems are a source of livelihood for the indigenous and peasant communities that inhabit them. Either naturally or through the sustainable management of various resources, they provide environmental services essential to economic and social development, such as the provision of water in sufficient quality and quantity, and the capture of carbon, pollutants and natural components. They also produce oxygen, cushion the impact of natural phenomena, regulate climate, protect biodiversity and the species that live there, and conserve soil, among many other functions.
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