Smallholder Forest Restoration, Chiapas and Oaxaca

The Scolel’te project is led by the Mexican environmental non-profit cooperative AMBIO in the southern Mexico states of Chiapas and Oaxaca. The project uses a combination of forest restoration, protection and agroforestry approaches to restore forest ecosystems and improve biodiversity and community outcomes. So far, the project has restored over 9,000 hectares of forest and dispensed over $860,000 in direct payments to smallholder farmers.

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A pineapple field in Chiapas and Oaxaca, where the Scolel'te project is located

Project information

Scolel’te

The Scolel’te project covers an area of 9,150 hectares in the southern Mexico states of Chiapas and Oaxaca. Scolel’te, which refers to “the tree that grows” in the Mayan Tzeital language, is the longest-running Plan Vivo certified project and has been officially operating in Mexico since 1997. Over the last 25 years, Scolel’te has been a model of an effective forest offsetting program with a strong commitment to biodiversity enhancement and social wellbeing.


The project uses afforestation and reforestation techniques to restore degraded forest areas using native tree species. The project is based on stakeholder engagement and participation, and contributes to social well-being through direct employment and payments, education, and supporting marginalized groups. 60% of carbon credit sales go directly to the participating smallholder farmers, totally over $860,000 in direct payments over the project’s lifetime. Scolel’te is improving biodiversity outcomes by planting a mix of native tree species and providing crucial habitat for flora and fauna (including 24 species on the IUCN threat list).

A forest in Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico, where the Scolel'te project is located

Intervention

Afforestation/Reforestation; Improved Land Management

Location

Mexico

Developer

AMBIO

Standards

Plan Vivo

Methodology

Plan Vivo Standard 4.0

Sustainable Goals

  • no poverty
  • zero hunger
  • good health
  • quality education
  • gender equality
  • clean water
  • clean energy
  • economic growth
  • infrastructure
  • reduced inequality
  • sustainable cities
  • responsible consumption
  • climate action
  • life below water
  • life on land
  • peace justice
  • partnerships

Project performance

Scolel’te

The states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, where Scolel’te operates, face significant deforestation pressure, mostly driven by land use change due to agricultural expansion, forest fires, firewood extraction, harmful agricultural practices, poorly applied policies, and pest and disease outbreaks. Systemically, marginalisation, rural poverty (largely due to soil degradation and declining crop yields) and poor local governance are contributing to the transition of land from forest to agriculture, unsustainable tourism and leading to increased urbanisation. On top of this, the region is already experiencing many harsh effects of climate change (for example, 96 out of the 124 municipalities in Chiapas state suffer from some degree of drought). This is worsened by population dispersion that makes individual communities extremely vulnerable to natural disasters such as forest fires.


Scolel’te is addressing deforestation in the region by protecting and restoring over 9,000 hectares of forest. They are also addressing the systemic drivers of deforestation by providing direct employment and payments to farmers and increasing access to educational opportunities.


Scolel’te’s forest restoration work not only improves biodiversity outcomes in the project area, but they have shown a commitment to improving ecosystem connectivity. By developing 3 biological corridors they have helped to connect existing protected areas to benefit wide-ranging and migratory species. Furthermore, the project monitors the progress of biodiversity conservation in the area through a robust biodiversity monitoring program.


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Carbon

9150

Hectares of land restored

Biodiversity

24

IUCN threatened species protected

Social

38

Communities with improved water access

Project impact

Local Impact

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The image provides a visual representation of the distribution and growth of farmer participation in the scheme over time and space. It illustrates the communities, spread across municipalities in Chiapas and Oaxaca.

Project Area: Through Time

The growth of the project since its inception in 1997 has been a significant factor influencing its carbon impact over time. As of now, the program includes 1,619 farmers. In 2021, several new areas in the state of Chiapas joined the program and were registered with Scolel'te. These areas span across various municipalities, including Cintalapa de los Figueroa, Villa Corzo, Villaflores, La Trinitaria, Comitán de Domínguez, Ocozocoautla de Espinosa, Berriozábal, Coapilla, and Chilón.

