On the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico in the Sierra Madre del Sur is a rural community called San Juan Lachao. It's a small, indigenous community with a proud heritage and strong values. Many of the community members continue to speak the native language of Chatina. Cloud forests and pine/oak forests with diverse ecosystems surround the community. The forests, once exploited by outside entities for short term profits, are now part of the long term thinking in the San Juan Lachao way of life and a key component of its economic livelihood.
Historically, the forests have been harvested for paper production by outside interests and left vulnerable to wildfire. Roads built by the paper company have not had adequate revenue sources to manage and improve them in order to prevent degradation to riparian areas and water quality.
The Reserve learned of San Juan Lachao through its relationship with Pronatura, a national Mexican environmental NGO that seeks to improve and protect biodiversity throughout Mexico, and Carlos Perez, an Oaxacan-based forester who worked with the Reserve to develop the Mexico Forest Protocol.
And with that came the start of a life changing initiative for San Juan Lachao. The community has developed the first forest offset project under the Reserve's Mexico Forest Protocol. The project will help provide clean water, an improved standard of living and improved habitat conditions. Plus, the community will receive financial benefits from the offset credit revenue to support ongoing forest management and protection. As a result, the San Juan Lachao community will improve its standard of living while safeguarding the land to which it is deeply connected.
The benefits of the project, of course, extend well beyond the area occupied by this small, rural community. The forest project will play a role in addressing the global issue of climate change. Preserving the local ecosystems and cleaning the air will have ripple effects, contributing to improved quality of life for all global citizens. It's local activities like the San Juan Lachao forest project that are likely to be in the spotlight at this year's COP 20 climate change conference in Lima, as well as next year's much anticipated COP 21 in Paris. Last week the environmental community and others celebrated the US-China climate deal that was announced, and many are optimistic about the deal being a catalyst for more commitments leading up to and at COP 21. To give weight and leverage to such commitments, it is environmental initiatives like the San Juan Lachao forest project that are having a real impact now.
It's not just the bottom-up approach that is generating real action in addressing climate change. It's also the collaboration among nonprofits, corporations and local communities. In this case, Pronatura and the Climate Action Reserve have collaborated closely with the San Juan Lachao community and helped develop the project from the beginning. On the corporate side, Disney stepped in and helped get the project off the ground.
The San Juan Lachao forest project emphasizes the support and strength of cross border initiatives between California and Mexico. As Carlos Sada, Mexico Consul General in Los Angeles stated, "California and Mexico have a strong history of collaborating together and now one of the most critical challenges we must face together is addressing climate change. Initiatives like the San Juan Lachao forest project show how we can continue working together to generate real results. This project will benefit the lives of the people of San Juan Lachao, a rural community from Chatino origin in the coast of Oaxaca, as well as the lives of citizens around the globe."
California Governor Jerry Brown has been very vocal about fostering current and future environmental initiatives with its southern neighbor. If the state approves Mexican offset credits for use in its pioneering cap-and-trade program, the San Juan Lachao forest project could serve as an even more prominent example of successful cross-border initiatives.
I hope the project does serve as a successful example, not just of cross-border initiatives but also for local initiatives that have strong, real local benefits and for nonprofit-corporate collaboration. Because it's activities such as these that are going to help us address climate change.
For more information on the San Juan Lachao forest project, please feel free to view this video: http://youtu.be/IQxdl77TBOI.