Smallholder Agroforestry, 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 using a mixture of 27 native species and dispensed over $860,000 in direct payments to smallholder farmers.

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Plan Vivo


Plan Vivo Standard 4.0

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

The Earthly Rating

Industry-first holistic project assessment

Earthly Rating 8.2; Carbon 7.8; Biodiversity 8.1; People 8.6

To provide a comprehensive assessment of projects, we analyse 106 data points, aggregating information across the three vital pillars of carbon, biodiversity and people. Projects in Earthly's marketplace all exceed a minimum score of 5/10.

Scolel’te's impact so far



Hectares of land restored



Native tree species planted



In direct payments to farmers since project initiation

Project information


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).

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
AMBIO logo - green

Developer Information

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 Benefits

Why this project?

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 and firewood extraction. Systemic marginalization, 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 urbanization. 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, with 60% of carbon sales going directly to smallholder participants. The project also works to increase educational and health outcomes. So far, the project has provided 38 communities with improved water access

Scolel’te’s agroforestry work provides additional revenue for smallholder farmers while also improving biodiversity outcomes. The project works hard to monitor biodiversity in the area. So far, their monitoring program has documented 25 species of native and migratory birds, 15 indicator mammalian species, and 20 amphibian and reptile species since 2019.

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

Great 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 3 protected biological corridors.

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

Positive for People

Stakeholder engagement and inclusion in project design: 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.

Livelihoods: 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.

Employment: The project has directly employed 51 people since 2017.

Education: 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.

Health: So far, 38 communities have better access to water sources.

Gender equality: 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.

Monitoring: 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.