Indigenous Communities Transform a Mexican Desert Landscape Into Forest

  • In the Mexican state of Oaxaca, 22 communities have taken on the challenge of reviving soils depleted by centuries of overgrazing.
  • Over the last two decades, they’ve managed to restore at least 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres), turning many sites into burgeoning forests.
  • The task is especially challenging because the communities are starting from “less than zero” — having to find ways to restore their soil before they can even think about planting trees.
  • The success of the initiative means the communities can now look forward to more options for forest-based livelihood, such as agroforestry or even selling carbon credits.

In Tepejillo, on one of the many hills in the southern Mexican municipality of San Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca, extreme erosion has transformed the earth into bare rock, making it difficult to imagine that the area used to be home to a forest or, even more incredibly, a civilization.