Why forests in indigenous and TRIBAL territories have been better conserved

c. Forest incentive policies

When governments help communities that care for forests to benefit economically from their efforts that gives them an extra incentive not to destroy those forests. Some community forestry and payment for environmental services policies and programs favor indigenous and tribal territories more than other landowners, and that may help explain why the territories’ forests are in better shape.

Thanks partly to favorable community forestry policies in Mexico and other countries, sustainable timber production has generated substantial incomes for hundreds of the region’s indigenous communities (Torres-Rojo and Magaña-Torres, 2006; Merino-Pérez and Martínez, 2014; Del Gatto et al., 2018). The income from forest management gives these communities a strong incentive to maintain forest cover and probably helps to explain the low deforestation rates in indigenous areas such as the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca and Southern and Central Quintana Roo (among others) (Barsimantov and Kendall, 2012; Merino-Pérez and Martínez, 2014; Ellis et al., 2017b; Ellis et al., 2020). To ensure the forest resources are sustainable, many of Mexico’s indigenous forest enterprises reserve a significant portion of their forest for conservation and harvest less timber than their management plans permit (Bray et al., 2003; Pazos-Almada and Bray, 2018).

Some government payment for environmental services programs favor indigenous territories, including the Socio Bosque program in Ecuador, the National Forest Conservation Program (PNCB) in Peru, the Environmental Payment for Services program in Mexico, the Forest Incentives for Land Holders with Small Areas Suitable for Forests or Agroforests program (PINPEP) in Guatemala, the indigenous component of the Amazon Vision program in Colombia, and the Indigenous sub-program of the REDD+ Early Movers (REM) program in Acre, Brazil.22

©Sergio Garrido
Woman of the Tikuna People, Leticia, Amazonas, Colombia.

These environmental payment for services programs reduced forest destruction in the territories they support. The Mexican, Ecuadorian, and Peruvian programs reduced deforestation, especially in places with higher deforestation risks23 (Alix-García, Sims, and Yáñez-Paganas, 2015; Costedoat et al., 2015; Cuenca et al., 2018; Mohebalian and Aguilar, 2018; Alix-García et al., 2019; Eguiguren, Fischer, and Günter, 2019; Giudice et al., 2019; Wunder et al., 2020). It is likely these programs also reduced forest degradation. Mexican indigenous communities that receive payments monitor forests, control fires, and reforest more and report less commercial hunting and uncontrolled fires. Ecuadorian communities in Socio Bosque have less damage in their forests that have been logged and commercially valuable timber species are more prevalent (Rodríguez-Robayo, Ávila-Foucat, and Maldonado, 2016; Arriagada et al., 2018a; Mohebalian and Aguilar, 2018; Alix-García et al., 2019; Eguiguren, Fischer, and Günter, 2019).

  • 22 The payment for environmental services program of Costa Rica’s National Fund for Forest Finance (FONAFIFO) includes indigenous territories but has not prioritized them over other landowners.
  • 23 In Peru, the reduction was small, at least during the program’s initial stage (Giudice et al., 2019.).