Course:FRST370/2022/Community forests in Oaxaca, Mexico: the consequences of neoliberal policy trends

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Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s most biodiverse states and it is known for its beautiful vegetation and its success in community forestry. But unfortunately, Oaxaca’s forests and Indigenous communities have been threatened by the rise of neoliberalism in Mexico. Neoliberal policies have introduced Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) & Community Forest Enterprises (CFE). These have led to the privatization and economic valuation of forest resources, leading to the exploitation of Oaxaca’s community forests and its workers. Based on these concepts, this study reviews the consequences of Mexico’s neoliberal policies and recommends greater transparency between ejidos and the government. This study will help supplement the interconnections between neoliberal policy trends and impacted stakeholders due to consequences from tenure and administrative agreements.


Comunidades - Social unities in Mexico or other Latin American countries. In this case study the word generally refers to communities in rural areas rather than urban environments[1].

Decentralization - The transfer of control of an activity or organization to several local offices or authorities rather than one single one[2].

Ejidos - Land grants given to landless workers. In Mexico, ejidos are lands communally held in the traditional system of land tenure. It combines communal ownership with individual use[3].

Neoliberalism - Political ideology that focuses on free market competition with minimal state involvement in culture, economic and social affairs[4].

Rentismo - The attitude of landowners in which private companies use short-term permits, relationships of "compadrazgo", "caciquismo", raw corruption, and direct violence to buy timber at cutthroat prices. Allowing unchecked logging by external parties. It became one of the driving causes of forest degradation[5].


Map of Mexico highlighting Oaxaca

Neoliberalism is a political ideology based on market-oriented policies deeply influenced by privatization and the State. This ideology has caused negative socioeconomic consequences, increased poverty, and led to an uneven distribution of income among citizens[6]. Neoliberalism has been one of the major issues that Mexico has seen throughout the past three decades, this political ideology has given rise to elite capture which has greatly affected Mexico’s community forestry[6]. Elite capture happens when the elites and the State monopolize public resources and control decision-making processes, contributing to corruption and injustice among groups[6] Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador (AMLO) is Mexico’s current governing president. AMLO’s government regime is primarily dominated by neoliberal policies and ideals, which have increased poverty, lowered the economy, and increased elite capture of the nation’s community forests. The state of Oaxaca is located in the south of Mexico and it is one of Mexico’s most biodiverse states. Mexico and especially Oaxaca are known for its success in community forestry due to its community-based organization and self-governing systems. The current neoliberal government has introduced the concept of neoliberal conservation to Mexico’s forests. Neoliberal conservation is a process in which the expansion of capitalism and the protection of the environment become compatible by the transformation of previous un-tradable entities (like ecosystem services) into commodities[7]. Neoliberal conservation assumes that ecosystem services can be valued and incorporated to the market. This ideology has removed indigenous communities from their lands since forest companies are privatized Oaxaca’s forest resources. Neoliberal conservation has led to the establishment of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES). PES has separated the people of Oaxaca from their modes of production in their lands and has failed to improve the standard of living[7]. PES has led to the overexploitation of forest resources and thus overworked indigenous workers in order to meet the demands of markets. Neoliberalism has done a great deal of damage in community forests, to continue this conversation and support our arguments, we will dive deeply into Oaxaca’s community forestry sector.

Tenure arrangements

Tenure Arrangements After The Mexican Revolution

In the context of Mexican community forests, tenure agreements called ejidos, are legal arrangements that the government has bestowed back to the people of Mexico, especially people in rural communities. In other words, tenure agreements are land grants to landless workers, and according to [8], “pieces of land farmed communally under a system supported by the state”; with emphasis on ‘supported by the state’.

