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They fought to regain the forest and they succeeded. They are now your guardians


Indigenous communities fought to regain control of the forest in the Sierra de Juárez, Oaxa, and they succeeded. This is the result.

These are the guardians of the Sierra de Juárez forest in Oaxaca 3:05

(CNN Spanish) -

In the Sierra Juárez, in Oaxaca, indigenous communities fought decades ago to regain control of the forests, which at that time was in the hands of companies.

They succeeded and then took another step.

They started a project to heal and preserve the forest, and also to take advantage of the wood that it gives them, but always putting one of the principles that defines them first: respect for nature.

Uzachi, the Union of Zapotec-Chinantec Forest Producing Communities, is the name of the organization formed just over 30 years ago by four indigenous communities in the Sierra Juárez de Ixtlán, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

"It arose as a consequence of the struggle of the mountain communities for the recovery of the domain of their forests," Néstor Baltazar Hernández Bautista, president of the Commissariat of Communal Assets of Capulalpam de Méndez, tells CNN en Español.

By the 1980s, the lands were under concession by a parastatal company and, "after the tremendous struggle to repeal the concessions," he explains, "the communities found it necessary to form their own technical cadres" to manage the territory. without relying on outside professionals once they regain control.


And so Uzachi was born, made up of technicians, engineers, biologists and support personnel belonging to the communities.

And this, according to Hernández Bautista, makes a difference: "They put their maximum effort, because in addition to being totally responsible as professionals, they are also responsible as community members. They love the forest, they love their land and therefore that has had a considerable impact on good forest management ".

Before the communities regained control of the forest, according to Arcadio Martínez Herrera, president of the Vigilance Council in the La Trinidad Community, the parastatal companies brought their own technical services to the land and had the place at their disposal.

His view on this stage is deeply negative.

"The parastatals were only dedicated (sic) to felling trees, felling trees and did not reforest, they did not do the conditioning in the forest so that the forest would maintain itself well," he says.

"They were dedicated to knocking down, knocking down and they got the best of it," he insists.

The communities proposed a different model.

Take advantage of the forest, but ensure its responsible regeneration

"We work with nature. We do not degrade it or seek economic benefit at whatever cost," says Hernández Bautista.

His forest management plan, he assures, part of a "different worldview" that is based on respect for nature.

According to Abel Martínez, forestry technician, they extract the most affected trees from the forest, the most mature, and in turn have reforestation plans underway.

The commitment of the communities, he says, is to regenerate the forest in a responsible way.

"The forests are like an immense garden. If a garden is not pruned, the plants are not replaced and the earth does not move, that garden will be completely barren, desert. This is the forest. which is already at its point. Replace the plant, make sure it is a young and vigorous forest so that pests no longer attack it, "explains Hernández Bautista.

His job is to "heal the forest, work the forest, cultivate it, take advantage of the wood, re-plant and take care of the plantation," he adds.

The area occupied by the four communities is approximately 25,000 to 30,000 hectares, according to Martínez Herrera.

Between the four they have a total of about 8,000 inhabitants, and a large percentage of them are dedicated to forestry.

His proposal is also unique from the point of view of the organization: the government emanates from an assembly and works based on consensus.

Women also play a role in this space.

Nelva Gómez López, a community member of Santiago Comaltepec, explains that they participate in the assemblies and that their activity there "has strengthened the community." Far from discriminating against women, they have integrated us into all spaces.

I believe that we are empowering ourselves in these spaces, "he says.

Economic benefits

Since the 1980s, the communities saw that it was necessary to organize themselves to be able to manage the entire production chain linked to forestry, says Néstor Baltazar Hernández. "It was not possible to continue only felling the trees and selling the raw material to the highest bidder, or often giving it a lower price as long as they bought it. Its added value had to be sought," he recalls. And under that premise, work is done in the sawmills that each community has.

The sawmills allowed, in the first place, that the wood was not sold in rolls but in boards, with a greater added value.

In a second stage, carpentry was also added.

"The vision has always been to appropriate the forest production chain so that the products are not mistreated and so that there are more sources of employment for the community members," says Néstor Baltazar Hernández.

But they went beyond the sawmills.

Today they have a stone aggregates company that seeks to take advantage of the stone banks and the potential market of the region, a community ecological ecotourism company and a water bottling company.

Economic development has lowered immigration, they say, and unemployment within the community.

The profits go to the community, explains Baltazar Hernández, in works that can range from improving the infrastructure of a school or health center to investing in culture.

"We are certain that it is an educated people, a people with culture has to be better every day. And we have invested a lot in the cultural development of children," he explains.

Today, for example, they have three musical bands.

Without the forest, "part of the language would have been lost"

For the guardian communities of this terrain, the forest is much, much more than a resource.

This is how Nelva Gómez López explains it: "I belong to the Chinantec culture. (...) We are governed by our uses and customs. The language, the culture are still preserved and above all, what stands out a lot my community is the conservation of the forests".

Gómez López says that the Chinantecs have a "spiritual connection with nature" and the forest is a central part: at the beginning of each year, in fact, they make offerings of gratitude to Mother Earth and the forest for the year that passed and to her. They ask for the one that begins.

In addition, he explains, they cannot separate their culture and language from the forest, they are aspects of the community that go "hand in hand".

"If the forests had been taken from us, obviously part of the language would have already been lost," he reflects.

This is how he exemplifies it: now the children do not know how to say "deer" in the Chinantec language, because they no longer see it in the territory.

With the spaces that are lost, the language and cultural practices are also lost.

(Gómez López emphasizes, in any case, that fortunately even grandparents, parents and young people speak the language. The break in intergenerational transmission is in children and that is why it is key, he says, that their family use recovers. "The language still lives in all community spaces, in assemblies, at parties and in different spaces. So here we have to strengthen ourselves is in families where there is already a break in transmission," he explains).

Pass on knowledge to new generations

The members of Uzachi bet on the new generations.

"Right now all the children, the young people of our communities know how a tree is transplanted, they know the whole process it takes for the resource to reach the communities," says Arcadio Martínez Herrera.

The youngest are involved in activities, for example in reforestation: they are taught.

People who work in the forest today have also been part of this same learning process in some cases.

"When I started my youth I had no idea what the forest was", remembers Abel Martínez.

However, he became more and more involved and today he tries to share his experience not only with those who are close, but also beyond the community, the state and even the country.

The objective is ambitious: "Here the vision is that the whole world understands what it is to conserve".

Pride of belonging

The conservation of the forest, in addition to being a responsibility, is a source of pride for the communities.

"It is something very important, it is something that reaches the heart," says Nelva Gómez López when asked how she feels about work, and emphasizes the role played by her roots: "Thanks to our culture or that knowledge that has given us inherited, we can continue with this conservation. "

Arcadio Martínez Herrera also celebrates what they have achieved.

"I am proud to belong to my community, to the Uzachi organization (...), we are people who were born here, we live here and we have been in all this process. So it is a pride to belong."

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2021-11-26

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