Building local capacities for management and monitoring of community forests



Community managed pine-oak native forest, Comaltepec, Oaxaca (Photo: C.Peters)Community forestry is hugely important in a country like Mexico, where 80% of remaining forests are under some kind of community-based management or control. Despite its successes, community-based forestry in Mexico faces formidable challenges, as individuals and families struggle to cope with pervasive social and environmental deterioration. Widespread poverty, an intensified dependency on the market and purchased goods, and a decline in world prices for many agricultural commodities, have placed burdens on forests and on traditional forest management systems. Community forestry is also subject to a series of complex and shifting technical, bureaucratic and regulatory frameworks put in place by governments to promote “sustainable” forest management. In order to survive and successfully manage their forests in this increasingly monetized, legislated and interconnected world, communities need new kinds of competencies, skills and institutions of governance, management and intermediation.


Learning to use a locally-made dendrometer band to measure growth rates (Photo: C. Peters)In order to make sound and effective management decisions and to fulfill legal requirements to extract forest resources, communities need to have accurate information on existing stocks of resources, calculate sustainable levels of harvest and understand ways of increasing productivity through improved management. PPI has a long history of involvement with communities and their producer organizations, transferring effective and accessible forestry skills in a way that strengthens their own management systems, know-how and competencies.  Building on its previous successes, PPI is working with a number of communities throughout Mexico, training individuals in the use of basic skills for monitoring forest resources. These skills are transferrable to a range of management applications, from calculating existing stocks of economically important forest species to monitoring their growth in order to calculate sustainable levels of harvest or to benefit from REDD+ funding and support.


Developing local capacities for monitoring forest resources in community forests

Community member learning to measure tree basal area, San Agustín, Yucatán (Photo: S.Purata)Working with funding from USAID’s Program on Global Climate Change through the Mexico REDD+ Alliance and its partner organizations (The Nature Conservancy, Rainforest Alliance, Espacios Naturales y Desarrollo Sustentable A.C and Woods Hole Research Center) PPI’s Silvia Purata in collaboration with Patricia Gerez (Universidad Veracruzana) and Charles Peters (PPI, The New York Botanical Garden) have initiated an ambitious program of capacity-building in a number of communities to improve their ability to effectively evaluate existing forest resource stocks and monitor their growth or changes. In addition to allowing communities to collect critically important information as a pre-requisite to making sound management decisions and obtaining permits for resource extraction, these skills will also allow Patricia Gerez training community members in temperate forest, Comaltepec, Oaxaca (Photo: C.Peters)communities to actively participate in the process of monitoring, reporting and verification required to demonstrate carbon capture and receive the corresponding benefits from the REDD+ scheme.    In the early stages of the project are prioritizing communities that are already actively managing their forests,  and who urgently require growth data to support their management decisions and to adjust harvest levels. The Alliance Mexico-REDD+ has established five priority areas for monitoring land-use change dynamics, carbon capture and emission. All monitoring and capacity-building is out in close partnership with the local producer or community organizations and/or their networks or affiliates.


Priority areas for monitoring land-use change dynamics, carbon capture and emission (M-REDD Early Action Areas)


Project Activities    

Locally-made dendrometer bands allow community members to monitor critical baseline data for effective forest management (Photo: S. Purata)During the first phase of the growth study we organized a series of community  training workshops focused on the construction and use of stainless-steel  locally-made dendrometer bands and the use of tree borers to get cores and read growth rings. Workshops were held in three main project areas: the Yucatán Peninsula, three regions of Oaxaca (Sierra Norte, Istmo and Mixteca) and the Cutzamala region of the Estate of Mexico. Local teams composed of community members and forestry technicians worked in 13 localities, encompassing nine different forest types, under both managed and unmanaged conditions, taking growth measurements on 38 species. 



We have also  produced and disseminated an illustrated manual to assist communities and smallholders evaluate standing stocks of timber and rates of growth in order to improve management for timber production or environmental services. The strength of the manual lies in the simplicity, accessability, low cost and effectiveness of the tools outlined. Download PDF here.