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Revista mexicana de ciencias agrícolas

versión impresa ISSN 2007-0934

Rev. Mex. Cienc. Agríc vol.8 no.1 Texcoco ene./feb. 2017 

Nota de investigación

Integrated landscape management for adaptation to climate change in the Sierra Madre of Chiapas, Mexico

Walter López Báez1  § 

Roberto Reynoso Santos1 

1Campo Experimental Centro de Chiapas- INIFAP. Carretera Ocozocoautla-Cintalapa, km 3.0. Ocozocoautla, Chiapas. México. AP. Núm. 1, CP. 29140. Tel. 01 800 0882222, ext. 86313. (


In order to mitigate and improve the capacity to adapt to climate change (CC) of the population and ecosystems in the Sierra Madre of Chiapas, an integrated proposal was implemented, which includes the following components: (i) integrated development management; (ii) the river basin as a planning unit; (iii) a planning process that includes family needs, livelihoods, the natural resource base, provision of ecosystem services and the effects of CC; (iv) the development of human and social capital; and (v) a public and private financing mechanism. From 2010 until the day that participatory diagnosis, training workshops, community and inter-community conservation agreements, forest restoration, productive improvement of maize, beans and coffee have been carried out, payments for environmental services protect the natural forest, zoning of areas with disaster risk, water quality monitoring and the inter-community group for territorial action (GIAT). The results confirm that the adaptation to the CC must be integral, territorial and constructed with the local population. The public-private financial mechanism guarantees opportunity and continuity in the development of actions and strengthens government action.

The watershed approach allows for more efficient planning and implementation of actions taking into account the relationship between the high and low zones of the basin, as well as identifying the interactions between the different ecosystem services offered by the territory.

Keywords: basins; development; territory


Con el fin de mitigar y mejorar la capacidad de adaptación al cambio climático (CC) de la población y los ecosistemas en la Sierra Madre de Chiapas se implementó una propuesta integrada, que incluye los componentes: (i) la gestión integral del desarrollo; (ii) la cuenca hidrográfica como unidad de planificación; (iii) un proceso de planeación que incluye las necesidades de las familia, los medios de vida, la base de recursos naturales, el suministro de servicios ecosistémicos y los efectos del CC; (iv) el desarrollo de los capitales humano y social; y (v) un mecanismo de financiamiento público y privado. De 2010 hasta el día que se han realizado diagnósticos participativos, talleres de capacitación, acuerdos comunitarios e intercomunitarios de conservación, restauración de bosques, mejoramiento productivo del maíz, frijol y café, pagos por servicios ambientales proteger el bosque natural, zonificación de las zonas con riesgo de desastre, monitoreo de la calidad del agua y se creó el grupo intercomunitario de acción territorial (GIAT). Los resultados confirman que la adaptación al CC debe ser de carácter integral, territorial y construido con la población local. El mecanismo financiero público-privado garantiza oportunidad y continuidad en el desarrollo de las acciones y potencia la acción del gobierno.

El enfoque de cuencas permite una planificación más eficiente y la implementación de las acciones teniendo en cuenta la relación entre las zonas altas y bajas de la cuenca, así como identificar las interacciones entre los servicios de los ecosistemas diferentes que ofrece el territorio.

Palabras clave: cuencas; desarrollo; territorio

In the state of Chiapas, especially in the Sierra Madre, rugged orography, soil geology and deterioration in the upper parts of the basins, cause the adverse effects of climate change (CC) to manifest themselves in greater magnitude when extreme precipitation events occur (USAID & US Forest Service, 2007; Schroth et al., 2009). The effects are related to the loss of life of people, food security, family income, water supply, local economic development and the provision of ecosystem services. Without adaptation measures, these impacts will continue to be damaging and increasing, especially for agriculture and water resources (Stern, 2007; SHCP, 2009).

In order to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems against the effects of CC, in 2010 the National Institute of Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock (INIFAP), the Conservation Fund El Triunfo (FONCET), Ecological Development Banamex, the Gonzalo Río Arronte Foundation (FGRA), the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP), joined forces to design and implement a strategy for adaptation to CC, focused on the integral management of watersheds. As a result, an alternative model was developed to integrally manage natural resources with the participation of the user society and the federal, state and municipal governments, through an integrated and environmentally friendly approach in a common territory.

