Small-scale dairy farmers in southern Mexico are relearning the traditional farming methods of their indigenous ancestors in efforts to protect woodland and biodiversity.
With the help of the the BioPaSOS project, around 2,000 farmers and their families in Chiapas, Campeche and Jalisco are learning to to raise crops and cattle without damaging their forest home. Learning to be guardians of their forest means that cattle, crops and trees can thrive side-by-side.
In Mexico, livestock is one of the most important land uses. Grasslands and rangelands cover approximately 110 million hectares, mostly located in deforested sites, with degradation, soil erosion and of high priority for the conservation of biodiversity.
The cloud forests of Chiapas in southern Mexico have long sheltered subsistence farmers and their crops of corn and beans. But during the 1980s, there was a boom in dairy farming, which was far more profitable. Villagers let their cattle roam free in the La Sepultura Biosphere Reverse, with devastating consequences for the forest. And as the forest suffered, so did its people – from drought, and a decline in biodiversity and plants to forage.
The BioPaSOS project is helping famers is by promoting the use of agrosilvopastoral systems – a collective term for land-use systems, which combine a woody component (trees or shrubs) with cattle on the same site. The systems are essentially based upon indigenous wisdom.
Agro-silvopastoral systems, which are of importance for sustaining rural communities in drylands, favour the restoration of degraded areas, increase productivity and ecosystem services, reduce vulnerability to climate change and increase connectivity in fragmented livestock landscapes.
These systems help small-scale dairy farmers to fence in their livestock, reforest their lands and add value to their produce.
The BioPaSOS project launched in 2017 with the initial aim to serve 1,200 small-scale farmers in Chiapas, Campeche and Jalisco, but uptake exceeded expectations and the project has supported around 2,000 farmers in the region.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com