In Mexico, although the member states of the GCF Task Force have advanced in the design of their REDD+ strategies, there are still many technical and political gaps to overcome for full implementation and transition to low-emission rural development. Pronatura Sur, which serves as the GCF Task Force Coordinator in Mexico, has designed and is currently developing an intervention strategy that includes the identification of specialists who can support member states in advancing in their implementation and action plans. In May 2023, Sergio Graf Montero, Professor-researcher at the University of Guadalajara, worked with the Ministry of Environment and Natural History (SEMAHN) of Chiapas and Pronatura Sur, regarding the construction and promotion of Intermunicipal Decentralized Public Organizations (OPDI) and the strengthening of the Sustainable Livestock Strategy for the state of Chiapas, based on earlier experience in Jalisco.
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In an interview conducted by Pronatura Sur with Sergio Graf Montero* Professor-researcher at the University of Guadalajara, he shared with us some reflections derived from the collaboration he is currently carrying out with the Ministry of Environment and Natural History (SEMAHN) of the State of Chiapas. This is a strategic accompaniment that addresses three routes: the construction of Intermunicipal Boards as a model of Territorial Governance on a regional scale, the establishment of silvopastoral systems, and the consolidation of the environmentally responsible livestock seal for the state. All of them, within the framework of the actions carried out by the GCF Task Force working group in Mexico, to promote low-emission rural development that protects forests.
These reflections by Graf Montero are based on the experience of Jalisco and Chiapas regarding the construction of their sustainable livestock strategies, in the early actions of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program. These actions, promoted in 2012 by the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR), made it possible to launch a series of initiatives to attack both the direct and underlying causes of deforestation, in the case of the two states, by cattle ranching.
Although both entities share this origin, their strategies are differentiated by their intervention models, among other aspects, says Graf Montero. He adds that in the case of Jalisco, since its creation, the model “promoted the need to have a public agent of territorial development that would be the instance through which the transversality of environmental and agricultural public policies would be made. This need is aimed at directly promoting changes in livestock production systems among producers. In this way, Graf continues, ”the Intermunicipal Environmental Boards have been the decentralized public bodies with which an agenda for REDD+ implementation has begun.
The work of these public agencies was strengthened during the period in which he was in charge of the Ministry of Environment and Territorial Development (SEMADET) of the Government of the State of Jalisco (2018-2022). During which they were provided with financial resources in terms of livestock and forest fires as part of the development of the REDD+ component, he said. One example is the GCF TF’s Window B project, which focuses on innovative jurisdictional initiatives for the transformation of forest landscapes.
This project, according to Graf, has strengthened the model for transforming the state’s ranching system, considering that the key to stopping deforestation caused by ranching is to change the productive system. This, in his experience, implies changing all public activities, i.e., the enabling conditions for deforestation to occur in one way or another. For example, credit, technical assistance, training, the market, the fodder system and the system and alignment with other programs.
An additional component of Jalisco’s livestock strategy is the carbon project. For Graf Montero, it has allowed to understand that a better management of the soils of the agricultural pasture plots increases the carbon stocks. This understanding has led to the design of a system in which each producer in each Ejido can join the voluntary carbon market.
“That pathway, which is in the GCF Task Force’s Window B project, is also helping to develop the whole carbon scheme we have already, and we’re also combining resources from the Mexico UK Pact Program that Pronatura Sur is working on in Jalisco,” he said.
But the most important enabling condition to give continuity to this are the Municipal Boards, because they make possible a territorial presence, at the same time that “you have the municipal government discussing these issues even if they do not understand them in depth, [because] when the administration changes, the new government is going to support them politically because it means improving the living conditions of their producers and as the number of producers who see the benefits of this grows, they put pressure on the public entity to continue supporting the initiative.”
Regarding the experience of Chiapas in the construction of its sustainable livestock strategy, Graf affirmed that in his opinion it has advanced in a very solid way in detonating processes of work and reflection with the producers, because today they have a very interesting level of organization, thanks to the work of NGOs such as The Nature Conservancy. thanks to the work done by NGOs such as The Nature Conservancy (TNC), The Nature Conservancy Fund (TNC), the El Triunfo Conservation Fund (FONCET) and Pronatura Sur.
However, the main challenge, according to Graf Montero, is that there is still no public policy to strengthen this work, because “there are currently very valuable efforts such as the sustainable food seal promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (SAGyP), but for this to scale up there must be an effective public policy approach.
What is needed is to transform all livestock production in Chiapas, as has been established by the work of NGOs in the area.
One element that Graf considers a huge asset for the state is milk. In Chiapas, beef cattle are milk producers, there are milk value chains and chains linked to processing, and in that sense, he assures that “what makes the difference between milk and meat is that in milk, the organization of the producers can lead you more quickly to control the commercial process, through schemes of certification of origin, an industry that is currently controlled by intermediaries and industrialists. But a well-organized producers’ organization can set up a cheese plant and sell a certified, deforestation-free, sustainable and friendly product. It requires a different type of capacity, but the conditions exist to do it.”
In his opinion, Chiapas has an advantage in the construction of a sustainable system without getting involved in the transformation of the meat system, since milk, says Graf, “can be the mechanism to demand the sustainability certificate. In addition, he says that another great asset that the state has to strengthen its livestock farming strategy is the exceptional financial resources it has. The way forward, according to Graf Montero, is for these resources to be distributed with the support of the Juntas lntermunicipales to expand the possibilities of implementing a public policy for sustainable livestock farming.
Finally, Graf considers that a point of intersection between the sustainable livestock strategy of Chiapas and the construction and promotion of Municipal Boards in the state, is that having a local public entity that can maintain an operational capacity that is financed by the state, allows building a well-anchored program and “if in addition, you integrate complementary income as marketing projects and increase carbon storage, which also have their organizational scheme to reduce costs and make it viable, then a seal of sustainability can have a greater impact.” In this way the State Government and NGOs can work together to institutionally consolidate the Juntas lntermunicipales, he concluded.
The promotion of Decentralized Public Municipal Organizations for the State of Chiapas, an initiative coordinated between Pronatura Sur and SEMAHN and supported by the GCF Task Force, has continued its progress with an exchange of experiences in which mayors from different municipalities of the Meseta Comiteca region and the Coastal region of the State of Chiapas participated, which we will report on in the next bulletins.