Mexico: Restoring the tropical deciduous forest in the Selva el Ocote Biosphere Reserve and introducing a silvopastoral system

Beneficiaries going to the reforestation zone © Adolfo Vital Rumebe

Background & challenges

The Selva el Ocote Biosphere Reserve is a natural area declared a biosphere reserve by the Mexican Government in 2000 and part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme since 2006. It is located in the state of Chiapas and covers parts of the municipalities of Cintalapa, Ocozocoautla, Jiquipilas and Tecpatan. It is one of the two regions in the country with a considerable high- and medium-altitude forest, characteristic of the Mexican humid tropics.

One of the main ecosystemsof the reserve is the deciduous rainforest. Tropical deciduous forests are found in areas where rainfall is abundant for part of the year, followed by a marked dry season. This kind of forest formation is dense and lush during the wet summers, yet becomes a dry landscape in winter, when most of the trees lose their leaves.

This means the trees, and rainforest are especially vulnerable to external factors and human activities, including agricultural expansion, overgrazing, and arson.

In this region, where the main human activities are cattle breeding, agriculture, aquaculture, organic coffee growing, fruit growing, and ecotourism, setting up a system that enables an income generating activity while protecting the Reserve is absolutely vital.

This project aims to shift farmers and stockbreeders in the region over to a silvopastoral system, as well as reforesting the Selva el Ocote Biosphere Reserve.

The silvopastoral system is a sustainable type of farming that reconciles forestry and pastoral objectives. This livestock practice for producing meat and milk involves grazing the forest with livestock to exploit the naturally generated fodder resources under the trees. Thanks to this system, the grazing areas will be reduced, freeing up space for restoring the rainforest of the Selva el Ocote Biosphere Reserve.

In this way, local farmers can do an income generating activity that respects their living and surrounding environment.

In addition, the project takes into account water scarcity during the prolonged dry winters: it will introduce  rainwater collection and storage system to ensure a year-round water supply for livestock.

Planting 117,000 forest trees of endemic and fodder species among 100 beneficiaries will deliver many benefits:

  • Restorethe plant cover of the rainforest to protect the soil from erosion and landslides caused by heavy rainfall;
  • Replenish and improve water infiltration into the soil by reducing runoff, thanks to the plant cover;
  • Enrich and protect fauna and flora biodiversity by reforesting the Reserve;
  • Introduce a profitable and environmentally friendly activity for the project beneficiaries.

Project type

Forestry and agroforestry

Beneficiaries

Ejido Nuevo Jerusalén 15 people

Ejido Llano Grande 30 people

Ejido Absalón Castellanos 20 people

Ejido Francisco Villa II 20 people

Ejido La Florida predio Yagualica 20 people

Number of trees

161,000 trees planted, 117,000 of which perennial

Species planted

Native forest species:

  • Caoba Swietenia macrophylla – 20,000 planted, 14,000 of which perennial
  • Cedro Cedrela mexicana – 20,000 planted, 14,000 of which perennial
  • Hormiguillo Aralia pubescens – 7,000 planted, 5,000 of which perennial
  • Matilisguate Tabebuia rosea – 7,000 planted, 5,000 of which perennial
  • Mulato Bursera simaruba – 7,000 planted, 5,000 of which perennial

Native forage species:

  • Guach Leucaena leucocephala – 40,000 planted, 30,000 of which perennial
  • Cocoite Gliricidia sepium – 40,000 planted, 30,000 of which perennial
  • Quebracho Acacia Milenaria – 20,000 planted, 14,000 of which perennial

Partner

CONANP and FONCET

Transportation of trees to the planting site © Adolfo Vital Rumebe

Works timeline

First year of activities:

  • January 2022: determine plantation areas and beneficiaries in the Selva el Ocote Biosphere Reserve
  • January to March 2022: beneficiaires to collect the endemic species seeds
  • February to July 2022: beneficiaires to introduce and produce endemic species forest treesin a community nursery,, assisted by staff from the Reserve;
  • March to May 2022: development of rainwater collection and storage structures
  • April to May 2022: delimitingreforestation areas
  • June to September 2022: planting forest and fodder trees
  • October to December 2022: training beneficiaries

Second year of activities:

  • January to March 2023: beneficiaires to collect endemic species seeds
  • February to July 2023: beneficiaires to introduce and produce endemic species forest treesin a community nursery, assisted by staff from the Reserve
  • July and September 2023: replace plants that have not survived
  • October to December 2023: training beneficiaires

Third year of activities:

  • July and September 2024: replace plants that have not survived

Throughout the project duration:

  • February to May 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2026 and October to December 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2026: continued vigilance, protection and prevention of restored and adjacent areas

Planting partner

Fondo de Conservación El Triunfo, A.C. (FONCET) is a non-profit organization on a mission to both conserve the natural resources and promote the social development of El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, and its regional of influence by means of sustained long-term economic support. FONCET focuses on generating the necessary income to assure that all conservation programs and projects carried out in Natural Protected Areas will count on basic operational cost, and that its activities can proceed unimpeded by financial limitations.

FONCET has a legal figure that facilitates the reception of donations and has been the organization that receives donations and administers them for the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP)

FONCET will be the organization that receives the donation from A Tree for You and will administer the funds. CONANP-Selva El Ocote Biosphere Reserve will be the planting partner. For this reason, CONANP will be the institution that implements and monitors the activities in the field.

Budget

The total budget to be collected is €234 000, i.e. €2 per perennial tree:

  • 95% of which is allocated to the planting project, broken down as follows:
    • Construction of three water storage tanks: €0.10
    • Construction of three rainwater harvesting systems: €0.15
    • Installation of one nursery for the trees: €0.10
    • Production of forest trees in the nursery for replanting over the following two years: €0.04
    • Paying workers for collecting seeds, transferring and planting forest and fodder trees over three years: €0.49
    • Monitoring, coordination, and reporting by CONANP: €0.29
    • Project provisions: €0.20
    • CONANP’s overheads: €0.23
    • A Tree for You collection, monitoring, and communication costs (15%): €0.30
  • and 5% (€0.10) for A Tree for You’s overheads.

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