(Les préoccupations climatiques : une opportunité ou un danger pour les forêts mexicaines et leurs habitants ?)
01 / 1993
Six months after the Earth Summit, some trends can be seen in the global and national forest policies. Every institution concerned with environment and development has adapted its strategy to new conditions, including new flows of funds. However, the efforts made by different kinds of institutions are all but consistent, and sometimes are plainly contradictory. Climate change may justify the support, by some agencies, to unadequate plantations and creation of unfeasible protected areas in highly populated regions. Or it can be, for grassroot organisations, a main argument to enhance peasant forestry.
Forest policies going backwards
The 1986 Law for Forests opened a gap for peasant participation. Several communities and organisations, supported by NGOs or GOs, undertook sustainable forestry projects, with more or less successful results. However, recent legislation is threatening these efforts. The Agrarian Law has been modified to allow privatisation and concentration of land. And Mexican government is pulling forward a New Law for Forests, which doesn’t even mention the peasant communities and uses "ecological" arguments to stress the importance of creating artificial forests, following the Chilean model. Meanwhile, Mexican labor and resources are getting cheaper as a consequence of free trade, which already exists even without NAFTA. Competition is likely to annihilate the efforts for a sustainable peasant forestry.
International environmental pressures
With ecological arguments, Mexican government is likely to accept funds from the GEF for huge rapid-growth plantation projects, whose ecological impact can be very serious. Of course some carbon will be absorbed, but the soils will be depleted and the peasants will lose the control over their land. The use of some existing forests is likely to be left to the "free market" forces. Other’s will be restricted, carrying along corruption and illegal uncontrolled exploitations. At least that’s what has happened throughout Mexican history every time bans were imposed. Without an adequate approach, actions could be counterproductive.
Towards a strategy for NGOs
Networks are being created to deal with the technical, economic and environmental aspects of forest management. These networks are also lobbying to influence forest policies. Their impact will grow stronger as links with other networks are woven. Links are being created between peasant communities/organizations and technical assistance groups from NGOs, governments or scientific institutions, which enable them to undertake sustainable practices based on careful studies. Funds should be allocated to make these studies and to support reforestation by the peasants themselves.
The NGO community should oppose any commercial agreement (GATT, NAFTA, or whatever)which doesn’t take into account the impacts of open frontiers on environment and income of the poor. Cheap North American wood flodding the markets in countries like Mexico can annihilate the efforts to build a sustainable forestry strategy. A market for forest products obtained with sustainable practices should be developped, and certification mechanisms set up.