Ernesto Herrera
Director General
Reforestamos México
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View from the Top

Protecting our Forests Is a Matter Of National Security

By Jan Hogewoning | Tue, 10/01/2019 - 16:20

Q: What have been Reforestamos México’s biggest achievements so far?

A:  Our mission is to improve the state of our nation’s forests. This is done in three ways: stopping deforestation, increasing the sustainable management of forests, and restoring deteriorated forests. In alliance with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), we have supported the certification of over 300,000ha of forest that meet the international criteria for responsible management. However, it is hard to talk about achievements when there are still so many things to do.

One area where we have made gains is transparency in the forestry segment. Since 2012, we have been creating dialogue spaces where we bring together different stakeholders to talk about forests’ legality with special focus on the timber market. Transparency is needed to ensure legality. We launched the “Open Forests” platform, which has disclosed and made accessible to decision-makers information regarding the state of forests in our country from 2005 to 2017. This platform was recently awarded by the National Institute of Transparency (INAI) as a civil society achievement.

Q: What can be done to assure forests are protected in a local manner?

A: One of our missions is to ensure that people who live on forested land can actually live off their forest. We cannot ask people living in forests to stop touching them if they do not have another income. We are currently working on a strategy to strengthen the forest entrepreneurial ecosystem. Together with universities, incubators, accelerators and investment funds, we want to articulate and foster entrepreneurial talent that can create successful forest-friendly enterprises. The idea is to build sustainable value chains that make forestry products and services competitive in the market. For Reforestamos México, it is very important to develop legal mechanisms to reduce organized crime in the sector.

We are also building territorial platforms with different stakeholders, so they can convene and agree on a common vision to protect their forests. We work hand in hand with these actors to help them articulate their goals. The biggest platform we are collaborating in is the Central-West Biocultural Corridor of Mexico (COBIOCOM). COBIOCOM promotes the sustainable management of an area of 15 million hectares. One of the advantages of a civil society organization participating in such platforms is that we are not restrained to six-years terms, like government agencies. This means we can play an important role in ensuring long-term governance continuity and by generating trust among the different players, which is key for implementing sustainable strategies on the territory.

Q: How can the private sector be motivated to take action to improve their environmental footprint?

A: The private sector has to recognize that forests are not a romantic topic. Forests are not just beautiful places with rich flora and fauna separated from our social, cultural, economic and political systems. Our economy and our livelihood are dependent on them. There are so many things we consume that are dependent on the good state of our forests. For example, everyone consumes and depends on water. Forests are essential in maintaining healthy water sources. If companies do not take a positive and proactive action to protect forests, they will no longer have the business or business environment they have now. We have many different initiatives with private sector partners. We are a founding member of the Mexican Alliance for Business and Biodiversity (AMEBIN), a group of environmental NGOs and leading private companies and financial institutions that discuss and act on a variety of topics, for example, the implementation of the Natural Capital Protocol, an innovative methodology that allows companies to determine their main dependencies and impacts on nature, like forests and other ecosystems, and the services nature provides to them. This exercise enables the analysis and enhancement of their environmental or sustainably strategies with a wider view.

Q: Was this romantic view also held by the government?

A: The government has to recognize that the forestry sector is different from others. We need to protect our forests. However, extreme conservation policies will not necessarily preserve our natural resources. Public policies should facilitate sustainable forest management so that local communities incorporate the best practices available. There should also be fiscal incentives for sustainable forestry businesses or forest related public-private-community partnerships. However, the government has reduced systematically the budget allocated to forestry.

Q: Are changing consumer habits impacting the state of forests?

A: People certainly are becoming more conscious of what they buy. Nevertheless, the growth of urbanization is widening the gap between people and nature. It is important to reconnect people with our forests. Reforestamos México has initiatives in which thousands of volunteers have planted trees in rural and urban environments. Another important strategy is to increase the recognition of product certifications, such as the FSC seal. People need to have a way to recognize that what they are buying is responsible. In our work with producers we are pushing the need for certification. At the same time, we are working to convince companies to use certified forest commodities. It takes time and commitment to shift to better practices.

Q: What is your most important objective for 2020?

A: We want to generate a strategy for the acceleration of responsible forestry businesses. With our partners in Latin America, we will identify the 100 businesses in the region that require acceleration services. We are developing a consortium to assist these businesses and create examples and clear paths for new companies. This comes down to sharing best practices and creating relationships with different stakeholders in this area. In general, many businesses, from many sectors, are approaching us with the intention of contributing to our cause. We do not just want philanthropic efforts; we want the full private sector muscle to ensure more and better forests for the future.

 

Reforestamos México is a civil association dedicated to protecting and restoring Mexico’s forests. The organization works in alliance with both private and public partners in Mexico and Latin America.

Photo by:   Reforestamos México
Jan Hogewoning Jan Hogewoning Journalist and Industry Analyst