A Qualitative Assessment of Key Factors Shaping the Development of Community Forestry Enterprises in Mexico

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http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201706154908
Title: A Qualitative Assessment of Key Factors Shaping the Development of Community Forestry Enterprises in Mexico
Author: Miller, Cary
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Department of Forest Sciences
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2017
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201706154908
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/193730
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Skoglig ekologi och resurshushållning
Forest Ecology and Management
Metsien ekologia ja käyttö
Abstract: With a land tenure structure dating back to the Mexican Revolution of 1910, Mexico is second only to Papua New Guinea in proportion of forest land under community ownership. While many communities have successfully formed community forestry enterprises (CFEs) producing value-added goods and generating income and social benefits for community members, many more remain minimally involved with forest management or do not harvest timber. As such, this study sought to collect and analyze the opinions and experiences of groups and individuals involved in the forest sector, with the aim of providing a greater understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the Mexican forestry model, the most important factors facilitating or undermining the development of CFEs, and opportunities for the advancement of community forestry in the future. This study is based on semi-structured stakeholder interviews which were conducted in four states with members of both harvesting and non-harvesting communities, members of Mexico's National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) and Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), various experts with ties to the forest sector, and foresters serving the communities interviewed. The results indicate that communities face a number of significant developmental challenges. Community organization was found to be an essential internal factor, and successful CFEs have in common a strong internal cohesion and collective decision making capacity, while failure is often linked to indecision, internal divisions, or corruption. Will and ability to invest in the CFE are also crucial, and sources suggested that communities are often impeded by their lack of 'entrepreneurial mentality' when it comes to investment. For those that are interested in investing in the CFE, lack of available capital is often problematic. In part because of these challenges the Mexican forest sector relies largely on obsolete practices and technology, resulting in elevated costs of production relative to foreign competitors, and foreign competition has taken a toll on the industry in Mexico. In some areas declining industrial consumption has made it more difficult for communities to find buyers for forest products and may limit future production potential. The quality of technical services available to the communities is another factor that is both critical and inconsistent, and the important role of private foresters in aiding CFE development was emphasized by a number of sources. Government intervention has also had an important impact on the sector and CONAFOR has played a key role in its development in recent years. On the other hand, forestry is a heavily regulated activity and there appears to be a consensus that regulations could or should be simplified. It was also suggested that government agencies may not have the resources to process the paperwork they demand in a timely manner. Overall, community forestry in Mexico represents an important and environmentally sustainable source of rural livelihoods, and a great deal of potential remains for the expansion of the sector. While some challenges facing CFEs may not have clear solutions, there are some steps that could be taken to improve conditions in the future. Technological advance will be critical if Mexico is to compete on international markets, and there is work to be done both in terms of finance and in promoting 'business mentalities' and investment. Likewise, a thriving forest industry may require strong policy support from the federal government and efforts to ensure that technical services available to communities are adequate. Finally, it will be important to evaluate the regulatory balance between environmental protection and development of the sector moving forward, to create conditions that are both sustainable and conducive to growth.
Subject: Community Forestry
Sustainable Development
Mexico
Land Tenure
Forest Management


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