Covering Community Forestry in Oaxaca
Washington, D.C. - From April 3 to April 6, 20 Mexican journalists met in Oaxaca and toured villages of the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca to learn about communal forest management.
From a furniture showroom in Oaxaca City the group’s bus climbed serpentine tarmac into the mountains to reach three villages, a sawmill and furniture factory, an ecotourism lodge and a cloud forest in Oaxaca’s Sierra Norte. Journalists heard from more than a score of managers, technicians and community members. They conducted dozens of interviews. And on their return to Oaxaca City, they exchanged ideas on how to cover aspects of this sprawling topic.
The workshop was sponsored by the Ford Foundation-Mexico and administered by the International Center for Journalists.
Due to the Mexican Revolution’s distribution of land to peasant communities, as much as 80 percent of Mexican forests are owned communally.
David Bray, an anthropology professor from Florida University, who is perhaps the leading international authority on community forestry in Mexico, maintains that community forestry in Mexico is a potential model for sustainable development of tropical forests in other lands.
This workshop spent the most time on Ixtlán de Juárez, the most sophisticated and technically advanced of the Sierra Norte’s forest-owning communities. The journalists stayed in Ixtlán’s ecotourism lodge, heard about its tourist programs, dined with a group of WWF biologists who were helping Ixtlán develop standards for maintenance of healthy, sustainable forests, and toured the community’s pine nursery, furniture factory and sawmill. Tracing the product to market, they even visited the Oaxaca City showroom of TIP Muebles, the marketing joint venture of Ixtlán together with two nearby communities: Santiago Textitlán and Pueblos Mancomunados.
Rounding out the community visits were lunches and talks in Calpulalpam, near Ixtlán, and La Esperanza, a part of Santiago Comaltepec in the cloud forests near the apex of the Sierra Norte. In the three communities journalists heard about and witnessed some of the prosperity that local communities derive from sustainable timber cutting, wood working, or providing ecosystem services from clean water to carbon sequestration to maintaining biological diversity. The group hiked into the protected area near La Esperanza and ate lunch at a trout restaurant at Calpulalpam.
“You don’t know how much I enjoyed the workshop, and would like to attend others,” said Olga Rosario Avendaño, a Oaxaca reporter for the Spanish news service EFE.
In addition to the journalists, we allowed a total of seven extra persons to travel with our group in Oaxaca; they came from Reforestamos, CONAFOR and the Consejo Civil Mexicano para la Silvicultura Sostenible (CMSS).
Logistically, this was the most ambitious of ICFJ’s three Mexican forestry field trips. Previous ICFJ forestry workshops visited communities in the pine-cloaked mountains of Michoacán and the tropical lowlands of Quintana Roo.