GCF member states and accredited institutions are positioned at a strategic level of governance to address the root causes of deforestation. They serve as the leaders and innovators on the ground, designing and implementing collaborative solutions that yield a global impact by reducing carbon emissions from land-use change. With financial support from the GCFF, GCF member states are empowered to implement projects that contribute to realizing the GCF Task Force’s goals outlined in the Rio Branco Declaration and promote early action in support of the Paris Agreement.
EcoLogic: Empowering Indigenous Community Engagement in Mexico’s National MRV System
During the second GCFF Request for Proposals, the EcoLogic Development Fund (EcoLogic), a conservation non-profit, was one of the institutions awarded the Fund’s financial support to improve monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) implementation in states in Mexico. EcoLogic acted as a coordinator and facilitator, to a multi-state, multi-stakeholder effort that included the technical leadership of Jorge Morfin of the Mexico-Norway Project and in close partnerships with Cooperativa AMBIO, ECOSUR, HC Paisajismo, SURverde (previously, Investigaciones y Soluciones Socioambientales – ISS), University ofArts and Sciences in Chiapas, and the Secretary of the Environment in Campeche, Chiapas, Jalisco, Quintana Roo, and Tabasco. The second Request for Proposals was supported by funding from the U.S. Department of the State and USAID.
Since 1993, EcoLogic has been dedicated to “empower(ring) rural and indigenous peoples to protect and restore tropical ecosystems in Central America and Mexico,” says EcoLogic’s CarbonPlus Senior Manager Andrea Savage. The Fund interviewed Andrea to find out more about the far-reaching impact that their project has had for its stakeholders.
Fund:Please describe the importance of EcoLogic’s MRV project in Mexico funded by the GCFF.
EcoLogic: One of the most important aspects of the project was the diversity of actors that it brought to the table and, despite certain challenges, by-and- large there was very engaged dialogue and learning and a true spirit of collaboration amongst the group. This project enabled us to build and strengthen key partnerships between rural communities, civil society organizations, universities, and government institutions so that rural and indigenous people could effectively participate in and benefit from forest conservation and monitoring related to Mexico’s Reduction in Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus Conservation (REDD+) strategy.
EcoLogic’s approach in this project focused on equipping forest communities with the information,technology, resources, and relationships needed to actively have a stake in REDD+ initiatives. Our work builds the local-level technical rigor, accountability, and consensus needed for REDD+ to be effective and beneficial for rural people so that they can lead in forest conservation in the long run. Mexico’s National REDD+ Strategy (ENAREDD+) is currently undergoing consultation, which provided an opportunity for the state-level MRV Technical Working Groups that have been consolidated through the project to fill a need for improved data quality and sharing. The project helped define how states could most effectively participate in the National MRV System—which will quantify the amount of carbon credits for which Mexico and the REDD+ action states will be able to qualify. Ultimately, credits will be distributed to communities through emission-reducing programs and projects.
"By strengthening the capacity of state actors and aligning state interests, the project was able to demonstrate to the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) the advantages of involving local governments, research centers, NGOs, and rural communities in the National MRV System."
Fund:What were some of the main challenges EcoLogic and its partners faced during the project? How did support from the GCFF help EcoLogic overcome these challenges?
EcoLogic: The role of the states in Mexico’s National Forest Monitoring System was extremely uncertain and undefined leading up to the project. In addition, government administration changeover in Campeche and Tabasco led to some delays in activities, and relationships subsequently had to be rebuilt.
Thanks to funding from the GCFF, EcoLogic was able to facilitate a meeting between Ricardo Hernandez, the undersecretary of forestry development in Chiapas, and the new Minister of Environment of Tabasco. In the state of Campeche, SURverde A.C. (a partner in the project) met with the new environment minister in order to explain the importance of the project and ensure the state government participated in the project activities. This kind of strategic outreach allowed the scope of the project to grow from only Chiapas and Campeche initially, to then add Jalisco, Quintana Roo, and Tabasco the second year.
Due to the project, communication was improved between CONAFOR and state governments in orderdefine the states’ role in the National Forest Monitoring System. The project conducted an MRV diagnostics and capacity building plan, which helped to organize GCF states, identify key strengths and weaknesses, and also present a united front in order to negotiate increased participation of states in the National Forest Monitoring System. The states’ MRV Technical Working Groups now provide a vital link to communities, through local universities and NGOs, in order to include community brigades in forest monitoring and increase local participation in REDD+ and other land use policies.
"The states’ MRV Technical Working Groups now provide a vital link to communities, through local universities and NGOs, in order to include community brigades in forest monitoring and increase local participation in REDD+ and other land use policies."
Fund:Collaboration is the cornerstone of GCF member-led projects. Please describe how collaboration with GCF country coordinators and other stakeholders has helped with project implementation.
EcoLogic: And it is key for EcoLogic, as well! Partnering up with local organizations and communities is essential for increasing local interest and uptake of project activities and ensuring that local capacity is built for the long-run. In addition, collaboration with other organizations with similar project goals, especially projects that have a national reach, is vital in order to increase the reach of the project and overcome barriers to project implementation.