Before tenure agreements evolved into ejidos, lands were completely owned and controlled by the Mexican government. This control over the land began in 1844 during Porfirio Diaz’s presidency (Secretaría de Cultura, 2019). Díaz promulgated La Ley Sobre Ocupación y Enajenacion de Terrenos Baldíos, (Law on Occupation and Disposal of Vacant Land), a law that allowed the acquisition of land by any external party interested in acquiring ‘vacant’ terrains[9]. These policies for agrarian development privileged foreign companies and wealthy Mexicans which led to an abusive and exploitative marginalization of indigenous and rural comunidades (which lacked formal recognition of their lands) from their lands. These lands were considered vacant by foreign companies and wealthy Mexicans, justifying their appropriation of land[9]. This unequal redistribution of land infuriated indigenous comunidades and lead to a revolutionary armed conflict known as the Mexican revolution (Revolución Mexicana) from 1910 to 1917. This conflict was the tipping point that provoked the devolvement and liberation of agricultural lands to the rightful owners; the peasants and agrarian communities of Mexico.

The Mexican Revolution was an armed conflict that derived from exponential popular discontent against the ‘dictatorship’ of Porfirio Díaz, the Mexican president who ruled the Nation for more than 30 years; from 1877 to 1880 and then again from 1884 to 1911. This epoch known as “El Porfiriato”, is characterized by the unequal distribution of lands, especially to wealthy Mexican proprietaries and foreign companies, deeply entrenched economic inequality, and corrupt and undemocratic institutions.

When the Mexican Revolution came to an end on February 5th, 1917, the Mexican Constitution of 1917, which continues to be in force today, was promulgated. Although this constitution is of high vitality to the Mexican Nation, Article 27 and Article 46 are the most important in regard to the distribution of communal lands to peasants and agrarian communities for long-term usufruct. Specifically, Article 27 states that “the ownership of the lands and waters included within the limits of the national territory, corresponds originally to the Nation, which has had and has the right to transmit ownership of them to individuals, constituting private property”[10]. Besides Article 27, Article 46 states that the ejido population nucleus, by resolution of the assembly, and the individual ejidatarios may grant as guarantee the usufruct of common use lands and parceled lands, respectively[10]. More importantly, Article 46 reiterates the bundle of rights that have been devolved to the ejidos with their corresponding lands.

Even though the Mexican constitution of 1917 had stated that agrarian lands were going to be devolved, it took several years for them to actually execute this act. It was until Lázaro Cárdenas, president from 1934 - 1940, that some of the Mexican Revolution promises began to be fulfilled. For example, nationalizing the oil industry (taking control over an industry traditionally dominated by large foreign corporations) and more importantly, distributing 18 million hectares of land to 800,000 recipients[5].

Land Tenure Disputes

After the devolvement of lands during Lázaro Cárdenas’s presidency, ejidos were managing those lands freely without as much governmental influence, however, as lands became fertile people without ejido tenure arrangements began looking for land. Moreover, agrarian comunidades that wanted ownership of neighbouring lands began having conflicts regarding land-tenure disputes. For example, one of Oaxaca’s model forest communities, Altamonte del Zopi is currently besieged (surrounded by armed forces aiming to capture it or force surrender) by land disputes with a number of neighbouring communities which affects how much they are currently able to log[5]. This is an example of how conflicting land-tenure disputes can deteriorate and inhibit the development of a community forest. Disputes regarding land tenure increase violence, drugs, and organized crimes, and unfortunately, this is due to the lack of political intervention that is present in comunidades and ejido lands today[11].

Land tenure disputes have a significant role in social, political, and economic impacts. Besides territory ownership, these disputes often involve disagreements such as having more access to and control of water, forest, minerals, and other vital resources for people’s livelihoods[11]. Land-tenure disputes have been a large cause of violence in community forests and may be treated as socio-territorial conflicts as they can become violent, hostile, and dangerous[11]. Some of these land-tenure disagreements can lead to extreme modes of violence of them which include murder, population displacement, forced disappearances, and other forms of coercive violence[11].

Increasing and managing land tenure arrangements will help “solve” some of these violent issues within the community. The government has to develop smarter systems and strategies to be able to control violence, organized crime, and local wars between neighbouring ejidos and rural comunidades.

