Mexico's Mayan population has always been deeply rooted in the forest. But today, their descendants have little choice but to exploit their home to survive. A forest protection project is trying to strike a new balance.
Project goal: Educating indigenous communities in sustainable forestry to prevent further clearance of the valuable tree stock.
Implementation: The REDD+ forest protection program is still at an early stage in Mexico. Environmental protection organization IUCN has carried out data analyses in six villages on the Yucatán Peninsula to investigate how inhabitants subsist and use the forests. The Mexican government will then support targeted sustainable use.
Project size: Mexico still has around 65 million hectares of forest, but is losing circa 150,000 hectares annually, according to official statistics.
Biological diversity: Pumas and jaguars that still live in the forests are the most affected by deforestation, and populations are declining.
The majority of those inhabiting the Yucatán Peninsula's dense, tropical rainforests are descendants of the Maya. The modern Mayan way of life is based on many age-old traditions. For instance, the forest continues to be considered sacred - it has sheltered and nourished the population for centuries. But today, Mayans are faced with a pressing dilemma. Barely allowed to hunt animals anymore, they have turned to farming - particularly maize cultivation. But to access more arable land, the forest inhabitants have to destroy their sanctuary - and as that sanctuary disappears, so do the animals that live there. The REDD+ forest protection project aims to provide modern Mayans with alternative solutions. The program is being financed by the International Climate Initiative (ICI) and implemented by local environmental organizations on the ground. The effects of climate change are already being felt in the region, where it's been raining less often and the soil has become less fertile.
A film by Claudia Laszczak