Additionally, there has been an expansion in the project areas under the Forest Restoration and Natural Regeneration System. Notably, the Ejidos with forest management, such as Monte Sinai and Coapilla II in Cintalapa, and the community of San Jose las Rosas in Comitán, have seen increased participation. These areas have welcomed new participants and existing farmers who have extended their involvement in Scolel'te with additional work areas.

In 2021, the Ejido Nuevo Vicente Guerrero in the Municipality of Villa Corzo was also incorporated into the program. This ejido spans over 11,000 hectares, with about 50% covered by forest. It includes over 150 ejidatarios in the Ejido Assembly, a group of resin farmers, and is a recent addition to Scolel'te, covering 213 hectares dedicated to forest restoration, including 72 hectares of improved fallow and 141 hectares for forest restoration.

A pineapple field in Chiapas and Oaxaca, where the Scolel'te project is located

Good for Earth

Scolel’te’s main objective is to maintain and increase forest cover and protect crucial habitats while ensuring economic sustainability.

The project employs a diverse set of forest management activities (agroforestry, reforestation, sustainable forest management, etc.) to restore degraded forests and reduce pressures on existing forest areas.

In the agroforestry and reforestation activities, at least 27 native tree species are planted by farmers, with the choice of tree species decided by the individual farmer based on which species are appropriate/adapted to the microclimate.

As a result, the project has restored over 1,100 hectares of forest between 2017 and 2021 and covers an area of over 9,000 hectares in total.

The project has an extensive biodiversity monitoring strategy. For example, they monitor species via camera trapping, and have documented 25 species of native and migratory birds, 15 indicator mammalian species, and 20 amphibian and reptile species since 2019. The project activities also provide crucial habitat for 24 identified species within the IUCN threat list.

The project area is located near several national protected areas (such as the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve) and the project is rightly investing in biological corridors to improve the connectivity between protected areas. To date, they have developed three protected biological corridors.

People in Chiapas and Oaxaca, where the Scolel'te project is located

Positive for People

Project activities are designed in a participatory manner and only take place where smallholder farmers have direct ownership of their land. Community technicians are selected by local farmers and trained and serve as the main sources of consultation for implementation of project activities.

On top of this, 60% of carbon sales go directly to farmers. This has amounted to over $860,000 in direct payments over the project lifetime and over $73,000 in 2021 alone. Divided by the number of participants this amounts to $407/participant, which essentially doubles the average income of project participants. The project also provides direct employment, which since 2017 has resulted in the employment of 51 people.

The project also invests in education outcomes. As of 2021, the project has provided educational materials to 15 elementary school children and held 13 workshops on a range of topics. The project has focused on strengthening local resource knowledge related to sustainable firewood collection, sustainable agriculture, and collection of non-timber forest products (NTFPs). 10% of direct payments to farmers were spent on education such as tuition payments and the purchase of school supplies.

The project focuses on supporting underrepresented groups such as women, children, and indigenous people. As of 2021, they have provided specific workshops for 561 women, 166 indigenous people, 765 children and have set up 17 working groups for these underrepresented groups.

Lastly, the project has an extensive socioeconomic monitoring program where they assess important socioeconomic indicators (such as the average level of education and the % of women who are victims of gender violence) against a baseline socioeconomic survey to monitor the project’s progress.

Project collaboration

Developer Information

AMBIO logo - green

AMBIO, the environmental non-profit cooperative that coordinates Scolel’te’s project activities was founded in 1998 with the mission to “contribute to the good management of forest and related resources, that mitigate climate change and strengthen groups, rural communities and organizations in Mexico.” AMBIO took over the management of Scolel’te in 2002 and has since won several national and international awards, including the 2013 National Award for Forestry Merit (awarded by the National Forestry Commission) and was the 2012 finalist for the Equator Prize (awarded by the United Nations Program for Development).

Project gallery

Project Pictures

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A pineapple field in Chiapas and Oaxaca, where the Scolel'te project is located