Administrative arrangements

Administrative Units

Mexico’s governmental powers are divided constitutionally between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial powers. The Executive branch is represented by the President who governs in accordance with the legislation and is in power for a governing period of six years and has no opportunity for re-election. The president has the legal power to appoint the Secretaries of State and the Attorney General[12]. The second branch is the Legislative power. Its power rests in the Congress of the Union and it is divided into two chambers, a chamber of Senators and a Chamber of Deputies. Congress has the legal power to issue laws that regulate the internal structure and operation of Mexico[12]. The third branch is the Judicial power, which is in charge of surveilling the compliance of the Constitution and its laws. This assures that the Constitution is the supreme law and cannot be contradicted by any other law or norm. The Supreme Court of Justice is the highest court in Mexico which resolves disputes between the Federation and the federal entities[12].

Oaxaca's Organization

Community forests in the sate of Oaxaca rely mostly on community organization and self-governance, meaning that they have control over their harvesting, production practices, and management of their people and resources. With the rise of neoliberalism in Mexico, community forests have been privatized due to the economic valuation of ecosystem services and forest resources. The privatization of forests and its resources has removed indigenous communities and restricted access to their lands since the government and private companies has appropriated their work[6]. Neoliberal conservation has also had a significant impact on Oaxaca’s organization. Neoliberal conservation introduced Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) which has led to the overexploitation of forest resources and indigenous workers due to high market demands[13]. Unfortunately, this has led to an unequal distribution of power and wages within Oaxaca’s indigenous working communities which has caused chaos, giving the government and forest enterprises a “reason” to take over these communities. Additionally, neoliberal policies have led to a decrease in women participation in decision-making processes and production. Sadly, the government and neoliberal conservation has put in more economic value on men’s work, causing female labour to be devalued and restricted[14]. This has pushed women out of working and participating in their forests, and forced them to stay at home and take care of their children. Unfortunately, neoliberal policies continue to have more power over community forests, threatening indigenous communities, their traditions and governance.

Government Administrations

Government administrations regulate permits and requirements, and modify program rules and procedures for commercial forestry. The Mexican government have presented their policies and management as a form of “co-management” in lands that are common property, but in reality it is only “on the basis of privately held communal property with the government maintaining control over the disposition of forest resources through the regulation of extraction in the forest and environmental laws”[14]. Government administrations have introduced the concept of “deregulation”, this term is used to illustrate how the Mexican government has transformed un-tradable entities such as ejidos and communal lands into tradable commodities through the privatization and titling of land rights[7]. This concept has been supported by neoliberal conservation in which the expansion of capitalism and the protection of the environment transform previous un-tradable entities such as ecosystem services into products[7]. This idea assumes that ecosystem services can be valued and incorporated to the market. This has led to the overexploitation of resources and this the overexploitation of workers. Due to the adversities that government administrations have posed, rural communities and Indigenous communities have strayed away from developing community forests that are supported by the government because of their expensive permits and challenging adaptation requirements for commercial policies, which had posed several barriers to their work and administration[15].

Affected Stakeholders

During Lázaro Cárdenas's presidency (1934 - 1940), he implemented an ‘ejidal-focused’ approach, dedicating areas of communal land for agricultural practices[5]. With the promises made during the Mexican Revolution, Cárdenas began to connect the relationship between ejidos and comunidades[5]. Willingness to believe that this implementation was beneficial to comunidades in Mexico, the Mexican government’s neoliberal policies flipped this opportunity to manage a sustainable forest, to exploiting the situation by prioritizing economic growth as its fixed factor and positioning forests, resources and people as a variable factor for economic development[5][11].


As economic growth is the government’s main priority, comunidades are easily exploited by the government due to their top-down approach[10]. A top-down approach allows the government to create a hierarchy, controlling all that is involved within a market; what is produced, who it is sold to, and the income that is made by comunidades’ work[10].

Involved in the enterprise

Article 27 states comunidades have full rights over their territory, involving the management and production of resources on the lands, however, to successfully produce, sell, and create income, the government has created permits and certificates needed for forests communities in Mexico to sell and participate in the market[14]. For example, the government issued the 1986 law “end[ing] all private concessions” and authorized communities to sell to large concessions, allowing the government to create a monopoly[14][5]. This change in policy shifted community management plans to partner with the enterprise created by the government to have better stability over the amount and production of jobs[6]. However, in downside, they rely on the support from the government to supply income for the community and the stability of jobs. If there is any slight to major changes within the department, they are the most impacted[6]. Furthermore, this has also diminished any power and has shut down voices in communities because they have less authority than the government’s issued policies[6].

The Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES), a program that has been ‘made to decrease’ overproduction of natural resources in mass quantities is another example of government manipulation for resilience. The government orchestrates the program by commodifying nature as a resources rather than asset[7]. The government has reshaped natural areas into neoliberal ideologies; what resource can bring in the most profit[7]. Disregarding Article 27, the PES has exploited comunidades' rights over the territory by inhibiting the production of biodiverse plantations within their territories[7]. Amid the decrease of overexploitation of mass resources, the government continues to enforce specific species to be planted for the harvest and production towards economic gains[7]. This further allows consistent flow of production without the worry of depletion, however, in result, it has created land to be used as commodity instead of an asset[7]. Moreover, comunidades are relatively obliged to partner with government enterprises' to have support for minimum necessities of life, however, the downside is there is little to no room for economic growth for and in rural comunidades.

Not involved in the enterprise

The government provides little to no support for rural comunidades which are not involved within governmental enterprises[6]. Comunidades not involved in the enterprise have conflicting views within the forest management and cultivation, as well as, disagreement with the extra costs involved within an enterprise[6]. In an enterprise, it is required to purchase permits for commercial forestry development, however, the government often changes these requirements, programs rules and procedures[6]. This leads to prolonged time and efforts for small comunidades to process and maintain[6].

In addition to the dis-involvement between comunidades and the enterprise, comunidades, especially small comunidades are neglected in the system and are often pushed off the grid[6]. Therefore, no matter if a small comunidad were supported by an enterprise, if the lands have a lack of forest cover or has some type of impeding conflict by any natural to non natural cause, such as variable climate due to topography, they may not be accepted into the enterprise[6].

Comunidades that are not involved with the enterprise have a better use of Article 27: full rights over their territory. However, as they are not supported by the government, there are narrow opportunities for creating a business, selling their products to external businesses, and producing income for the community[6][14]. There is a lack of guidance and reliance of jobs provided by the government, therefore, it is common that these comunidades are often dominated by illegal forces through gang confrontations and organized crime[11].

Indigenous peoples

For the profit maximizing benefit of plantation and harvesting, influenced by neoliberal governance, Indigenous communities have been relocated due to the fertile and productive lands they seeded upon[12]. Indigenous ideologies and neoliberal ideologies are rarely in agreement due to different beliefs and priorities. For example, logging is against many cultural beliefs in Indigenous culture[12]. Firstly, Indigenous cultural practices are seen as an interruptions to economic production of natural resources[12]. Indigenous practices are always in goal to give back to the sacred, and therefore their practices of cultivation has a cultural purpose[12]. In result, the practices exercised benefit back to the regeneration of a sustainable forest, rather than for the resource market[12]. In colonial, neoliberal ideologies, land is a commodity and in result, to increase economic gains, overexploitation and manipulation is a common outcome[12]. When the government produces forestry policy and laws, Indigenous values and rights are often neglected and segregated. Similar to comunidades that are not involved within government enterprises, Indigenous comunidades are rarely given stability of jobs, income, and land for a creating business[12]. In contrast, the government exploits and deceives Indigenous peoples by providing agricultural work for small pay[12]. With small pay, Indigenous peoples are segregated to extreme poverty, inefficient living conditions, and little to no social protection[12].

Another addition to the mistreatment of Indigenous comunidades by the government has been the environmental damage they have impacted to the original soils of their lands[6]. Specifically, many commercial forestry production creates environmental damage, such as erosion, decertifying lands, and the causation of landslides[6]. There have been protests and conflicts between Indigenous comunidades and the government, where the outcome has the government to create new laws for Indigenous lands and rights, however, again just because the Mexican government has created a policy, they seem to find loopholes within each system[12]. For example, the Mexican Constitution of 1960 was made to “protect Indigenous land and rights,” however, within the country Indigenous peoples are “declining in health and nutrition’ because they have been pushed off their lands and have insufficient income[12]. In addition, Indigenous women have also been severely affected because of the social structure of supporting a family and completing obligational community services[12].

