Scolel’te, which means “the tree that grows” in the Southern Mexican indigenous language Tzeltal, recently celebrated its 20 year anniversary as one of the oldest and longest running community carbon capture programs, through reforestation and sustainable forest management. The program is certified by the Edinburgh-based Plan Vivo, which ensures its transparency and credibility within the voluntary carbon market, and implemented by Cooperativa AMBIO, based in Chiapas, Mexico.
Dr. Richard Tipper, the Executive Director and Co-founder of Ecometrica helped set up this program in 1997, and oversaw the first transaction of carbon credits sold to Formula 1, who bought carbon credits to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions from its car fleet – a revolutionary concept in its time. Since then, the concept of incentivising sustainable forest management and conservation has evolved into an international concept known as REDD+, adopted by the UNFCCC and supported by many countries such the UK, Norway and Germany, an example of which is the Forests 2020 project, supported by the UK Space Agency through the IPP Program.
Cooperativa AMBIO is a partner of the Forests 2020 project in Mexico, and with matching funding from IPP has been able to strengthen forest fire risk mapping in the El Ocote biosphere reserve, which is vulnerable to underground forest fires that can quickly wipe out crops and put lives in danger. They have equipped community forest fire brigades with combat equipment, and are working on implementing more effective prevention measures through the identification of areas under risk of forest fires. Additionally, they have strengthened community monitoring activities in the Scolel Te areas to ensure the carbon reported as captured is real and permanent.
This July, Richard visited one of the 80 communities currently participating in Scolel Te in Tziscao, a community near the border with Guatemala in Chiapas, on the banks of the Montebello Lake. He visited a coffee plantation that is grown under the shade of trees that were planted with the help of Scolel Te, which was established as part of an effort to rejuvenate sustainable coffee production in the area after a series of forest fires followed a few years later by a defoliating coffee disease, known as La Roya (Hemileia vastatrix).
To date, Scolel Te has helped to conserve and manage 9,000 hectares of forests and rainforests, with the participation of more than 1,000 producers, and has captured more than half a million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, benefitting more than 2,500 families. The key to its success has been the bottom-up participatory community involvement from the very onset of the project, where the community decide on the type of restoration or reforestation scheme suits them best, which ensures that the carbon credits generated are complementary to the income from small-scale sustainable agricultural activities and therefore sustainable in the long term. This has ensured that the program has lasted and grown, and continues to be a successful international case study of a community-led climate change mitigation program.
To read more about the program, visit: http://www.planvivo.org/project-network/scolelte-mexico/