Indigenous-led Ecosystem Restoration in Mexico
Communal Assets of the Lacandona Zone (BCZL)
500 Farmers and 15,000 Community Members
Grow Ahead partnered with the Communal Assets of the Lacandona Zone (BCZL), an organization made up of Indigenous people descended from the Lacandona, Ch'ol, Tsotsil and Tzeltal Mayans located in the Selva Lacandona (Lacandona Jungle) in Chiapas, Mexico. The Nueva Palestina community, and much of the surrounding area, is being impacted by water scarcity due to deforestation. The project planted 25,000 trees, focusing on using traditional Mayan agroforestry systems, to boost biodiversity, support soil health and restore freshwater to the lagoons, rivers and springs of the Yaxal Lum K'inal or the Lacandona Jungle.
BCZL builds off of traditional Mayan agroforestry systems called milpa, a model of interspersing farmland or cultivation areas within the forest. It is a rotating farming system that promotes the biodiversity of the jungle. The milpa is traditionally a model of food production centered around corn, but it is linked to a great variety of plants that create healthy soils through cycles of recycling nutrients throughout the jungle forests.
The Mayan milpa is a diverse system that benefits not only people, but pollinators (insects, birds and mammals), insects, reptiles, amphibians and mammals that live around and within the milpa, as well the surrounding jungle ecosystem. The reforestation project planted not just trees and shrubs, but also edible and medicinal plants for both community use and for the health of the milpa biome itself. This process aims to support life for people, animals, plants, fungi, water, soil, air and spirits.
This reforestation project with Grow Ahead is a part of a larger initiative or ‘Life Plan’ from BCZL, which is a set of social, environmental, cultural and economic policies created by the original peoples of the Lacandona Jungle, for the coexistence of all beings in the territory. This Indigenous-led Ecosystem Restoration in Mexico project was not just about planting trees, but the reconstruction of life networks in the jungle to support biodiversity of plants and animals, ensure food and medicine for the community, and strengthen Indigenous traditions that make the fabric of the Selva Lacandona community.
The Communal Assets of the Lacandona Zone (BCZL) is an organization made up of Indigenous people descended from the Lacandona, Ch'ol, Tsotsil and Tzeltal Mayans, which has authority over a territory of at least 500 thousand hectares, which cover a large part of the Lacandona Jungle. They have come together to create the Plan de Vida or Life Plan which is a comprehensive social, environmental, cultural and economic policy for the peoples of the Lacandona community.