Interested Stakeholders

Federal Government

The Federal government has the power to regulate permits and requirements for commercial forestry. The current government in power is primarily based on neoliberal policies, in which the main focus is the market. Neoliberal market policies, lead to the privatization of forests and their resources in order to match the demands of the market and therefore succeed. Due to this, Mexico’s Federal government introduced the concept of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES). PES is a concept that is based on the idea that ecosystem services can be valued economically[7]. One of the main goals of PES is to improve the standard of living and reduce poverty on Indigenous and forest communities, but due to high levels of corruption it has done the opposite[7]. Payment for Ecosystem Services has led to the overexploitation of forest resources in order to meet market demands and generate a fast-growing economy. But unfortunately this has also motivated the government to use Indigenous workers and exploit them. Additionally, the Federal government has incentivized the neoliberalisation of nature which has become an increasing issue in Mexico [16]. Neoliberalisation of nature consists of private corporations creating resource ownership for conservation purposes and for the provisioning of ecosystem services [16]. This concept “begins from the conceptual separation of nature and society and then reconnects them by reductively constructing ‘nature’ so that it can be encompassed within the ‘economy’”[16]. The current government has made its main priority to mold nature into the economy's and the market’s needs, no matter what the consequences are. The neoliberalisation of nature and PES have privatized Oaxaca’s forest resources, which separated the people of Oaxaca from their modes of production and worsen their living conditions[7]. Today, Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s poorest states with the lowest Indigenous employment levels [7]. This is just an example of what the severe consequences of Mexico’s neoliberal government can be.


Comisión Nacional Forestal [17] is a decentralized public organization in charge of supporting, developing and promoting the conservation and restoration of Mexico’s forests [17]. They also participate in the development of programs, plans and policies for sustainable forestry development [17]. This commission was developed by presidential order and it is a part of the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources.[17]. In addition, CONAFOR constantly works on the “promotion of productive conservation and restoration activities in forest matters, participates in the formulation of plans and programs, and in the application of the sustainable forestry development policy.”[17]. CONAFOR has done a lot of work in Oaxaca such as creating forest protection programs for Indigenous communities in order to protect and preserve their forests, but unfortunately their efforts have not been enough in the recent years. Due to Mexico’s strong federal power,  the commission is deeply influenced by the government and neoliberal policies which forces the commission to adapt to their rules and goals.

Community Forest Enterprises

Community Forest Enterprises (CFE) consist of registered local businesses that have their own rules, and administrative office, and a marketing plan. [15] These enterprises provide income to community members and collective decisions are made in assemblies based on local precedents [15]. CFEs provide community members with jobs, economic infrastructure and stability, preserve biodiversity and democratizing power. Forest communities have benefitted from the economic benefits that CFEs have provided to their communities which have delivered basic social services such as education, transportation, rural roads, health services and other needs to develop their community [11]. Although Community Forest Enterprises have provided several benefits to Indigenous forest communities, it has also created several conflicts. CFEs have ineffective local governance due to high levels of corruption which has led to illegal logging, unequal distribution of profits for timber sales, tension within the community and government inputs, and conflicts of interest within the communities [11]. Commercial forestry causes a great deal of environmental damage such as hindering soil erosion, preventing forest regeneration and overexploitation of natural resources. Additionally, CFEs have practices and policies that go against most cultural beliefs of Indigenous communities. Even though CFEs have brought lots of benefits to local Indigenous communities, the negative consequences outweigh the benefits causing communities to turn away from Community Forest Enterprises.

