Challenges for Rural Livelihoods, Participatory Agroforestry, and Biodiversity Conservation in a Neotropical Biosphere Reserve in Mexico

Luis García-Barrios* (Editor), Juana Cruz-Morales, Marco Braasch, Yanus A. Dechnik-Vázquez, Alonso Gutiérrez-Navarro, Amayrani Meza-Jiménez, Tlacaelel Rivera-Núñez, E.N. Speelman, Gabriela Trujillo-Díaz, Vivian Valencia, Aiora Zabala

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


We report on 10 years of participatory research processes linking livelihoods, agroforestry, and conservation in the La Sepultura Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Reserve in Chiapas, Mexico. These processes entail both cooperation and conflict between farmers and external actors who try to create and/or prevent the collapse of “nature-friendly” land uses. We developed a multidimensional research agenda with the participation of 12 communities and many graduate students. This agenda began with the promotion and monitoring of experimental fodder-tree plantations to counter dry season livestock starvation and forest degradation. Poor adoption of fodder trees motivated us to explore the history, conditions, needs, and motivations of farmers in this territory, and how these play out in their interaction with other actors when implementing agroforestry projects linked explicitly with biodiversity conservation. We report an analysis of three processes: (1) efforts to promote fodder-tree plantations as a means to intensify and move livestock production away from forest browsing; (2) “conservation” shade-coffee production in which benefits for farmers and forests are dubious, which also might collapse due to recent rust epidemics; (3) Pinus oocarpa resin extraction in pine-grass rangelands, where cattle exclusion, fire use prohibition, and unfavorable market deals could render this activity unsustainable. We reflect on how silvopastoral and agroforestry projects constitute an unstable balancing act among actors in this MAB reserve (and probably in similar ones). We discuss what participatory processes seem promising and need to be developed for the sake of long-term decent rural livelihoods and high-quality conservation landscapes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationParticipatory Biodiversity Conversation
Subtitle of host publicationConcepts, Experiences, and Perspectives
EditorsCristina Baldauf
ISBN (Electronic)9783030416867
ISBN (Print)9783030416850
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2020


  • Man and the Biosphere Programme
  • Participatory research
  • Rural livelihoods
  • Rural domestic groups (RDGs)


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