Communitymanaged landuse systems at Coope San Juan Costa Rica Montagnini et al 2002

Some farmers' cooperatives in Costa Rica manage their natural forests for ecotourism and non-timber forest products, and carry out other productive activities, including conventional agriculture, on other portions of their land. For example, the Coope-San Juan Agricultural Cooperative, in Aguas Zarcas, NE Costa Rica, has 16 members (11 men and 5 women) who, along with their families, form a community of about 56 people. They collectively own 400 ha of land, half of which is covered with primary forest. They are keeping their forest intact, have marked trails for tourism, and are expecting to obtain payment for environmental services from the legal system currently in operation in Costa Rica. On their agricultural land they keep a dairy farm and sell the milk locally. They also grow cocoa and plantains commercially.

Additionally, they manage non-timber forest species for sale, including a medicinal plant, raicilla or ipecacuana (Cephaelis ipecacuana), which they grow in the natural forest understory (Fig. 7.3). There is an export market for ipecacuana in Germany and Belgium. In addition, they have been reforesting portions of degraded agricultural land since 1987 with native and exotic species, often using mixed-species planting schemes (Fig. 7.4).

Cooperatives such as Coope-San Juan are a promising model for more environmentally friendly forestry systems at small to medium scales. For these systems to be successful there may be a need for initial economic incentives and training programs in cooperative management and administration, as well as in the technical aspects of sustainable forest and agricultural management techniques.

Fig. 7.3. In the Coope-San Juan Agricultural Cooperative, Costa Rica, one of the productive activities involves growing a medicinal plant, raicilla or ipecacuana (Cephaelis ipecacuana), in the natural forest understory, for export to European markets. (Photo: F. Montagnini)

Fig. 7.3. In the Coope-San Juan Agricultural Cooperative, Costa Rica, one of the productive activities involves growing a medicinal plant, raicilla or ipecacuana (Cephaelis ipecacuana), in the natural forest understory, for export to European markets. (Photo: F. Montagnini)

Fig. 7.4. In the Coope-San Juan Agricultural Cooperative, Costa Rica, farmers are reforesting portions of degraded agricultural land with native species, such as Vochysia guatemalensis. (Photo: F. Montagnini)

There are other classical examples of community forestry experiences in Mexico, where forest management is practiced in a communal fashion in the ejidos. The beginnings of the system in Mexico can be traced back to the Mexican revolution of 1910, with the dissolution of the haciendas owned by the elites and the creation of a tenure property system for agricultural workers and indigenous peoples. As part of the Constitution of 1917, a system of ejidos was created whereby a group of farmers owned and managed their land communally. A significant portion of land was also maintained as communal agrarian plots that have existed since precolonial times (Thorns and Betters 1998; Bray 2003). Other examples of forest management include extractive reserves in the Brazilian Amazon (C. Peters in Cusack et al. 2002); farmers' cooperatives to grow coffee under the shade of valuable timber species in El Salvador (Figs. 7.5 and 7.6); as well as other examples of small-scale forest management in community forestry projects in Asia and in Africa. Often such projects involve agroforestry practices as well as forest management.

Although community forestry projects are highly susceptible to failure due to lack of funding, inadequate educational levels among the practitioners, and a potential for corruption and mismanagement, evidence from a number of successful experiences indicates that they can facilitate sustainable forestry. Where

Fig. 7.5. In farms that are part of a cooperative in Tacuba, El Salvador, farmers grow diversified coffee, using a dense overstory of valuable ornamental, fruit, and timber species such as Cedrela odorata. (Photo: F. Montagnini)

Fig. 7.5. In farms that are part of a cooperative in Tacuba, El Salvador, farmers grow diversified coffee, using a dense overstory of valuable ornamental, fruit, and timber species such as Cedrela odorata. (Photo: F. Montagnini)

aid money is available from international agencies chances of success may be better. For example, the World Bank is currently funding a project in Ecuador through the Maquipucuna Foundation to protect a forest corridor from the Andes to the Choco region on the Pacific coast (http://www.arches.uga.edu/~ma-qui/). The thrust of the project is to encourage local communities to manage their lands in ways that do not destroy the forest cover. Successful community forestry projects can actually provide the most viable hope for both environmentally and socially sustainable forestry in many regions of the tropics, especially when they combine the advantages of top-down and bottom-up approaches.

Fig. 7.6. In many community forestry and agroforestry projects in El Salvador, farmers process the wood on site using a hand saw. The wood is from valuable timber species that they use for shade of coffee. (Photo: F. Montagnini)
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