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Nature™ Inc?

Questioning the Market Panacea in Environmental Policy and Conservation

The impact of community conservation and payment for environmental services on subsistence
production and consumption in two communities of the Chinantla, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Gary J. Martin1,2, José Tomás Ibarra3, Antonia Barreau3, Carlos del Campo1 and Claudia Camacho1
Global Diversity Foundation,
Rachel Carson Center,
University of British Columbia, emails,

Keywords: payment for environmental services, Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas,

As part of a broader project on Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) in Oaxaca,
Mexico, we assessed community conservation in two Chinantec communities in the diverse
temperate and tropical forests of Usila municipality. Since 2004, over 850 residents of Santiago
Tlatepusco and San Pedro Tlatepusco have set aside Voluntary Conserved Areas (VCAs) – certified
by the Mexican National Commission of Natural Protected Areas – covering 9,350 ha of their more
than 12,000 ha of communal lands and forests. In addition, they have been granted nearly 20
million pesos (over $1.6 million) in payment for environmental services from the Mexican National
Forestry Commission for protection of over 10,000 ha of watersheds that were intended to roughly
overlap the VCAs. In collaboration with community researchers, we conducted open, semi-
structured and structured interviews to assess the impact of conservation restrictions, including a
ban on hunting. Our research, complemented by participant observation, community-based
monitoring and participatory mapping, documented the cultural domain of hunting as well as
reported changes in agricultural production and diet diversity. Community members reported an
overall decrease in meat consumption after the hunting ban, accompanied by an increase in the
incidence of purchasing meat still consumed. Participatory mapping revealed significant differences
between community and government understanding of the delimitation of areas set aside for
voluntary conservation and environmental services payments. With over 80% of their territory
under some form of forest or watershed protection, community members attribute a decreased yield
of maize and other subsistence crops, reduction of the area used for agriculture and shortening of
the fallowing cycle to the new conservation policies. We argue that, in addition to these costs,
overly strict preservation of communal forests and lands could lead to a loss of agrobiodiversity,
dietary diversity, hunting skills and associated ethnoecological knowledge and social capital in the