Assessment of Governance

President Timeframe of Presidency What happened to Community Forests?
Porfirio Díaz 1884 - 1911 Lands were appropriated due to the Law on Occupation and Disposal of Vacant Land. This law permitted foreign companies and wealthy proprietaries to appropriate land and call it their own. They could use that land for economic purposes, displacing rightful indigenous owners. Lands were unequally redistributed, and there was deeply entrenched economic inequality favouring the rich. Overall, the “Porfiriato” led to no benefits to community forests and indigenous communities. Díaz was known for implementing a “liberal” political system[9].
Plutarco Elías Calles 1924 - 1928 During his presidency, he founded the ejido and agricultural banks, restored the School of Agronomy in Chapingo, and built several rural schools. His main promise to the Mexican Nation was to educate rural communities and exponentially increase their opportunities. He created several rural community schools, central agricultural schools, and the House for Indigenous students[18].
Lázaro Cárdenas 1934 - 1949 His presidency focused on a governmental program called ‘The Agrarian Reform’ where he fulfilled some of the promises made to the campesinos during the Mexican Revolution in regard to the devolution of agricultural lands. Approximately 18 million hectares of land were devolved back to ejidos and agrarian comunidades. This promoted self-sufficiency within agrarian comunidades and the formation of small productive parcels. Besides the land devolution, he also modified the Agrarian Code and the Relative Laws for Land Distribution. These became the basis for productive agrarianism[19]. He also created several institutions that benefited ejidos and indigenous communities like the National Bank Of Ejidal Credit and the Autonomous Department of Indigenous Affairs[19]. He promoted the creation of small and medium Community Forest Enterprises (CFEs) with the pursuit of creating better working conditions, increasing income, and satisfying food necessities for rural and indigenous comunidades. His goals also lied in nourishing the National market, and hopefully, some foreign exportation demands[19]. Cárdenas introduced modern forestry and increased mestizo’s involvement in the area. By doing so he was expecting to provide comunidades with a “good example” for the development and assimilation of rural communities. Rentista agreements are agreements where private companies used short-term permits, relationships of compadrazgo, caciquismo, raw corruption, and direct violence to buy timber at cutthroat prices. These agreements were negatively attributed to Cárdenas’s six-year presidential term.
Vicente Fox 2000 - 2006 During his presidency, on April 4th, 2001, the Comisión Nacional Forestal (CONAFOR)[20] was created. Soon more forestal plans began to emerge. The Fondo Forestal Mexicano (Mexican Forestal Funds) is created and becomes the principal financial tool for forestal development. 158 thousand hectares of land were deforested. CONAFOR generates their first program called: Pago por Servicios Ambientales (Payment for Environmental Services) which consists of paying people, especially ejidos, rural communities, and indigenous people by getting involved in conservation plans.
Enrique Peña Nieto 2012 - 2018 Promulgated the Ley General de Desarrollo Forestal Sustentable (General Law for Sustainable Forest Development). Approximately 299 thousand hectares of forestland were deforested due to exponential logging. He modified forestal policies to involve ejidos, comunidades and private proprietaries in plantation development [21]. CONAFOR continues with the Payment for Environmental Services program and they have 2 million hectares incorporated into this reforestation plan. Only 1 million hectares were reforested during his six-year term. His government supported 558 small CFEs[21] and 45% of the forest budget was dedicated to reforestation and forest restoration programs  (Benet, 2018). Unfortunately, this program was considered to be a failure as only 500 seedlings were planted and of those 500 trees, only 50 were still alive by 2018, it is said that statistically speaking only 10 of those trees may grow to an old age[22].
Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) 2018 - present Has created a program called ‘Sembrando Vida’: a program for sustainable communities. AMLO says it is the “largest job creation program in Mexican history”[23]. He said that by 2020 they would reach one million hectares with 400 thousand tree planters [23]. ‘Sembrando Vida’ focuses on two major dilemmas within Mexico: rural poverty and environmental degradation. The program’s objectives are to restore the land, reactivate the local economy, and regenerate the social ‘fabric’ within communities [24]. However, due to AMLO’s continuing presidency, the future of forestry is still uncertain.


Many studies compare and analyze Mexico’s progressive development of community forests to other countries as they lack the acknowledgement and the benefits to a country, however, the management of community forests in Oaxaca, Mexico are not all optimistic. Mexico’s neoliberalism ideology creates a hierarchy above all else, decreasing the flexibility of working independently to partnering with government enterprises[15]. There is a lack of positive benefits that are tailored towards ejidos jobs and therefore comunidades are being mistreated for the amount of work they endure compared to the overall production income that created[15]. The Mexican government is not only of issue, but also the rest of the interested stakeholder of this issue. The greater picture is the issue of neoliberalism ideology that is implemented in economic relations that create overexploitation of affected stakeholders, as well as the production of unsustainable practices harming the soils of the country[6].

