Agriculture, especially on a large scale, has become a threat to biodiversity. The excessive and irresponsible expansion of cultivation areas has caused the loss of thousands of hectares of forests and an attack on the biological diversity that is abundantly concentrated in these territories. According to FAO figures, around 4.4 billion hectares in the world are used for cultivation and this area is constantly gaining ground from the original ecosystems.
However, agriculture has been the world's food base since time immemorial. In the case, for example, of Mexico, the cultivation of the land has, and has had, a crucial role in the livelihood, lifestyle and worldview of its inhabitants.
Because both agriculture and forests are essential for the future of the planet's populations, their alliance in favor of sustainable coexistence is presented as essential.
As in other places, in Mexico there is a frequent change in land use, from forest to field, due to the lack of incentives around the use of forest resources compared to the cultivation of, for example, avocado or African palm. This is largely due to the fact that the communities, who certainly own a large part of the wooded land, do not find a source of income in the forest, the same as if they find it in the countryside.
This has to do with policies that discourage the sustainable profitability of forests. For example, in Mexico there are payments for environmental services (PES) that are granted to the owners of ejidal lands, which become a kind of “passive” compensation that does not encourage communities to undertake as a community forestry enterprise. economically profitable, much less to conserve its ecosystem with proper management of the forest and its resources. This often encourages rather the conversion of forests into agricultural lands or the concession to other non-sustainable exploitation mechanisms, such as mining or urban development.
As a result of these problems, approaches have arisen, from the philosophy of community forest management, such as practicing community agroforestry - a kind of climate-smart agriculture - to promote the variability of biological diversity within forests.
As the Civil Council for Sustainable Forestry points out, it has been proven that agroforestry or agroforestry is an effective system in the sustainable management of forest soils. Basically, it is about combining, under the same terrain, two, or even three, of the actors in dispute: agriculture, forest and livestock. In Mexico this smart farming technique, and others such as organic agriculture and community forestry, have shown countless benefits, both for local economies and for mitigating climate change.
The importance of substituting polluting agricultural practices for more sustainable ones gained greater strength in the country with regard to the last Convention on Biological Diversity, COP13.
In Mexico, agriculture and the forest could join forces in favor of conservation
In Mexico, historically, agriculture and livestock have been encouraged through subsidies and incentives at the expense of forest area. This translates into one of the main drivers of deforestation, largely due to the lack of policies and regulations that prevent the demolition of forests from being subsidized to produce meat, avocados or palm oil.
With the agreements issued at this summit held in Cancun, Mexico concluded two important agreements that could, if applied correctly, facilitate the relationship between agriculture and forests in the country in a sustainable way:
On the one hand, there is the collaboration agreement between SAGARPA and SEMARNAT, which enunciates a new stage in the coordination of their corresponding sectors. It is an alliance to promote joint strategies and prevent more forest areas from being converted into agricultural or livestock. Although the methods to achieve this have not yet been specified, the prohibition of projects that attempt to transmute forest lands into agricultural land has been emphasized, as has been the case of avocado cultivation, which is responsible for the loss of millions of forest hectares in Mexico. This agreement basically foresees a compatibility between economic development, food sustainability and environmental preservation, three concepts that refer to forestry and agroforestry and which, we hope, is among the goals to be promoted.
On the other hand, during COP13 an agreement was agreed between SAGARPA and CONAFOR, which deals with the possibility of mitigating climate change in rural areas, through the proper management of agricultural and forestry incentives, - since these are not in balance -, agroforestry systems and the inclusion of policies and programs for the development of sustainable activities in the field.
There are more than 8 thousand forest communities that live in Mexico. People with field knowledge, prepared and willing to take advantage of their resources in a profitable and sustainable way. The solution to climate change could well lie in the hands of these communities that are already beginning to practice smart agriculture and forestry in favor of conservation, they just have to guarantee them the opportunity.