Community Efforts Revive Forests in the Mixteca Alta of Oaxaca

The Mixteca Alta of Oaxaca offers a tale of transformation. Previously eroded due to cattle ranching, this region has flourished due to community and governmental interventions. As locals shift from ranching to diverse industries and with reforestation efforts, the landscape now holds a promise.

Community Efforts Revive Forests in the Mixteca Alta of Oaxaca
Communities in the Mixteca Alta of Oaxaca collaboratively work towards forest rejuvenation, illustrating the power of collective effort. Credit: UNAM

In various corners of Mexico, the disintegration of natural ecosystems continues unabated. However, the story from the forests of the Mixteca Alta of Oaxaca presents a beacon of hope. This region has experienced a notable resurgence thanks to unwavering community efforts, aided by academic and governmental interventions.


Mixteca Alta, with its intricate geology and diverse soil types, has over the years suffered significant erosion. Much of this decay is attributable to changes in land use, predominantly from cattle ranching. Quetzalcóatl Orozco Ramírez, an esteemed researcher from UNAM's Institute of Geography, shed light on this. The forests now emerging are secondary in nature, indicating a land recovering from exploitation.

Initial endeavors at the Mixteca Alta Geopark began in 2013. By 2018, comprehensive studies mapped out the varying vegetation types, aided by both scientific data and invaluable local knowledge.


Several factors have propelled this restoration:

Economic Diversification: Previously reliant on cattle ranching, communities have diversified into the service sector, education, and trade. This shift has alleviated pressures traditionally placed on natural resources.

Governmental Intervention: Agencies such as the National Forestry Commission have initiated large-scale reforestation projects, with new green cover now evident. These areas are also protected against grazing.

Demographic Shifts: The migration trends in the community have also played a part in shaping the region's current state.

The proactive approach, starting from the 1980s, of local communities, NGOs, academic research, and the presence of a Geopark have collectively fostered a conducive environment for forest resurgence.

The communities' evolving attitude toward forest conservation has also been a significant driver. Local inhabitants now correlate lush forested areas with water availability, especially during dry spells, and as a defense against rising temperatures. Furthermore, there's a heightened consciousness towards sustainable agricultural practices, veering away from excessive chemical usage.

Mixteca Alta Geopark

Nestled in Oaxaca, the Mixteca Alta Geopark covers 415 square kilometers and spans nine municipalities. As a member of the UNESCO Global Geopark, this region is a veritable repository of cultural and natural wonders. From remnants of ancient civilizations and colonial-era churches to awe-inspiring geological formations and vast tracts of natural vegetation, it offers a feast for the eyes and the soul.

The Mixteca Alta Geopark Project is a community-driven initiative with an educational bent. Its core mission is to educate the public on the symbiotic relationship between nature and society, while fostering proposals to uplift the environment and the living standards of its inhabitants.

As an encouraging sign of this revival, the region has witnessed the resurgence of local resources such as firewood, edible plants, and wildlife. Predators like coyotes, foxes, and even the elusive pumas, wildcats, and lynxes have made a comeback.

Lush green expanses in the Mixteca Alta Geopark stand testament to successful reforestation.
Lush green expanses in the Mixteca Alta Geopark stand testament to successful reforestation projects and a region's renewed promise. Credit: UNAM

In Conclusion

The journey of the Mixteca Alta of Oaxaca is testament to the power of collective effort, underscoring the vital interplay between communities, academia, and governmental agencies. It serves as a shining example for other regions grappling with ecological degradation, illuminating the path toward rejuvenation and sustainable coexistence.