The model of adaptation to CC

The proposed model (Figure 1) is supported by studies by López et al. (2007) and FAO (2007) on watershed management, the experience of the agencies involved in conservation projects and the results of other international projects on adaptation to the CB (Bahadur and Bhandari, 2009), and considers the following components:

The integrated and coordinated management of development in the territory, recognizing that if the CC affects all areas of human life cannot be addressed by isolated and dispersed sectoral actions.

Figure 1 The model of adaptation to the CC.  

The use of the river basin as the unit of planning and action, recognizing that water is one of the resources most affected by the CC. A planning process that includes family needs, livelihoods, the natural resource base, the provision of environmental services and the impacts of the CC in the watersheds. The capacity building of the population, organizing them into inter-community groups of territorial action (GIAT), to enable development management based on collective action, common interest and organized participation. A mechanism of public-private financing that guarantees the continuity of the actions under the premise of co-responsibility, concurrence, participation and results in the application of resources.

The pilot area of application of the model

The model was applied in the La Suiza micro-watershed, located in the municipality of Montecristo of Guerrero within the polygon of the Triunfo Biosphere Reserve (REBITRI), in the Sierra Madre of Chiapas. The Suiza has a total area of 6 000 hectares, 1 300 inhabitants, precipitation between 2 300 and 2 600 mm annually and altitudes between 1 000 and 2 600 m (Figure 2). The coffee is the main means of subsistence and represents more than 95% of household income, maize and beans are the basis of food security. The Suiza is an important micro-watershed for the provision of environmental goods and services; its 3 383 ha of forest cover it as a strategic area for water recharge and risk regulation for downstream flooding.

Figure 2 Location of the La Suiza micro watershed.  

Community perception of the effects of CC

The perception the population on the effects of CC, visualized in Table 1, was a fundamental basis for the application of the model and to be able to involve the communities.

Table 1 Affections by the CC.  

The use of the watershed as a planning and action unit

The relationship of land slope, soil severity and land use, coupled with the effects of increasing rainfall intensity and its effect on communities, facilitated the introduction of the basin approach as a unit of study in establishing intra and intercommunity. Because of this the population was already familiar with some of the consequences of poor land management in the upper parts of the basin, which are negatively manifested in the lowlands by erosion disasters.

The public-private financing mechanism

The mechanism has been strategic for the timely implementation of the adaptation plan to the CC. Its independent operation to the governmental changes allows the continuity of the processes, fundamental aspect to generate credibility and confidence in the communities.

At the initiative of The Nature Conservancy, the water seed fund was recently created through a partnership between the public and private sectors and civil society organizations interested in nature conservation and sustainable development in watershed of the Alto Grijalva, Sierra Madre and Chiapas coast.

Main adaptation actions carried out

Development of local capacities: It is the support component of the adaptation plan to the CC. To date, 30 training and awareness-raising workshops have been held in which more than 1 000 people have been trained.

Creation of the inter-territorial group of territorial action (GIAT): since 2014 the micro-basin has an institutional organization made up of delegates from 6 communities that makes it possible to manage the development of the territory of the river basin whose motto is“Salvando el pulmón del Triunfo”. The aim of the project is for this organization to continue with the adaptation and development actions, once the current drivers withdraw.

Food security: corn and bean seeds are used with shorter cycles that adapt to the new rainfall pattern. On average, historical yields of maize and beans increased by 2 and 2.5 times. Productive diversification of maize and coffee plots: 200 ha of corn and coffee were diversified with fruit trees according to the agroecological characteristics of the communities.

Soil conservation: the six community agreements were signed in order not to burn agricultural land and to carry out conservation actions; 11.1 km of vegetative barriers and 5.3 km of vegetative filtering dams were established, which have retained 354.2 m3 of soil.

Improvement of coffee production: 200 producers were trained in rust diagnosis and control, 206 nurseries were established to produce 500 thousand plants of varieties resistant to rust, soil analysis of 156 plots, transfer of technology in organic nutrition and conservation of soils.

Health of the population: a water purification plant was installed that reduced 95% of cases of diarrhea, 30% the consumption of firewood for not boiling water and eliminated accidents of children burned by hot water.

Management of the water resource: monthly monitoring of the water quality of the main river and its tributaries is carried out. The catchment basin maps that supply water to the population were developed in each community and promoted as an exclusion zone for agricultural activities.

