WHY MEXICO & CENTRAL AMERICA?
The forests of Mexico and Central America are among the most biologically diverse in the world, and are home to some 12 million people. But deforestation in Mexico and the expansion of the agricultural frontier throughout Central America threaten these forests and the communities who live within them. Such communities are among the best defenders of forests—studies show that indigenous territories with secure land rights and forest management policies have lower deforestation rates and greenhouse gas emissions.
More than 60% of Mexican forests are on lands owned or managed by communities. Communities with secure rights to their land, and the Mexican federal and state governments, need support in their efforts to strengthen community forestry. Although many forest communities in Central America own or manage a large share of regional forests, their land rights must be more comprehensively secured and protected.
Securing indigenous and community land rights and promoting community forest management is not only important on the local level for Mexico and Central America—it is also critical to global efforts to reduce climate change. Public policies in many other tropical forest countries have often failed to effectively protect the rights and livelihoods of forest communities. Experiences in Mexico and Central America prove that promoting the rights of indigenous peoples and rural communities to manage their forests is a powerful way to protect forests while mitigating climate change, conserving biodiversity, and improving local livelihoods. Mexico and Central America’s experiences provide lessons other tropical forest nations can follow in their efforts to reduce forest loss and slow climate change by strengthening community forest rights and management.