Zapotec Forests: Grown in Mexico / Certified in Germany


Behavior is just not always an easy thing to get right. For example, adults should know that whether we accept the responsibility or not, our behavior is often an important influence on our children. I also learned a long time ago that the biggest compliment you can pay someone is to imitate their behavior – short of plagiarism.

A recent article in the NYTimes: Growing a Forest, And Harvesting Jobs is an excellent example of synergy in action in Mexico.

In developing countries, where the rule of law is weak and enforcement spotty, simply declaring a forest off-limits does little to prevent illegal logging or clearing land for agriculture or development. Unless local communities are committed to conserving and protecting forests it’s not going to happen.

There is a bit of irony in this success. Although, Mexico has enabled the creation of a showcase opportunity, a little history is important.

Three decades ago the Zapotec Indians here in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico fought for and won the right to communally manage the forest. Before that, state-owned companies had exploited it as they pleased under federal government concessions.

Now for the history.

In a report: The Mixtecs and Zapotecs - Two Enduring Cultures of Oaxaca are details that lay the foundation for this success.

The Mixtecs and Zapotecs were neighbors as they both belong to the Oto-Manguean language family, which remains the largest linguistic group in the state of Oaxaca and in the Mexican Republic. The first diversification of the Oaxacan Indian group of languages had begun by 4400 B.C. By the time the Spaniards arrived in the Valley of Oaxaca in 1521, the Zapotec and Mixtec inhabitants of this large mountainous region had split into hundreds of independent village-states.

in fact, “the Zapotecs had developed a calendar and a basic form of writing through carvings. By 200 B.C. the Zapotecs were using the bar and dot system of numerals used by the Maya. Politically and militarily, the Zapotec Indians became dominant in the area around 200 B.C., extending their political and economic influence into the coastal regions and establishing valuable trading links with the Mayans to the south.” Eventually, “the Zapotecs and Mixtecs would be struggling to keep the Aztecs from gaining control of their trade routes. Because of this history, the Zapotecs believe that they are the Be’ena’a – “The True People”.

The results are impressive.

If you look at old aerial photographs and compare it with what is now, the forest is increasing here. A lot of jobs have been created and a lot of money has come to the communities.

It seems that there is a lot of international interest and assistance.

About 60 businesses, including Ixtnl are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council in Germany, which evaluates sustainable forestry practices.

Maybe it’s time to imitate the behavior and best practices of “The True People”?


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