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» Interview With Elsa Esquivel Bazan

» TFCA

April 25, 2006 get adobe reader Interview With Elsa Esquivel Bazan
The Tropical Forest Group interviews Elsa
Esquivel Bazãn.
Ms. Bazãn works for Ambio, a non-profit group based
in Chiapas Mexico that implements the Scolel Te project.
elsa Interview With Elsa Esquivel Bazan
TFG.   How did you become involved with the work
of Scolel Te?

EEB. Initially the project was aimed directly at benefiting
family units, by managing and protecting salaries for groups of women, etc.  The
project then expanded to accomplish different things, and so it diversified
in order to include different professions.  In this way we have been including
different people, be it for specific periods of time or by means of collaborations
with institutions as we have done with the researchers from ECOSUR.

TFG. Ambio comes up with individual tree planting
plans with farmers and landowners. Then Ambio monitors over time
tree growth. If the plan is being met, the farmer gets paid based
on a carbon value. Is that about right?

EEB. The project’s objective is to allow
the participants to develop forestry projects that are of interest
to them.  So that these projects may be incorporated into
Scolel Te, the participants must comply with some minimum requirements.  Since
Ambio’s role is only to make recommendations so that the
systems work well, if the farmers do good work and comply with
the objectives of the program, they will receive payment based
on carbon credit.  In this way, it is the participants themselves
who have the most interest in ensuring that the system works.  The
amount that is paid to the participants is based on the technical
specifications, drawn from field data, of each forest and agro-forest
system.

TFG. How much does a farmer get paid on average
for participating in Scolel Te?

EEB. Payments to participants are based on the
type of forest system and the surface area (in hectares) that the
participant wants to utilize for the project. For example, in participating
coffee plantations the farmers receive a total of 224 dollars per
hectare. In other systems they receive 570 dollars per hectare.

TFG. What are the common tree species planted?

EEB. The most common tress planted in the tropical
regions are cedar and mahogany, while in the temperate regions
various species of pine are the most common. In recent years Ambio
has recommended the planting of native species in order to reduce
the incidence of blights and in preserve certain tree species that
provide high-quality wood but which are dwindling.

TFG. What is your most memorable experience in
your work on this project?
EEB. In general it would be the whole process
of developing the project, since Scolel Te is really the first
program of its kind.  Being a pioneer in this area has allowed
us to make adjustments as we go along in response to what is necessary.  The
project has been developing step by step and the most important
factor is that it has always sought to benefit the communities,
groups, and others who participate.

TFG. What part of Scolel Te are you most proud
of?

EEB. Apart from what we have mentioned above,
it would be seeing to it that people value their work.  In
other words, the payments that they receive are not a gift, but
rather are based on carbon credits.  If the farmers know and
understand this, the project as a whole benefits since it means
participants are aware of their responsibilities as well as of
the benefits. Above all, this leads to a shift in their perspective
with regard to the use of natural resources.

TFG. In general, how has Scolel Te impacted the lives of the
local people?

EEB. This varies depending on the perspectives of each
of the participating groups or communities.  Perhaps the biggest impact
has been with regard to the issue of organization, given that in some cases
the project has helped to improve, maintain, or at least raise awareness as
to the importance community organizing.  Another impact has been to teach
the value of the resources available in each community, and to encourage those
communities to think, in relation to those resources, about future generations.  One
of Ambio’s objectives is to nurture communities that respect forests,
something which unfortunately is not very common in Chiapas.  Nevertheless,
we have seen advancements in this process. We hope that our work affects not
only this generation but also helps inculcates an interest in the environment
in future generations as well.

TFG. What do you think is the most common misconception
about carbon sequestration projects like Scolel Te?

EEB. We would say that the basic concept of sequestering
carbon and the sale of an environmental service are the most difficult
to understand.  Although more and more participants have
a clear understanding of how the project works, we have not yet
achieved that 100% of the farmers understand it completely.

TFG. How can someone reading this at home help
contribute to the success of the Scolel Te project?

EEB. First, they can become aware of, and take
responsibility for, their greenhouse gas emissions, since this
is a problem to which we all contribute.   Another could
be to assist in spreading the word about our project or others
like it in places where there is interest, not only in contributing
to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but also in supporting
communities, groups and farmers interested in bettering or preserving
their forest resources.  Last but not least, people could
buy carbon credits and know that they are also supporting a project
that benefit local communities

TFG. What are the oldest trees growing as a result
of Scolel Te? And do you know the total number of trees planted?

EEB. The oldest trees are 9 years old.  We
maintain a database in which we have a record of the number of
trees planted each year by each farmer, and of their survival rate.  We
estimate that 200 thousand of the planted trees have survived.

TFG. What makes the work of Scolel Te stand out
from other kinds of conservation projects? Are there any philosophies
that Ambio and Scolel Te have found helpful in terms of making your
project a success?

EEB. In contrast with other projects the principle
objective of Scolel Te has always been to take the opinions of
the participants into account.  The interests and compromises
involved in participation are based on their own living plans and
as such are not imposed upon them from the outside. One aspect
that is important to emphasize is the flexibility allowed in participating
in the project.  This allows participants with differing ideological
stances as well as different working conditions to all take part.  The
continuity of the program is maintained through a focus on that
which is needed in the field rather than on political or institutional
questions. In general, Ambio has been characterized by working
individually with different communities, and by dealing honestly
and in a clear and direct manner with the various participants
with whom it is involved.  This has allowed the project to
develop in the best way possible.

TFG. Thank you Elsa and congratulations on the
200,000 successes of your work.