FELIPE CARRILLO PUERTO, Mexico, Dec 30 (Thomson Reuters
Foundation) - Maria Yam Pérez scrambles eggs over a
wood-saving, earth-block stove and stirs in freshly chopped
chaya, a spinach-like jungle plant known for its versatility in
cooking and medicine.
She points to the black soot from the hearth smoke,
accumulated under the thatched roof, like tendrils of grey
gossamer, and on the stick walls of the open-air kitchen.
"When a person has sweating, fever, chills, aches and
cramps, this is used as medicine, mixed with honey, eggs and
lime," she said. "If you go to the doctor and can't get relief,
this is the traditional Maya remedy."
This day in December is a customary holiday celebrating the
Mexican Virgin of Guadalupe, so later Yam Pérez will don
indigenous Maya dress to join in feasting, song and dance with
her family and 250 others in the community of Felipe Carrillo
Before that, she was busy making breakfast for a group
visiting the community's eco-tourism centre of Sijil Noh Ha, set
deep in the tropical forest of Mexico's southeastern Yucatan
Peninsula, some 200 km (124 miles) southwest of the coastal
resort city of Cancún.
The venture, an outgrowth of the community's forestry
enterprise, discreetly showcases time-honoured native wisdom
that protects biodiversity and helps build resilience to climate
change - a hot topic at talks on the U.N. Convention on
Biological Diversity (CBD) held this month in Cancún.
Indigenous and community forestry is key to slowing species
extinction and global warming, so governments must do more to
guarantee the land rights of forest peoples, as well as their
participation in decision-making, experts told the CBD's 13th
"Engaging with, and supporting indigenous peoples and local
communities, is vital," said Maurizio Farhan Ferrari,
environmental governance coordinator for the Forest Peoples
"Biological and cultural diversity together increase
resilience to social, environmental and climate change," said
Joji Carino, a working group coordinator for the International
Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity.
BIRDS AND JAGUARS
This is especially true in countries that are rich in
biodiversity like Mexico. Here, in the fifth-most biologically
diverse nation on earth, some 13 million people - about half
belonging to Mexico's 62 indigenous peoples - live in, and
administer, community forest lands, according to the
Inter-American Development Bank.
Across Mexico and Central America, indigenous peoples and
local communities have legally recognised rights to around 65
percent of the forests, containing one of the world's largest
diversity hotspots, the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor,
according to Andrew Davis, author of "Conservation and Community
Rights", a book recently released by El Salvador's Regional
Environment and Development Research Programme (PRISMA).
The world's ability to meet biodiversity protection targets
will be a determining factor in the success of the new Paris
Agreement on climate change, argues the Intergovernmental
Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
The community of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, besides operating
internationally certified lumber and sustainable tourism
businesses, is monitoring the endangered jaguar (Panthera onca),
which is of primordial importance to the Maya indigenous culture
and nature's balance.
Felipe Carrillo Puerto and four other community forest
enterprises in the Maya Jungle Alliance are providing ecosystem
services to conserve the largest rainforest in Mexico and
Central America, located in the Mesoamerican Biological
Yam Pérez is part of a 15-member team of women and youth who
monitor birds in the alliance, which provides goods and services
covering an area of nearly 213,450 hectares (527,446 acres).
The team's efforts are making habitat safe for wildlife
reproduction and migration in the stretch of woodland between
the two biosphere reserves of Sian Khan and Kalakmul, supported
by the Global Environment Facility.
Income from the alliance's tourism projects and ecosystem
services now outstrips logging receipts in several places. To
diversify the portfolio further, Felipe Carrillo Puerto plans to
establish a certified sawmill and furniture-making enterprise.
And in a carbon trading project - part of a programme to
reduce planet-warming emissions from deforestation and forest
degradation, backed by the Norwegian government - community
members work banding tree trunks to measure their annual growth.
To ensure similar successes on the ground, all levels of
government need to step up efforts to implement policy and
programmes on traditional knowledge and sustainable use of
resources in partnership with indigenous peoples and
communities, experts say.
In most cases, "there hasn't been the necessary consultation
process", said Gustavo Sánchez, president of the Network of
Mexican Community Forestry Organisations (Red Mocaf).
Indigenous peoples and forest communities "have had to
struggle hard to have their voices heard and to have their right
to free, prior and informed consent recognised", said Edwin
Vásquez Campos of the Coordination of Indigenous Organisations
of the Amazon Basin (COICA).
A study issued this month on forest governance by Mexican
research group Environmental Legislation and Policy (Polea)
found that Mexico's laws and guidelines must be fine-tuned and
financed further to make the community forestry model more
Upcoming legislative initiatives offer that opportunity,
according to the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE
International), which commissioned the study.
Those initiatives include comprehensive reform of Mexico's
General Law on Sustainable Forest Development, the creation of a
General Law of Biodiversity, a bill to update the inspection
process for environmental law violations, and a new General Law
Congressional commissions should work together to harmonise
those bills and assure ample participation by those affected, as
with the process that achieved consensus on Mexico's General Law
on Climate Change, the world's first national climate law, the
(Reporting by Talli Nauman; editing by Megan Rowling. Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)