zapotecas indigenous joint communities forest conservation in oaxaca

At the south of Mexico in 'Sierra Norte', Oaxaca, eight Zapoteca communities come together to a joint community organization working on the conservation of 13,000 hectares of forest.
Their conservation strategy is based on a sustainable management of the forest, but also the development of a managerial model through which they have developed community businesses combining technical knowledge with indigenous organization.

This region was previously indiscriminately exploited for wood by a private company since the 1970s. This economic activity was deteriorating the forests indigenous communities depend on and live in. They decided to develop living possibilities in line with the conservation of the forest.

The Zapotecas developed an eco-touristic organization , 'Expediciones Sierra Norte', which offers expeditions through the forests they live in, among several other sustainable activities such as mountain biking or agri-tourism.

This business gives their members employment opportunities while protecting the forest. They also developed other livelihood projects, managed by the communities: 'Industria Forestal Pueblos Mancomunados S.P.R. de R.L.' which manufactures wood furniture, and the 'Envasadora y Empacadora Pueblos Mancomunados, S.S.S.' which bottles water.

Today, these community enterprises allows the communities fund the protection of a territory of 24 932 hectares. According to the World Wildlife Fund, at least 26 endangered species live in the Sierra Norte in Oaxaca .
Due to their good performance in forest management, the eight communities that make up the 'Pueblos Mancomundaos' organization, were awarded with the 'Premio Nacional al Mérito Forestal', which is the main acknowledgment by the Mexican government on this regard.
Besides the benefits in the conservation of the forests, the 'Pueblos Mancomunados' organization has led to a peaceful coexistence between the communities sharing one common territory. Their organization where every community has the same level of authority, has worked as an example.
27 years ago, the Zapoteca communities from Oaxaca came together to fight against de wrongful use of forest resources and avoid it was given to third parties. They developed an innovative strategy to manage their territory in a series of community-led projects where the native communities managed the resources from the forest guaranteeing its conservation, while at the same time creating livelihood opportunities.


1. Solo se puede ser libre Cuando no se tiene nada que perder; Grecas Mixtecas-Zapotecas; April 10, 2009; (CC BY 2.0). 2. Federico; San José Pacífico; July 19, 2007; (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). 3. Official logo ‘Expediciones Sierra Norte’. 4. World Travel & Tourism Council; Community Award: Expediciones Sierra Norte, Mexico; April 7, 2016: (CC BY 2.0). 5. Adam; Flight of the vulture; May 10, 2016; (CC BY-NC 2.0).