The project reaffirmed how absolutely essential collaboration is for project success. In order to meet project goals efficiently, we have learned that project activities must be carried out by the most appropriate stakeholder in the field. Each project partner had a clear role and added value in the project, which was absolutely essential for the project’s success.
Additionally, EcoLogic and our partners learned valuable lessons related to effective government relations. National governments can be very wary about over-committing to agreements with state governments, especially taking into account personnel and budget issues. We found that the facilitation of state-national roundtables and workshops really helped demonstrate the value and importance of increasing local and state trust and coordination.
"The project reaffirmed how absolutely essential collaboration is for project success. In order to meet project goals efficiently, we have learned that project activities must be carried out by the most appropriate stakeholder in the field. Each project partner had a clear role and added value in the project, which was absolutely essential for the project’s success."
Fund:EcoLogic’s project helped strengthen state-level technical capacity, expanded community forest monitoring efforts in four states, and identified measures to further scale-up community monitoring. What were some of the most notable impacts of the project for different stakeholders including indigenous communities?
EcoLogic: The workshops not only created an opportunity to increase the technical capacities of local actors and to coordinate alignment of MRV methods with CONAFOR, but also provided an opportunity for state actors and CONAFOR to both see how the MRV Technical Working Groups can play a critical role in strengthening monitoring at the local and national levels. As a result of our project, the GCF states have committed to continue supporting the MRV Technical Working Group network; to ensure the continuation of information and learning exchanges between the states; to coordinate efforts in regard to working with CONAFOR; to prioritize the involvement of communities in forest monitoring; and to share information and knowledge with the Virtual Excellence Centre on Forest Monitoring (CEV).
The trainings have brought confidence specifically to young indigenous people. Youth have led capacity-building workshops with participants from different states within Mexico as well as from different countries. This has helped empower them to pursue further projects, education and careers, and has led them to acquire more respect from community authorities and elders.
Locally, the project and the leadership of three key scientists - Dr. Ligia Esparza Olguín, Dr. Miguel Ángel Castillo, and Sergio López Mendoza Medina - helped to form and train community-level forest monitoring brigades, whose members are now better equipped and informed to actively participate in the monitoring and management of their forests. Opportunities have also been identified for scaling-up community monitoring to the state level. Thanks to the consolidation of the MRV technical groups and trainings, local organizations and universities now have a better working knowledge of the National Forest Monitoring System, and have contributed to bringing together information and knowledge about forests at the state level.
Nationally, CONAFOR has identified a greater role for states in the National Forest Monitoring system, and has welcomed the contribution of the states in reviewing and filtering the state forest inventories. This has also led to greater confidence in state-level capacities and delegation of more forest monitoring responsibilities to the state governments (such as carrying out the state forest and soils inventories).
Globally, the project has resulted in the involvement of international stakeholders from Finland, the UK, the US, and Brazil. These stakeholders have gained knowledge about the role of states in Mexico’s National MRV system through their participation in project activities. Subsequently, this has opened the door for opportunities for future collaboration between international stakeholders.
"The trainings have brought confidence specifically to young indigenous people. Youth have led capacity-building workshops with participants from different states within Mexico as well as from different countries. This has helped empower them to pursue further projects, education and careers, and has led them to acquire more respect from community authorities and elders."
Fund:As an organization with experience in community participation, what recommendations do you have to enhance community participation for similar projects?
EcoLogic: There are countless opportunities and benefits to involving communities in the monitoring of forest carbon. In Mexico the majority of forests are owned and managed by rural communities. Simply for this reason, forest communities must be involved in monitoring and information sharing of emissions data collected from their forests. With greater access to information on carbon stocks and biodiversity from community members involved in monitoring, forest communities can make more informed decisions about land use.
More specifically, in order to enhance community participation in projects like this, it is important to include community members that have been involved in previous REDD+ processes or programs to develop continuity and cohesion between previous experiences. Also, reaching out to communities through local organizations and universities helps ensure that project activities are not isolated and can be linked up to monitoring of local payment for environmental services programs and certification schemes, as well provide inputs for thesis and research topics for students and researchers.
Finally, the establishment of community-level forest monitoring brigades provided temporary jobs for community members, which provides an incentive for participation and skill-building for longer-term employment opportunities, such as monitoring of payment for environmental services programs, and collecting of data for state forest inventories and additional emissions factor data.
Fund:Is there anything else you would like to share?
EcoLogic: Support from GCFF has been essential for us to make tangible strides in ensuring that Mexico’s emerging REDD+ Strategy involves and ultimately benefits rural and indigenous people. But beyond these advancements, the project also enabled EcoLogic to forge vibrant new partnerships with so many community, government, and academic institutions from across Mexico. This is the exact type of collaboration -- robust, transparent, multi-stakeholder, and multi-level -- that has to happen if we are to succeed in reducing tropical deforestation and mitigating climate change.