Mexico Diary: High Hopes at the Hacienda

Written by Paul Mackie on . Posted in Learn

This is Part 3 of a six-part series by Lisa Hayden, climate change writer for The Nature Conservancy, based on her recent trip to Mexico. See the Rest of the Mexico Diary here.

On the first day of my trip to Mexico, I visited a high-level planning meeting for the forest-protection program called REDD. It was held at a hacienda, where tropical plants seen only in greenhouses in the U.S grew in the garden and by the side of the road. With beautiful Spanish architecture and sprawling grounds, many of the pastel-painted haciendas are being renovated into luxurious hotel villas, while others are abandoned.

They remain symbols of Mexico’s history of empires, colonial conquest, revolution and economic upheaval. The hacienda system depended on the serfdom of indigenous Mayan people to work the fields and provide labor for a few wealthy families to extract and produce products for world markets.

Sisal, a hemp rope material harvested from the agave plant, was a major crop of Yucatan state haciendas, but the invention of synthetic fiber was a major blow to the peninsula’s economy. Agrarian reform following the Mexican revolution created the complex ejido land-tenure system, in which rural community associations make decisions about their common farm or forest land.

At the hacienda planning meetings I attended, energy was high as representatives from Mexican government agencies, local communities and NGOs met with The Nature Conservancy to discuss mutual goals of reducing carbon emissions, promoting sustainable development, conserving functional forests, and how the Yucatan region – and Mexico as a whole – can prepare to participate in the carbon market of the future by developing REDD readiness programs now.

Representatives from partner organizations talked passionately about the need to ensure that policies for avoiding deforestation emissions do not disenfranchise communities who live in the forests. And government agency representatives spoke of active state-level climate adaptation plans designed to protect functioning ecosystems where people live – in some ways more integrated and proactive than U.S. progress on the issue.

Lisa Hayden is climate change writer for The Nature Conservancy

Photo by: Lisa Hayden/The Nature Conservancy

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