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People-Powered Conservation is Protecting Forests and Improving Lives in Southern Mexico

VOICES FROM THE FIELD

Abelino Flores Molina is the Community Coordinator for our CarbonPlus program in Chiapas in southern Mexico. He has been collaborating with EcoLogic on our Lacandón rainforest carbon project since fall 2012. Originally from Chiapas, he is a doctoral candidate of social anthropology and indigenous studies at the Ibero-American Center for Postgraduate Studies and the Intercultural University of Chiapas. In this interview, Flores shares insights about his work in the Lacandón rainforest, his experience with EcoLogic, and his hopes and dreams for the future of CarbonPlus.

Abelino Flores, CarbonPlus coordinator in Mexico

Dr. Abelino Flores Molina (left) is the Community Coordinator for EcoLogic’s CarbonPlus program in Chiapas, Mexico

When did you start working with EcoLogic?

I met Andrea Savage, EcoLogic’s CarbonPlus program manager, in 2012, and we talked about developing a REDD+ project in the area.

We started by planning participatory workshops for the three indigenous communities in the Lacandón rainforest—the Lacandónes, the Choles, and the Tzeltales. We wanted these workshops to address questions both about REDD+ and climate change, because they are so interconnected. And the communities had very little accurate information about these concepts.

What do you like best about working with EcoLogic?

EcoLogic’s work represents a connection between three fundamental issues I’m very interested in: culture, environment, and development. I think they cannot be separated.

What have been the CarbonPlus project’s greatest successes so far?

Working in Chiapas can be challenging at times, but just the fact that EcoLogic is here working on the ground with the communities is a major breakthrough. In the past, the government and other conservation organizations have worked in this area with a top-down approach that has not included local communities, so people have developed some mistrust of outside initiatives. EcoLogic has such a good relationship with the people here because we understand that community participation is crucial.

What is your vision for the future of the area?

Even though we are starting from such a tiny grain of sand, I believe that we will be able to conserve the Lacandón rainforest, which is such an important place. We may have very few resources, but we have such big ideas!

I want this area, which is not only a carbon reservoir but also a source of many important natural resources, to be managed cooperatively with the indigenous communities. And I think we could create a model for conservation and development that could serve as an example for others. This is a dream I have always had.

This interview was translated from Spanish and has been edited for length and clarity.

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