Community-based management strategies for biocultural diversity conservation

Calakmul, Mexico

Calakmul has a fascinating history. Over a thousand years ago, it housed one of the largest Mayan cities and a major population whose numbers reached over 50,000. After the decline of the Mayan civilization, the area’s population density remained very low for several centuries. Since the beginning of the last century, a number of waves of colonisation have brought the population of the area back up to over 26,000 inhabitants. Today the important archaeological site of Calakmul, gives its name both to the municipality and to the Biosphere Reserve with the largest forested area in Mexico. The municipality of Calakmul was declared in 1996 and is located in the southeastern state of Campeche, bordering Guatemala to the south and the state of Quintana Roo to the east. It is the largest municipality in the state (with an area about 14,000 km2) and the municipal capital is Xpujil. The archaeological site of Calakmul (22 km2) was recently declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.


Calakmul archeological site


The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve (CBR; 7232 km2) occupies much of the municipality and also of the municipality of Hopelchén. It is part of a continuous forest massif that forms part of a network of large protected areas in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. The CBR mainly consists of different types of semi-humid forests which harbor a high diversity of flora and fauna; it is considered a biodiversity "hotspot”. Communities live in the CBR buffer zones and influence areas and use natural resources principally for subsistence, and sometimes for marketing. Their activities include traditional agriculture, or milpa (an important horticultural food production system based on shifting cultivation), mechanized farming, ranching, hunting, and kitchen gardens, which all require different adaptations and management strategies. In addition, the forest is a permanent source of building materials and, for a number of communities, a source of income through the extraction of common and tropical hardwoods.


The COMBIOSERVE project involves two communities: Once de Mayo and El Sacrificio. Both are adjacent to the CBR. Although they are separated by only 20km, the two communities are different in several respects, including the origin of its inhabitants. Once de Mayo (pop: 350) is an ejido which was established about 30 years ago by immigrants from several states of Mexico. El Sacrificio (pop: 540) is a newer community, composed of families who were relocated about 18 years ago from four different communities that conflicted with the core area of the CBR. This community is made up of owners with small properties who are still involved in the process of obtaining land titles. The majority of people in this community belong to the Chol (Maya) indigenous group; they are originally from Chiapas and migrated to Campeche 30 years ago. The rest of the population of El Sacrificio is also from other states. Although there are many natural resources, the two communities suffer from high levels of socio-economic marginalization. Some of the problems encountered are water scarcity, agricultural pests and diseases, limited financial resources to invest in production and infrastructure, as well as damage caused by wildlife on crops and livestock.


El Sacrificio community in Calakmul


In Mexico, COMBIOSERVE implements some of its methodological work (as part of Work Package 6) in Chinantec communities in Northern Oaxaca. Please visit the website of Global Diversity Foundation, specifically its pages on Mesoamerica, for more information.