Neoliberalism on nature

Neoliberalism ideology creates nature as a commodity rather than an asset, and thus shapes the policies and laws around the forestry industry to be have a top-down governance approach in management controls[7][25]. The commodification of nature has created a chain reaction decentralizing the shape of nature and the provisioning ecosystem services[7]. For example, “the design and implementation of [the payment for ecosystem services (PES)], along neoliberal lines, depend on a conceptual separation between nature and society”[7]. Although PES has sufficed the decline in overexploitation of mass resources, the neoliberalism impact has lead comunidades in Oaxaca to plant specific species, which in economic terms, produces the greatest amounts of income, instead of overexploiting one plant species[26]. This is not efficient as biodiversity is what keeps the overexploitation sustainable, and the regeneration of forests[7]. Neoliberalism on nature has also impacted the values from Indigenous cultural beliefs. Practices such as logging and taking from nature without providing back is a major upset within Indigenous values[6]. For example, the 1992 forest law encouraged and simplified the procedure of obtaining land tenure with the obligation of forest management to the market[14]. This law did stop legal logging, however, will the goal of profit to the market, there was an increase in illegal logging that still to this day is an issue[14]. Many of these forestry practices have impacted detrimentally to the soils on these territories because of harsh machinery and labour constantly exercised[6]. In result, many plots within a territory has had an increase in erosion, and impacts from climate change[6]. Although Mexico has progressed in developing and updating forestry laws, there needs to be constant stability for nature itself as an asset rather than a commodity, in a neoliberal economy or any other governance.

Neoliberalism on comunidades

To maintain these forests, there needs to be a group of people with the goal to prolong and maintain a luscious and sustaining forest. The government has targeted comunidades in Mexico using them as an asset to manage small to large territories of land to construct ejido production[12]. From an outsiders view, it seems beneficial and practical of ‘control’ by comunidades, however, that is not the case. Many times, the priority of forestry production has caused the push of comunidades and Indigenous peoples out of their territories, as well as, depleting them of income to live[12][15]. For example, in Oaxaca there has been a significant decline of original Indigenous communidades still seeded on their territories[27]. Transportation and resources to create a forestry comunidad without the support of the government has been ineffectively successful to continue, especially as there is no stability or support for harvesting, to join the market, and sustainable flow of income in result[27]. In outcome, governmental enterprises and policies have in turn created a divide between ejido communidades in Oaxaca and on the sustainability of practices and efficient benefits to comunidades[7]. These consequences have taken a toll on rural, small to large comunidades in Oaxaca, individuals and their families, as well as separating society into two. "Murders, population displacement, forced disappearances, and other forms of coercive violence" has also been a consequence due to land-tenure disputes[11]. Furthermore, due to the lack of support towards comunidades and the individuals in comunidads, and the full responsibility of production, unregulated and/or non-stable comunidades have often been taken over by gang violence, crime, and overtake. The government has a lack of involvement in these situation because they are not aware or they do not have a high enough priority to interfere[11].

