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News Article

Sembrando Vida’s Questionable Impact

By Jan Hogewoning | Tue, 04/07/2020 - 13:02

On Sunday, President López Obrador promised to add another 200,000 participants to the Sembrando Vida program, which aims to use agroforestry techniques to recover deteriorated and overexploited land. Last December, in a visit to Veracruz, the president touted the program as the greatest employment initiative in the history of the country and as the prime project of its kind in the world. 

To date, according to official figures, the program has approximately 230,000 participants in eight states. One third of participants are women. These figures are admirable considering the short lifespan of the program. However, there have been serious doubts about the program's achievements in ecosystem restoration so far. The government’s objective for last year was to plant a total of 575 million trees. According to the Minister of Well-being, María Luisa Albores, only 80 million trees were planted. This amounts to 14 percent of the objective. Moreover, only a minority of these trees will survive. While the ministry put the figure of survival at 50 percent, the real survival rate is likely to be smaller. During the ProArbol program, a tree planting initiative run by the Calderon administration between 2007-2012, Greenpeace estimated that 80 percent of the planted trees had died.

Making trees survive in different climatic and terrain conditions is complex and requires significant technical capital and the right species of trees. In this program, the trees are first left to sprout in community-run nurseries. When they have done so, they grow to a certain level, at which point they are transplanted to their final location. Expertise throughout this process is essential and should be provided by government technicians, as the program proposed. Calderon, the former president himself, tweeted that the problem with the Sembrando Vida program is that there is a lack of technical assistance for farmers. Another issue which has been voiced in the media is that there are not enough efforts to measure the actual impact of the program.

López Obrador has made Sembrando Vida a pillar of his agenda, committing US$621.9 million of the federal budget to the program last year and this year a whopping US$1 billion. To put this into perspective, this is more than the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Culture combined. Last December, the president also stated that enough resources would be destined to the program in order to let it run until 2025, a year after he leaves office. A considerable amount of the money goes to participants, who receive a US$207 check a month as financial support, in addition to supplies and tools. The question is whether this money ends up where it should, which is to create a sustainable rural community economy that restores and protects ecosystems. There have been reports that some farmers have resorted to burning down land in order to qualify for the program.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Mexico Business News, Excelsior, Expansion Politica, Aristegui Noticias
Photo by:   Pixabay
Jan Hogewoning Jan Hogewoning Journalist and Industry Analyst