“We’ve accomplished a lot in the past 25 years, and now we are focusing on more strategic activities”.
Mexico and Northern Central America Conservation Program
The Nature Conservancy began working in Mexico in 1986, when a small group of our conservationists saw an important opportunity to facilitate cross-border conservation. At the time, the Conservancy was focused primarily on working within the United States.
“They were very persistent,” says Rosario Alvarez, director of the Conservancy’s Mexico and Northern Central America Conservation Programs
25 years later, our Mexico program has more than 30 committed staffers, over 36 partnering non-governmental organizations and a sound work alliance with the government sector.
And we’ve helped to achieve big results in Mexico, including:
- Protecting 4.2 million acres;
- Increasing the federal annual budget for protected areas from $15 million in 1996 to $96 million in 2008;
- Training over 250 conservation leaders;
- Investing more than $60 million in conservation actions.
The Conservancy’s work in Mexico has been primarily focused on supporting the efforts of in-country partners, from state agencies like CONANP (National Protected Areas Commission) and CONAFOR (National Forestry Commission) to local groups like Amigos de Sian Ka’an and Pronatura Península de Yucatán, among many others.
“We provide technological and fundraising support, cultivate conservation visions and ultimately, strengthen institutions to be able to carry out the work with or without us,” says Juan Bezaury, the Conservancy’s country representative.
What’s next for The Nature Conservancy in Mexico?
There is much to be done to meet the challenges ahead.
“We have been very successful at assisting the Mexican government sector to increase funding for biodiversity and create new laws favoring conservation,” says Bezaury. “But now we must create new partnerships with private entities, like corporations and foundations. That’s the next big challenge for us in Mexico and the market is right for such partnerships,” Bezaury points out.
“We’ve accomplished a lot in the past 25 years, and now we are focusing on more strategic activities,” Alvarez continues.
These activities include:
- Implementing REDD+ in the Yucatan Forests as part of a forest-protection program that will significantly reduce deforestation and bring 1 million acres of tropical forest into long-term protection and management. We are also looking to build economic opportunities for people living in and around these forests.
- Collaborating with new partners in sectors like agriculture, ranching and tourism;.
- Growing our work in oceans, where we are looking to double the marine area under protection in the Gulf of California and protect 100% of all critical coastal ecosystems in the Yucatan Peninsula;
- Incorporating climate change adaptation across 12 million acres.
These are exciting times for The Nature Conservancy in Mexico. Alvarez sighs when she tries to describe the relevance of the Conservancy’s first 25 years in the country.
“The most fulfilling experience of this work comes when you visit a community, and you see people smile when they realize they can grow better crops, when they witness fisheries being restored, when they realize that through helping nature they have hope.”