The Green World Campaign Mexico, with its nonprofit partner Naturalia, supported local communities in planting trees and restoring forests, helping them become self-sufficient through ecologically sustainable practices.

We worked with an indigenous community in San Juan Atzingo, the last Tlahuica speaking village in the world.

The community, located in the southern state of Puebla ninety minutes from Mexico City, has fought against illegal logging practices in the region since the 1950s. Loggers supported by corrupt businessmen and politicians would fan out along the forest fire prevention roads, sometimes in dead of night, clear-cutting the pine and sacred fir trees (oyamel) in a 10,000 hectare forest that had been belonged to the Tluahuica-speaking icommunity since 1000 C.E.

Leader Ildefonso Zamora Zamora, who has held the ancient position of "Guardian of Tradition," mobilized his people against quick-buck timber interests by emphasizing the stewardship of the forest for their own children and the future of all. The struggle claimed the lives of nine community members and tragically, Zamora's own son, Aldo.

With the help of organizations like Naturalia and Greenpeace and countless local acts of heroism, the nation's conscience was stirred, and the Mexican federal government formally granted the community official title over a hereditary commons of 18,500 hectares.

Restoring The Past, Creating The Future

The relentless looting of lumber had destroyed over 3000 hectares of forestland, a loss of 3 million trees. Set between the cities of Toluca, Cuernavaca and Mexico City, this forest provides critical ecological and environmental benefits to the urban centers, such as oxygen to fight severe pollution and recharging of aquifers that supply the cities' water. The area is also called Zempoala, which means "20 lagoons" in Nahuatl; as of today, all but two have dried up.

With the help of the Green World Campaign, the work of restoration, and a new path of sustainability began.

Naturalia is a local nonprofit group with a 17-year track record developing conservation projects, protecting endangered species, conducting environmental education, and planting trees. With the support of Green World Campaign and HSBC, it started an extensive series of community-owned tree nurseries. It also trained and administered "reforestation brigades," coordinating outings by private sector companies and volunteers. It has helped to engage dozens of public and private elementary schools in creating their own tree nurseries and plant trees.

The San Juan Atzingo Project

The GWC co-sponsored micro-enterprise tree nurseries produced 250,000 trees per year each for reforestation activities to sell via a community-owned, for-profit company. The program not only preserves and restores ancestral forests, but helps create sustainable, ecologically sound livelihoods that include a waste management enterprise and eco-tourism, centered around the restoration of a local lagoon.

The Green World Campaign's Action Plan 2009-11 helped support:

  • Technical assessments for sustainable production, management, administration and maintenance of the tree nursery.

  • Satellite geospatial imaging and appropriate tech GPS methods (including a "Kite-Assisted Photography") to track forest cover and tree regeneration.

  • Sustainable resource utilization in the forest, workshops on native seed-gathering techniques, and developing markets for non-timber products and community-produced handicrafts.

  • Tracking, with the full community involvement, all planted trees, leading to a registry including survival rates and threat monitoring (cattle, logging, vehicles, forest fires, or diseases).

  • Enabling the community to earn carbon credits.

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