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Homegrown Expertise Could Be the Missing Link to Saving Mexico’s Largest Intact Rainforest

Mexico aims to slow climate change by saving its forests—an approach that’s traditionally meant good work for external companies who know how to measure the carbon content of trees. But Felicia Line of EcoLogic says locals can handle the job even better.

By Felicia Line, CarbonPlus Field Coordinator

This article was originally published on Ecosystem Marketplace, and is re-posted here with permission. View the original here.

Sara Camacho and her two-man team had been leading their brigades, made up of local community members, into the forest for weeks, leaving at dawn and returning at dusk, mosquito-bitten, snake-bitten and—in the case of team member Yoni Sima—feverish on the night I met them, but full of bonhomie.

“I’m starting to feel like I’m married to you guys,” joked Camacho, a fireplug of a woman in her mid-20s who Sima and their third colleague, the burly Manuel Arana, address with affection as la jefa—“the boss lady”.

Community brigades measure forest carbon in Mexico

A local community brigade is trained to measure carbon stored n trees in Chiapas, Mexico. (Photo: Carlos Herrera)

The three young mestizos had come to the old Mayan district of Calakmul to help marginalized communities learn how to measure the carbon stored in their forest—a task that requires identifying the forest’s trees by species, measuring their circumference, estimating their height, and then applying formulas to determine their biomass, half of which is carbon. If they get the species wrong, the carbon inventory will be off even if the measurements are right. And the same thing will happen if they get the species right but are sloppy about their measurements. Such errors could accumulate to add more uncertainty to the already difficult science of measuring carbon in forests, which is critical in efforts to slow climate change and earn international funding for REDD+, which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation.

Read more about how local people are key to saving Mexico’s rainforests.

Fighting Climate Change and Saving Forests Doesn’t Mean Ignoring Indigenous Rights

With the COP21 international climate talks in Paris rapidly approaching, Mexico merits attention. In March, Mexico made news by becoming the first developing country to commit to reducing its carbon footprint at a national level ahead of the upcoming talks—including an ambitious goal to bring deforestation rates to zero by 2030.

These latest commitments aren’t the first time Mexico has been a step ahead of much of the world on climate. In 2010, Mexico released a vision document laying groundwork for a national strategy for REDD+—a United Nations program that stands for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.”

Carbon Brigade in Chiapas measures trees

Community members in Chiapas learn how to measure carbon stored in trees (Photo: Felicia Line)

Read more about how EcoLogic is using people-powered conservation to help Mexico meet its climate goals!

Stove By Stove, Tree By Tree in Chinantla, Mexico

The quiet, tiny community of San Bernabé in the Chinantla region of Oaxaca, Mexico, feels like a world away from the city of Tuxtepec. Yet the bustling municipality is barely an hour away. On the winding drive from the city to San Bernabé, urban development and industry give way to a forested landscape dotted with small, rural homes and subsistence farm plots so rapidly that the transition feels jarring—blink, and you’re in a profoundly different place. “There’s such an isolation to these communities,” Sam Schofield, EcoLogic’s Program Officer for Institutional Development, reflected after a visit to the area.

Women in Oaxaca cooking tortillas on an EcoLogic stove

Women in San Bernabé cook handmade tortillas on an EcoLogic fuel-efficient stove (Photo: Alstom Foundation)

Read more updates from the ground at EcoLogic’s project in Oaxaca!

Facing Future Storms: Poor Honduran Communities Unite to Protect Watersheds and Nature

by Dr. David Barton Bray

David Barton Bray is Professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University and a Member of EcoLogic’s Board of Directors. This story was originally published on Mongabay.com, and is re-posted here with permission. Click here to see the original post on Mongabay.

El Eden, Honduras

Residents of El Eden, one of the 28 Pico Bonito communities that banded together to protect their water supply. (Photo: Pat Goudvis)

There hasn’t been much good news out of Honduras recently. One of the poorest Latin American nations, it has been afflicted by a series of natural and political calamities. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch killed over 14,000 people, impacted a third of the population and did $3.8 billion in damage—three-quarters of the nation’s total GDP. Droughts followed, reducing corn and bean production by 50 to 70 percent in some years. In 2009, an elected President was overthrown by the military. And in 2014, hard times in Honduras made the U.S. news, as a stream of unaccompanied children fled to the United States.

There is, however, another Honduras, a place where—despite adversity—small, rural communities are getting on with the business of living sustainably and dealing effectively with the vagaries of extreme weather, all on a shoestring budget.

Read more about the good news from Honduras!

EcoLogic Partner Wins Landmark Case for Indigenous Maya Land Rights in Belize

This Earth Day, EcoLogic’s local partner in Belize, the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM), won a landmark legal victory for Maya land rights in the regional Caribbean Court of Justice.

Young Maya man with oil protest shirt in Belize

Antonio Chun, a K’ekchi’ Maya resident of the Toledo region of southern Belize, wears a shirt with a message of protest against US Capital Energy (Photo: Maura Fitzgerald)

SATIIM works in the Toledo district of southern Belize—the Belizean side of our bi-national Cross-Border Alliance for Healthy Fisheries project site—to conserve the region’s natural resources in an environmentally sound manner for the economic, social, cultural, and spiritual well-being of its indigenous people.

Read more about SATIIM’s legal victory for indigenous rights and conservation!

K’iche’ as K’ax K’ol: The Honor of Serving One’s Community for a Year

by Abigail Southwell, Brian Lowry, Evgeny Lobanchenko, Tomislav Marcinko Narvaez, and the Boston University Venture Consulting Club

In March 2015, a group of five MBA graduate students at Boston University traveled to Guatemala as part of a joint project between EcoLogic and BU’s Global Venture Consulting Club. The collaboration was born out of BU Link Day, a program that connects MBA students with small nonprofits. Read the students’ reflections on their trip below!

BU students in Totonicapán group shot

The Boston University MBA students, including Tomislav Marcinko, Abigail Southwell, and Evgeny Lobanchenko, take a break from building a stove in Totonicapán, along with EcoLogic field technician Fernando Recancoj (far right) and members of the community

When starting our MBA at Boston University in September of 2014, most of our incoming class was expecting a year filled with numbers, graphs, charts, and case analyses. Exploring the forests of Totonicapán in Guatemala this past spring break was not only an unexpected experience, but one of the highlights of this year. Through BU’s Global Venture Consulting Club, five students from our first year MBA class were able to travel to Guatemala and work with EcoLogic to better understand the importance of its mission as part of a project we were working on with them about data collection and information flow.

Read more about the BU Venture Consulting Club’s experience visiting Totonicapán!