Friday, December 2, 2011

Forest Abuse and The Zapatista Rebellion

Places in the world undergoing some sort of social conflict usually suffer major threats on their natural habitats due to the temporal lack of authority or governance. Chiapas, one of the most biological and culturally rich regions of Mexico, has overall the highest rates of deforestation of the country.

On New Year’s eve of 1994 an army integrated of local indigenous people, Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional or EZLN, took without violence the city of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas and proclaimed war against the Mexican government. The reason, “more than 500 years of extreme poverty, lack of development opportunities and mistreatment and abuse by the rest of the society”. After some days of intensive protests and resistance, the EZLN came to an agreement with the Mexican Government. It has been more than 15 years now and the conflict continues, the government does not fulfill the “Acuerdos” and the EZLN has remained outside of any political control, “promoting their own government structures”.

The lack of governance following the rebellion has allowed abuse of the land, such as massive clearance of forests for agriculture, selective logging, livestock ranching and human settlement, all of which has contributed to poor yields from traditional-agriculture forest rotations. All this lack of development of sustainable forestry has contributed to even more conflict, the local indigenous people demands the open of more land to cultivation and the population has increased tremendously.

Chiapas is one of the places in Mexico with lowest social and economical progress, but as mentioned before, with a vast biological and cultural richness. This might be a good place for organizations that link conservation and development to support, such as the USAID or the establishment of Biosphere Reserves, both of which promote conservation of Biodiversity with the participation of local people. But the conflict among local communities with the government has make this really difficult, and no single organization has been able to initiate such project on its own.

Gonz├ílez-Espinosa, M, Forest use and conservation implications of the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico, D. Kaimowitz, Editor, Forests and Conflicts, ETFRN News No. 43-44, European Tropical Forest Research Network, Wageningen, The Netherlands (2005), pp. 74–76.

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