Mexico: the “AMLO” reforestation plan acclaimed by the poor but criticized by environmentalists

By Frédéric Saliba

Posted today at 01:18

Breathless, Rosalina Sanchez digs up her steep terrain, nestled in the mountains of the state of Chiapas, in southern Mexico. This humble peasant woman, with worn sandals and T-shirt with a hole in the back, is pleased to have given up raising two lean cows to plant 3,300 coffee, avocado and cedar trees. Her face withered by a life of poverty, Rosalina, 57, had never received public aid. She is now one of the 440,000 beneficiaries of the flagship program of the reformist president of the center-left, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (“AMLO”), who has made the fight against poverty his battle horse.

Called “Sembrando vida” (“sowing life”), this agroforestry mega-plan aims to revive the rural economy, while limiting the impact of global warming through reforestation. More than a million hectares of fruit trees and timber have been planted since its launch in 2019, in twenty Mexican states. The ambitious program, social, economic and ecological at the same time, nevertheless provokes an outcry from the defenders of the environment, who are worried about the perverse effects of a plan of unprecedented magnitude in the future. uncertain, which paradoxically leads to deforestation and aggravates corruption.

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At an altitude of 1,300 meters, Rosalina’s head is almost in the clouds. The persistent mist envelops the luxuriant vegetation which declines the whole palette of greens, around the village José Maria Morelos. “Now I am paid monthly to cultivate my modest land. Thank you AMLO ! » Never has a Mexican president devoted so much resources in such a short time to campaigns and reforestation.

“AMLO” has invested 2.8 billion euros there for three years, while nearly one in two Mexicans is poor. Chiapas remains the most affected state: more than seven out of ten inhabitants, most of them indigenous, are destitute. The program is aimed primarily at them. Beneficiaries must own 2.5 hectares of pasture or abandoned land. Each receives 5,000 pesos (209 euros) monthly, including 4,500 pesos on a particular bank card and the remaining 500 pesos placed in a savings fund.

Rosalina García Sánchez, producer of the “Sembrando vida” program, turns the land to cultivate a coffee tree, in her forest plot in José María Morelos, Chiapas, Mexico on November 17, 2021.
Rosalina García Sánchez and her husband Juanito García, beneficiaries of the “Sembrando vida” program, in José María Morelos, Chiapas, Mexico on November 17, 2021.

“This represents a lot of money for people who usually live on half as much”, emphasizes Manuel Ochoa, regional coordinator of “Sembrando vida” in northern Chiapas. At the wheel of a dusty 4 x 4 pick-up, this forty-something agronomist points his finger at the immense deforested surfaces which disfigure the sides of the green mountains. The country is one of the most affected on the planet by deforestation: 128,000 hectares of forest and jungle disappear per year, according to the environment ministry. “Chiapas is one of the most affected states, often because of animal husbandry”, deplores Mr. Ochoa.

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Mexico: the “AMLO” reforestation plan acclaimed by the poor but criticized by environmentalists