Over the past decade, Mexican government officials, heeding the concerns of civil society and responding to the evermore obvious crises of the environment, climate, food, farming, forced migration, public health, and rural poverty, have issued a number of official proclamations with potentially major positive impact.
These official proclamations have included:
- The signing of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and the complementary 4 for 1000 “Soils for Climate” pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly and to offset the nation’s carbon footprint by scaling up agroecological and regenerative practices in agriculture, forest management, and soil health so as to drawdown and store excess atmospheric CO2 in the nation’s soil, trees, and biota, preserving biodiversity and improving rural and indigenous economic livelihoods at the same time.
- On December 31, 2020, Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador issued a decree announcing the phase -out by 2024 of Monsanto/Bayer’s toxic herbicide glyphosate, and a corresponding phase-out of the importation of genetically engineered corn from the U.S., used mainly in livestock feed, despite strong protests by Monsanto, the U.S. government, and the industrial agribusiness lobby.
- An announcement made by the Mexican Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in 2021 that the central dynamic for Mexico’s agriculture should be based upon agroecological principles and practices, instead of conventional chemical-intensive, fossil-fuel intensive, export-oriented, GMO farming practices.
All of these government proclamations have been popular with the Mexican public, rural and urban alike, and have received favorable publicity on the international front as well.
Unfortunately, with the exception of the ban on the commercial cultivation of GMO corn and soybeans, the government has not really followed through on its other promises. Greenhouse gas emissions have not significantly decreased. Forest preservation and reforestation programs have been limited, as have agroecological and regenerative practices that draw down excess carbon from the atmosphere and store it in soils and above ground biomass. Organic production has increased, but it is still mainly directed toward the export market. Rural poverty and forced migration are still major problems. The use of glyphosate and toxic agricultural chemicals and fertilizers remain high, while the importation of subsidized U.S. corn for animals has not decreased. Agro-export crops and alfalfa for livestock feed continue to drain Mexico’s aquifers. Agroecology, carbon sequestration, reforestation, and rural economic development remain elusive.
Rather than dwell on the negative, our intent here is to point out the potential of several regenerative, agroecological best practices that have been developed by Mexican farmers, ranchers, and foresters that have the potential to spread across much of the nation (especially the 60% of Mexico’s lands that are arid and semi-arid) and transform the environment and economic livelihoods of millions of Mexicans, sequestering major amounts of atmospheric carbon and enhancing soil fertility, biodiversity, water conservation, and other ecosystem services.
These best practices include an agave/mesquite/animal silage agroforestry/reforestation system (the “Billion Agave Project”) that has been pioneered by farmers and ranchers in Guanajuato and that is now steadily expanding to other regions, and a holistic rotational livestock grazing system in Chihuahua (Pasticultores del Desierto) that is gaining international recognition. Both of these agroecological systems have the potential for being deployed on millions of hectares of semi-arid and arid, often degraded ejido and private land and moving Mexico in the direction of the positive proclamations listed above.
Read a fuller description of the “Billion Agave” Agroforestry system here.
Read a fuller description of the holistic grazing system in Chihuahua, (Pasticultores del Desierto) here.
Of course these are not the only regenerative, potentially game-changing agroecological practices that are being deployed, but these are certainly two of the best practices with enormous potential to be scaled up in the immediate future.
We call on government officials from SADER, CONAFOR, SEMARNAT, INIFAP, Bienestar, and Sembrando Vida to sit down with representatives of Campaña sin Maiz no hay País, Alianza por Nuestra Tortilla , IFOAM Mexico, Via Organica, the Billion Agave Project, Pasticultores del Desierto, and Millones Contra Monsanto to discuss these exciting new developments in agroecology and regenerative land management and develop a plan on how these game-changing systems can be scaled up to meet the challenges of Mexico (and the world’s) climate, environmental, public health, and economic crises, and fulfill the noble, but as of yet unfulfilled, promises of the Mexican government.