Identification of risk areas: a map was created where the most dangerous, vulnerable and risky areas are located to slope landslides with recommendations for land use planning and disaster prevention.

Restoration of degraded critical areas: 60 hectares were reforested with native plants produced by the same communities. To ensure the care of plantations, communities

receive payment support for environmental services for a period of 10 years. In addition, coffee shade diversification with native species is promoted.

Conservation of areas with natural vegetation: 729.95 hectares were conserved with payments for environmental services. The beneficiary communities eliminated agricultural burning. A percentage of the incentives were earmarked for a work of collective interest in the community.

Training of human resources: 30 students received training on the model through professional internships and thesis research work on priority project topics.

Other actions: Inter-community football and basketball tournaments have been held in the La Suiza micro-basin, with the motto “Playing and conserving the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve”. Participating players previously attended training workshops on integrated watershed management.

Empowerment of women, social inclusion and governance

The model facilitated the inclusion of women in the planning, implementation and representation processes within the GIAT board. Participatory and sustained decision-making in assembly meetings has promoted the empowerment of communities in the initiative. The GIAT is an instrument that promotes social inclusion and governance within the watershed by being made up of representatives of the same communities.

Diffusion and replication potential of the model

The FONCET, CFE, Ecological Development Banamex, FGRA, TNC and INIFAP are driving replication of the model in other microcatchments in the state of Chiapas. In particular, the CFE has an interest in replicating the model in the basin of the new Chicoasen II hydroelectric project and the authorities of the municipality of Arriaga, Chiapas have requested support for its implementation in the Lagartero river basin. At national and international level, progress has been made in the World Water Week held in Stockholm in september 2012 and in the National Congress of Watersheds held in Morelia in september 2013.


The importance of addressing the CC with an integral, systemic, participatory, territorial and transdisciplinary approach is emphasized. The mechanism of public-private cooperation developed between communities, research centers, universities, government and ONG has been strategic to integrate resources and efforts into a common goal that guarantees continuity of actions. The creation of the Seed Water Fund is a momentous advance not only in Chiapas but also at the national level.

Integrated watershed management with a systemic approach is an essential tool for planning and developing territorial strategic projects, replacing isolated and dispersed sectoral actions with little or no impact. The constitution of the GIAT is a fundamental ingredient in the model to incorporate basins within the territorial approach, in addition to promoting greater integration (intra and inter) community.

The main challenge is to consolidate the pilot trial of La Suiza watershed as a training and learning center on adaptation to the CC and to position the model within the public policy instruments.

Literatura citada

Bahadur, G. G. y Bhandari, D. 2009. Una propuesta integrada para la adaptación del cambio climático. En: respuestas al cambio climático. Leisa Magazine. 24(4):25-28. [ Links ]

FAO (Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Alimentación y la Agricultura). 7007. La nueva generación de programas y proyectos de gestión de cuencas hidrográficas. Roma, Italia. 143 p. [ Links ]

López, B. W.; Villar, S. B.; López, M. J. y Faustino, M. J. 2007. El manejo de cuencas hidrográficas en el estado de Chiapas: diagnóstico y propuesta de un modelo alternativo de gestión. Campo Experimental Centro de Chiapas, INIFAP. Ocozocoautla de Espinosa, Chiapas, México. Publicación especial núm. 3. 63 p. [ Links ]

Schroth, G.; Laderach, P.; Dempewolf, J.; Philpott, S.; Haggar, J.; Eakin, H.; Castillejos, T.; Moreno, J. G.; Pinto, L. S. and Hernández, R. 2009. Towards a climate change adaptation strategy for coffee communities and ecosystems in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Mexico. Mitigation and adaptation strategies for global change. 14(7):605-625. [ Links ]

SHCP (Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público). 2009. La economía del cambio climático en México: Síntesis. SHCP-SEMARNAT. 67 pp. [ Links ]

Stern, N. 2007. Stern review on the economics of climate change. [ Links ]

USAID and US Forest Service, 2007. Landslides, channel erosion, and sedimentation in the Western Sierra Madre, Chiapas, Mexico, during hurricane stan in 2005: a brief field review with recommendations. 24 p. [ Links ]

Received: January 2017; Accepted: February 2017

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