OAXACA: ITs land, its people
“We were never conquered” is a common saying among the 16 distinct indigenous groups in the state of Oaxaca. Located in the southwest of Mexico, the region is incredibly rich in biological and cultural diversity.
The saying signifies that even under Spanish colonial rule and beyond, Oaxaca's communities maintained their sovereignty and identity. Currently, indigenous and peasant communities own and communally govern about 80 percent of the land. Even so, these historically strong and resilient rural communities face many challenges. Policies, such as NAFTA, have reduced government support and flooded the market with cheap corn and other imports that have reduced the economic viability of local livelihoods. They've led to sometimes drastic levels of out migration, leaving only children and older adults in some communities. The environmental threats facing Oaxaca's forests are exacerbated by the fact that the protections needed are absent.
ICICO: creating locally owned, OPERATED carbon market in oaxaca
ICICO is comprised of and works in close collaboration with the 12 indigenous communities it serves. The organization approach is to promote the conservation of ecosystem services in ways that support and complement the livelihood strategies of community members, while also building the capacity of the communities to manage these projects.
Overcoming enormous challenges, ICICO has found many ways to link these communities with markets for the ecosystem services they produce: from carbon offsets, to ecotourism ventures, to spring water bottling plants.
One of ICICO’s major accomplishments has been to create and link with markets for forest-based carbon offsets. First, working with the national environmental non-profit, PRONATURA, ICICO created and began selling carbon offsets in 2008 through a national offsetting program called “Neutralize Yourself (Neutralizate).” They've gone on to work with the California Climate Action Reserve to develop the monitoring and verification protocols for forest-based carbon offsets in Mexico, and have verified offsets produced by one of ICICO’s communities, San Juan Lachao. They have since sold these offsets to the City of Palo Alto and the Disney Corporation, among others.
VIDEO: Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza, Ph.D., shares how her work with community-based non-profit ICICO has yielded important insights and opportunities for the Nicholas School and Duke University.
icico leads student field course in community-based environmental management
Working with Shapiro-Garza, ICICO provides on-going support for the professional development of Nicholas School students. Every other year since 2013, Shapiro-Garza has offered a field course in Oaxaca for DEL-MEM and on-campus MEM students. ICICO consistently organizes the field visits and home-stays in the communities it works with to explore themes of community forestry, community-based ecotourism, payments for ecosystem services and cooperative coffee production.
During these visits, ICICO staff and community members serve as co-instructors, passing on lessons learned through their traditional ecological knowledge and profound experience in community organization and development.
ICICO also served as advisors for Nicholas School master’s and doctoral student theses. Most recently, the Duke Office of Sustainability, through their Carbon Offsets Initiative, have collaborated with ICICO to purchase forest-based offsets as a way to mitigate Duke's greenhouse gas emissions.
Video: Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza, Ph.D., shares how her biennial field course to Oaxaca provides Nicholas School graduate students with the chance to learn about an exemplary example of community-based environmental management.
Shapiro-Garza is working with ICICO to develop further linkages with Duke researchers and students and with outside resources. She is currently collaborating with WWF-Mexico and MEM students Andrea Alatorre Troncoso and Johanna Depenthal on a master’s project that will serve as a pilot for broader research on the ways in which payments for ecosystem services, such as carbon offsetting, can support biodiversity conservation.
She is also collaborating with Nicholas School faculty members Jennifer Swenson and John Poulsen to evaluate ICICO's current or potential future role in forest cover conservation and the development of biological corridors. In coordination with ICICO, Shapiro-Garza is also developing a larger project to create an Indigenous carbon network that would provide avenues for exchanges and cross-learning with other Indigenous groups in the Americas, who are linking with markets for forest-based carbon offsets.