Recommendations: Route Map for Success

Mexican Community Forests are an exemplary model for developing countries’ community forests. Community Forest Enterprises (CFEs) are extremely competitive yet successful. Mexican Community Forestry is unusual for three major reasons: “1) the history and characteristics of the common property regime, 2) the magnitude of the sector, with hundreds of CFEs producing timber for commercial markets along with non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and, increasingly, ecosystems services and new ecosystem products [such as ecotourism] and 3) the commercial sophistication and competitiveness of a small percentage that is integrated into sawmills, furniture workshops, and plywood factories, some of whom are competitive in international markets.”  Besides these three major attributes, community forests in Mexico are successfully run by ejidos and comunidades agrarias, without a dominating influence and control from the government. By allowing the freedom to manage and conserve forested areas in Mexico, the government is motivating ejidos and rural comunidades to do their best in protecting and living off their land. Moreover, many years and many presidents have passed since the Mexican Revolution in 1910 and the illegal appropriation of indigenous lands, meaning that community forests have evolved and adapted to new reforms, tenure agreements, and concessions. These forest communities know how to govern their lands and create successful enterprises. Although Mexican Community Forests are a model for other developing countries' community forests, there are numerous improvements that can be undertaken to further better and improve the quality of life within the CBFs in Mexico. For example, extinguish gender inequalities, increase women’s involvement in the forest enterprises and the community, increase rural communities’ education, nourish transparency between ejidos and the government, educate the government on traditional/rural methods, and revise land-tenure agreements to avoid violent disputes.

Main Recommendations For Future Progress & Success

Extinguish gender inequalities and increase women's opportunities - Women must be given more relevant positions within Comunidades in Mexico and within the CFEs to decrease domestic abuse  Currently, Mexican Community Based Forests do not have an equitable system where men and women are seen working side by side. Men tend to be more privileged and are the ones handling the money within the household. Statistically, these trends lead to domestic abuse and increased violence within the comunidades. Domestic abuse is a severe problem in Mexico and rural comunidades are not free from it. Allowing the participation of women in community forest enterprises can fundamentally decrease domestic abuse within the communities as both men and women bring economic gains to the table.

If the government were to increase rural comunidades' education communities could learn and achieve a higher education besides the basic management of CFEs that are provided for them in some rural comunidades today. Doing this will expand comunidades knowledge and allow them to have greater opportunities of communications between their comunidad and others, as well as with buyers and CFE associates.This will grant them the complete autonomy from the government in making decisions that will benefit them economically when engaging with the public and their competitors in other forest community enterprises.

Nourishing transparency between ejidos and the government and developing good relationship between the government and the ejidos will allow them to understand each other and avoid conflicts of corruption, injustices from part of the government and misunderstandings from the neoliberal system. By having a more transparent communication between the government and ejidos and rural comunidades, there is possibility for the eradication of land-tenure disputes. Decreasing these socio-territorial conflicts will exponentially decrease violence in community-based forests, and avoid organized crime. A way to nourish relationships between the government and rural communities is by educating the government on tradition/rural methods of agriculture and forest management. If comunidades educate the government on their traditional/rural methods, the neoliberal tendencies of the government will no longer have enough power to control the rural communities. The government has to understand that most of the time, traditional practices are more beneficial for conservation, since indigenous people's have been stewards of the land for thousands of years and have been taking care of the health of community forest without the use of new environmental technologies. Neoliberalism governments, especially, have to work together with traditional communities to better understand their work and co-exist together to better the overall livelihood of rural comunidades and their work with the government and other forest enterprises.


Mexico has progressed through forestry tenures and polices over the decades, developing the structure of community forests sufficiently, however, the consequences due to a neoliberal governance has failed the management of community forests and the security and stability of benefits for affected stakeholders. The neoliberal ideology on economic gain has divided the definitions of nature verse society, resulting nature to be viewed as a commodity rather than an asset to society. Therefore, in result, it has separated comuidades, small to big, displacing and segregating their cultural beliefs and ideologies on what is sustainable to what is economically profitable. Acknowledging and addressing the comunidades are not in fault of management and the system itself is the problem is what is needed to further progress to fix these consequences. The policy trends state that although there has been progression through laws and creation of programs, there are loopholes to exploiting the system and therefore, causing more damage to the people and resources involved than efficiency and time making these changes in policies. Neoliberal governance is limited to operating a middle to bottom governance because it carries a top-down hierarchal approach, therefore, to mitigate the economic manipulation in the forestry sector, there needs to be a shift in priorities within the government rather than commodities. Neoliberal governance is often seen as negative, however, when governed properly emphasizing what is importance within a supplementing life, rather than economic gains is what will keep a successful government. Further studies can be supplemented by issuing research on specific comunidad case studies within Oaxaca, Mexico, as well as, filling the knowledge gap on the consequences of neoliberal governance on specific production of forest products.


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