5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica
The virtual launch of the EU-funded project to protect the 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica took place on 16th September 2021. Through partnerships between governments, civil society, research partners, and Indigenous Peoples, the initiative aims to transform agriculture and food systems and protect intact forested ecosystems in Mesoamerica’s Five Forests, in order to adapt to and mitigate climate change, protect biodiversity, and improve livelihoods.
The European Union will support WCS’s Five Great Forests initiative, a successful collaboration to protect Mesoamerica’s five largest forests—the last remaining intact forests from Mexico to Colombia critical to the region’s people, culture, biodiversity, economic health, and resilience to climate change.
Through the EU DeSIRA (Development Smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture) initiative, WCS will work collaboratively with Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD), Re:wild, Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB), governments, civil society, research partners, and Indigenous Peoples to co-create a replicable model that will transform agriculture and food systems affecting Mesoamerica’s Five Forests to adapt to and mitigate climate change, protect biodiversity, and improve livelihoods.
The virtual panel included:
- H.E. Mr. François Roudié, Ambassador of the EU to El Salvador
- H.E. Mr. Mario Rojas Espino, Ministro de Ambiente y Recursos Naturales de Guatemala y Presidente Pro Tempore de la CCAD
- Mr. Nazareth Porras, Head of Cooperation, Delegation of the EU in Central America
- Mr. Levi Sucre, Coordinator, Alianza Mesoamericana de Pueblos y Bosques (AMPB)
- Mr. Jair Urriola Quiroz, Executive Secretary, Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo (CCAD)
- Mr. Gandhi Montoya, Communication Specialist, CCAD
- Dr. Jeremy Radachowsky, Regional Director, Mesoamérica y Caribe, WCS
- Dr. Chris Jordan, Director Latin America, Re:wild
- Ms. Marcela Quintero, Agroecosystems and Sustainable Landscapes Research Area Director, Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
- Mr. Oscar Manuel Núñez, Director, WCS EuDESIRA Project
The five great forests include the Maya Forest in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize; the Moskitia in Nicaragua and Honduras; the Indio Maíz-Tortuguero in Nicaragua and Costa Rica; the Talamanca Region in Costa Rica and Panama; and the Darien in Panama and Colombia. Together, they cover more than 120,000 square kilometers (46,332 square miles). They are home to more than 7.5 percent of the planet’s biodiversity, such as the jaguar and endangered Baird’s tapir, hold nearly 50 percent of the region’s forest carbon, and provide important ecosystem services to 5 million people, including clean water, clean air, food security, and climate stability.
H.E. Mr. François Roudié, Ambassador of the EU to El Salvador, introducing the launch event
“As part of the European Green Deal, the EU seeks to support its partners to safeguard their natural ecosystems, to tackle climate change and to halt biodiversity loss. Our contribution to the Five Great Forests of Mesoamerica Initiative is an expression of that commitment and it reaffirms our conviction that nature is essential in securing prosperity and combating poverty, hunger and inequalities. We believe it's an innovative regional approach that could serve as a model for other important forested regions,” said François Roudié, Ambassador of the European Union to El Salvador and to the Central American Integration System (SICA).
Dr. Jeremy Radachowsky, Regional Director, Mesoamérica y Caribe, WCS, presenting the 5 Great Forests initiative
Said WCS Regional Director for Mesoamerica and the Caribbean, Dr. Jeremy Radachowsky: “At its heart, the initiative is collaborative, seeking inclusivity and partnership. The project will support the ‘Five Forests Alliance’ comprising the region’s governments, local and indigenous communities, private sector, universities and research institutions, and civil society. It will ensure actions are implemented within a collectively agreed upon and coherent plan that supports Indigenous and local communities and promotes gender equality as a key principle of local development, thereby harmonizing the efforts of Indigenous Peoples, civil society, and governments, and mobilizing resources to the most effective partners in each of the intact forests.”
Said Levi Sucre of AMPB: “The initiative will provide support to partners, including Indigenous territories and vulnerable forest communities. Collaboration with Indigenous partners & local forest communities is especially important. Indigenous and local forest communities manage half of the remaining forested area in the five forests, so they are both critical partners as well as primary beneficiaries of this project. The local and indigenous peoples around and within the Five Forests of Mesoamerica have time-proven, sustainable production models.”
Mr. Jair Urriola Quiroz, Executive Secretary, Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo (CCAD)
Said CCAD Executive Secretary Jair Urriola: “The Ministers and Ministers of Central America and the Dominican Republic that comprise CCAD value the importance of the 5 Great Forests Initiative as part of the regional strategies to guarantee the welfare of people and the sustainability of the forests.”
“With this support from the EU, we will be able to continue to work with Indigenous and local communities on encouraging a region-wide transition from the environmentally destructive practice of cattle ranching, and instead build a more innovative future of alternative livelihoods that benefit both people and nature. We also have an opportunity to rewild the places in the Five Great Forests that have been turned into cattle pasture, restoring health back to these critical ecosystems,” said Dr. Christopher Jordan of Re:Wild.
“The Five Forest Initiative is committed to strengthening the role of forests in providing ecosystem services, safeguarding biodiversity and sustaining prosperous livelihoods over time and in line with local cultural values. This approach requires a multidisciplinary approach on the one hand, and on the other hand the convergence of different types of actors to provide context-relevant solutions. For this reason, this initiative brings together different actors (governments, civil society, research organizations, environmental conservation experts, and Indigenous Peoples) to co-design these solutions. As a research center we are honored to participate in this partnership.” Dr. Marcela Quintero, Director of Multifunctional Landscape at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.
Climate and forest-resilient agriculture: Climate-resilient, forest-friendly, culturally appropriate, scalable alternative livelihoods to cattle ranching adopted by Indigenous and local communities of the Five Forests that will improve local economies, reinforce local resilience to climate change, and increase forest cover.
Restoration: Pilot restoration projects implemented in each of the Five Forests in areas reclaimed from cattle ranching to turn ranch land into productive forests that support local livelihoods.
Rebalanced policies: Mesoamerican governments rebalance policies and incentive programs to reduce pressures on forests and support identified alternative livelihoods, including increased forest restoration investment with rural communities.
Stop contraband: Mesoamerica’s governments address the illegal markets and transboundary trafficking of cattle that undermine sustainable, climate-resilient local development and promote high rates of deforestation.
Improved forest protection: Improved management, governance, and monitoring of forests, including surveillance, SMART patrolling, justice, and protection of environmental defenders, in state-protected areas and lands managed by Indigenous and/or rural communities.
Unión Europea en El Salvador
Five Great Forests of Mesoamerica