Rafael Obregón y Enrique Muñoz
The Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC) is a territorial development management scheme to promote connectivity between the ecosystems of North and South America through the functional integration of various natural areas in order to save, learn about and use the region’s biodiversity and ecosystem services. The aim is to contribute to integrating natural capital in solving the problems of poverty and marginalization, as well as to cope with the impacts of global climate change from the south-southeast of Mexico to the north of Colombia, running through the Central American Isthmus. It is an initiative with an institutional structure in the ten countries in the region, and a Master Plan 2020, approved by the environmental ministers of the region, as a framework to help achieve the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan of the Aichi Targets and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In Mexico, the CBM has become a benchmark of concrete experiences that cope with the challenges of biodiversity conservation in geographical areas, located mainly in tropical ecosystems. Most of the productive activities are undertaken by small family units, mainly peasants and indigenous people inhabiting poor, marginalized communities and ejidos (communally farmed land supported by the state). In the past twelve years, through CONABIO, this initiative has attempted to integrate knowledge and promote institutional arrangements that create innovative alternatives to offset the process of deterioration, improve levels of well-being and ensure the conservation of biodiversity.
During this period, activities in Mexico have helped transform the initial concept of the CBM, designed to structurally connect protected areas to maintain the continuity of biological processes towards proposals based on the construction of agreements, methodologies, tools and policies that seek to integrate and link mainly rural landscapes to create ecologically functional matrices or mosaics. In this effort, we have encountered the homogenizing tendencies of global markets, the “blindness” of national programs and projects that fail to recognize skills and specific problems, as well as productive development policies that act against productive activities integrating biodiversity, belittle multiple production units and fail to give credit to the role of these producers as providers of ecosystem services, which has made them major allies in the conservation of biodiversity. In response to the sectoral, homogenizing trends of public policy, the CBM has adopted the “territorial approach to development” as a conceptual framework, with the aim of incorporating environmental criteria and biological conservation into the efforts that address deterioration and propose welfare. The actions undertaken to date include the following:
- Participatory territorial planning to identify local social, productive and environmental capacities, value biodiversity and ecosystem services, and advance the sustainable productive management of regions that are a priority because of their biodiversity.
- Agreements with civil society, academic and productive organizations that are interested in building local capacities and developing alternatives to promote the conservation of local biodiversity.
- Innovation of technological practices, derived from the exchange of knowledge, with the aim of sustainably reconverting productive practices that increase deterioration, by improving productivity, promoting agroforestry landscapes and fostering diversified forest management.
- Training technical staff and field promoters, dedicated to influencing and guiding the development of inclusive, sustainable, promotional projects.
- Integration of multispecific value chains associated with marketing short circuits.
- Interinstitutional agreements at different levels of government for aligning public policies based on skills and local issues, such as the one between developers and the Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) Secretariat, the National Institute of Social Economy (INAES) and the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR).
- Establishment of governance mechanisms based on commitments to conserve biodiversity, develop sustainable production practices and diversify rural production.
- Monitoring wildlife through camera traps and bird watching through community monitors. The CBM in Mexico is currently focusing on the task of systematizing experiences and lessons learned, in order to create proposals for a new generation of territorial policies to facilitate the alignment of policies, knowledge sharing and decision-making based on the best information. The aim is to acknowledge the value of biodiversity as a public good with substantial benefits for the population and diversified small producers, who are key players in the country’s sustainable development.