Clearing to Restore? Adapting the Program Sembrando Vida to Community Agroforestry Management Practices in the Sierra of Zongolica, Mexico

Milton Javier Rubiano Guzman

The project focuses on analysing the environmental implications of the mexican federal government's flagship public program "Sembrando Vida" (SV) on forest cover, associated biodiversity, and rural livelihoods in the Sierra of Zongolica, one of Mexico's megadiverse regions. I will integrate a methodological approach that includes:

(1) a Geographical Information System (GIS) to document land use, land cover and analysis of change of cover forest.

(2) a sustainability framework so-called MESMIS (Marco de Evaluación de Sistemas de Manejo Incorporando Indicadores de Sustentabilidad or Framework for Evaluation of Natural Resource Management Systems Incorporating Sustainability Indicators) to evaluate agroforestry management, which allows for systematic diagnosis of food production systems by analysing seven attributes: stability, productivity, resilience, adaptability, reliability, equity, and self-sufficiency.

(3) the Q-method to understand the perceptions of farming families about the SV program, a research methodology that combines qualitative and quantitative analysis to identify the existing subjective perceptions within a group or community based on each participant`s affinity to a series of statements in the form of concise and diverse opinions selected from multiple possible opinions on a controversial topic.

Visiting a Sembrando Vida community greenhouse where the productive reforestation species promoted by the program are propagated. © Milton Rubiano-Guzman.

Visiting a Sembrando Vida community greenhouse where the productive reforestation species promoted by the program are propagated. © Milton Rubiano-Guzman.

The data generated by each method will be complementary, as they will allow for evaluating "what is said" (Q Method) and "what is done" (MESMIS) to propose environmental improvements to the productive practices carried out in the megadiverse Sierra of Zongolica. The project's contribution lies in the conservation of 900 species through a proposal for micro-regional adjustment of SV to the agroforestry management that the indigenous people (Nahua) living in the Sierra have been developing for decades.

The project will also directly benefit participants by identifying ways of improving the sustainability of their agroforestry systems. Similarly, the project will support participants in achieving recognition and incorporation of their knowledge and traditional agroforestry practices into the SV program and channel their concerns and proposals for improving the program`s current mode of operation, characterized by a top-down approach through extension agents. The story of the project will be narrated through a photonovel co-written with the farming families, which will serve as a testimony to rural youth of the value of traditional agroforestry management practices and their importance in the conservation of the biodiversity of their mountains.

Header: View of the Sierra of Zongolica from the village of Cotlaixco. In the background, the peak of Orizaba can be seen. © Milton Rubiano-Guzman.

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