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Forest Soil Management: A Mexican Experience

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Document pages: 17 pages

Abstract: Forests improve the livelihoods and resilience of communities in diverse ways. In particular, soils provide important environmental services for communities in addition to performing many essential ecological functions in forest ecosystems, such as nutrient uptake, organic matter decomposition, water storage, and provision of anchorage for plant growth. The sound management of forest soils, although often disregarded, is a key element of sustainable forest management. From 2002 to 2016 the Forest Soil Conservation and Restoration Sub-Program was designed and implemented by the National Forest Commission (CONAFOR) in Mexico. Forests in Mexico have high biological diversity and are often owned, governed, and managed by communities or, in some cases, community forestry is practiced. Despite the importance of periodic monitoring to ensure that policies are both effective and suitable for diverse conditions and decision making, the policies implemented by this program were not evaluated during its years of operation. Therefore, in the present study, we aimed to identify the deficiencies of this policy as well as opportunities based on a review of the official information available on the Forest Soil Conservation and Restoration Sub-Program of CONAFOR during the 2002-2016 period and interviews with key informants. In addition, we aimed to highlight experiences that may be useful for similar soil conservation policies in tropical forest regions. The identified limitations ranged from conceptual problems such as policy weakness and lack of understanding of local drivers of soil degradation to an overly rigid implementation of soil conservation measures across diverse forest ecosystems and socio-ecological contexts. These deficiencies had several unintended outcomes: perhaps the most relevant was the inability of forest communities to build capacities for soil conservation. Another important limitation was the complete lack of monitoring of the program and its outcomes, which could have prevented its poor results. Finally, a lack of transparency in the distribution and determination of funding was noted. In conclusion, the hierarchical approach of this policy appears to have compromised its long-term efficacy.

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